The unit is being led by interim co-coordinators, inside-linebackers coach Roc Bellantoni and cornerbacks coach Darcel McBath, and Leach said there has been a visible increase in intensity at practice since Claeys’ departure.
“More confident, more optimistic and bouncing around,” Leach said.
That is needed after the Cougars allowed 105 points in their past two games in losses to UCLA and Utah.
Leach said Bellantoni will be in the press box, beginning with Saturday’s game at Arizona State, and McBath “will be the voice on the sideline.”
“We have some really good defensive coaches and together they will put together the game plan and filter it out,” Leach said. “I think we’ve got to make it a little simpler and we are well on our way to doing that. I think we’ve had too much (in the defensive game plan) and I’ve said that. We didn’t have any shortage of strategy. We had too much strategy.”
McBath was a defensive back under Leach at Texas Tech and is in his third season as a Cougars assistant.
“He’s a passionate coach and he was a passionate guy as a player, and then I think his enthusiasm gets contagious,” Leach said of McBath, who played five seasons in the NFL. “There is no special recipe, but some people are blessed with the charisma and presence to influence other people and Darcel is one of those guys. His enthusiasm and his engagement with regard to what they are doing and being the mouthpiece on the field all elevates that.”
Leach said the defensive coaches are looking at the possibility of moving players to different positions but “there is nothing definite on that.”
After the Cougars’ 38-13 loss to Utah on Sept. 28, Leach said his team was too soft and was not playing with toughness.
“It’s a decision — you’ve got to decide to be tough and to be confident,” Leach said Monday. “Tough people are willing to do tough things. They aren’t the guys who the crowd thinks they are trying to be cool and tries to get out of hard work. … None of those guys are tough, they’re just phonies. It’s a mentality, but it’s also a willingness to embrace work and challenges. To the extent we can, we provide the work and challenges, but life in general does a better job of that than we do.”
Somewhat lost because of the poor defensive effort against Utah was that it was by far the worst performance of the season for the WSU offense.
The Cougars’ 13 points were 40 less than their average entering the game and their 313 yards were 292 less than their average.
“I didn’t think we played great on offense,” Leach said. “I think we will be a little more disciplined (this week). We’ve got to be better with our hands, both offensive line and receivers, and be better with our eyes and our decisions at quarterback,”
Washington State’s homecoming game against Colorado on Oct. 19 will be at 4 p.m., it was announced Monday, and will be broadcast on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.