When you play in the Pac-12 Conference people tend to not know who you are unless you play for USC or UCLA. To an extent that is to be expected due to games being played late at night on the other side of the country. When you play at Washington State University you are far removed from being known even in your own conference. That is the dilemma that current Washington State quarterback Luke Falk faces.
With so many quarterbacking jobs up in the air around the conference in 2016 there is something to be said for a team that has a solid leader under center. The Cougars have that leader in Luke Falk.
Even mentioning his name, many people still won’t recognize him. Let me explain why he just may be the best quarterback in the Pac-12 Conference in 2016.
His journey to being a starter in the Pac-12 was fairly unconventional.
In high school Falk was given a scholarship offer by Florida State before his junior year. That was something to look forward to as a young high school kid, but things got ugly for him. Falk was a pupil of highly-touted quarterback coach Steve Clarkson and he tried to transfer to Thousand Oaks for his junior year, but that was something that did not happen. An unflattering story on CNN about “Extreme Parenting” featured him and his parents. It was a story about affluent parents and the lengths they would go to promote their child’s success.
After missing his junior year of high school while moving back to his hometown of Logan, Utah, Falk went through some recruiting detours to Florida State, Cornell, and Idaho before ending up at Washington State as a non-scholarship player.
When he first arrived at Washington State as a walk-on, he was buried deep on the depth chart behind two other more heralded players. Those players were Austin Apodaca and Tyler Bruggman who are forgotten by the Cougar faithful now because they didn’t really turn into much while they were at Washington State. Apodaca is at New Mexico, Bruggman is at Montana State, while Falk is starting to get close to the record books at Washington State.
Falk burst onto the scene after Connor Holliday, who was the starter for the Cougars, suffered a terrible knee injury. Falk’s first game was against the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis and did he ever make it memorable. He threw for 471 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions. At the time it was one of those walk-on-makes-good stories.
The story has only gotten better for him and the Cougars.
Falk has a 69.4 completion percentage which ranks second in the nation, 38 touchdowns which is fourth nationally, he led the Cougars to a 9-4 record which was their best since the 2003 season, and led them to a win over Miami in the Sun Bowl.
Luke Falk knows that his performance in 2016 will dictate how the season goes for the Cougars and he is not about to let this upcoming season go down the drain for him or his team. Falk feels that the struggles he went through in high school propelled his preparation as a starter now. He knows that disaster is only a play away.
“I had a lot of negative stuff happen in high school, not playing, some family issues—kind of the motivating factor for me is proving to people that I can play, proving people wrong. I don’t where I’d be, but I’m very grateful they did and I have an opportunity here.” Falk said.
What does he have to do this year to be successful?
Well, he has to do a lot of what he did last year. The Cougars have lost some good talent on the O-line, but they have some good starting talent returning. Falk’s receiving corps is probably the deepest in the conference and one of the deepest in the country, so he will have some of the same weapons back at his disposal this season. Watch for the connection between Falk and All-Pac-12 pick Gabe Marks to continue to drive defensive coordinators crazy.
Head coach Mike Leach is not letting any of this success go to his young quarterback’s head. He’s not treating Luke Falk any differently than he has in the past and Falk greatly appreciates it. Falk is getting a little bit of Heisman Trophy talk, but Coach Leach gives him a “Leaching” if he misses an open target or does something else that displeases the coach during practice.
For the 2016 season to be a success, the Cougars need Falk to continue his rise as a quarterback. With him and Josh Rosen getting all the attention at quarterback in the Pac-12, Falk would love to separate himself from the Bruins’ star in 2016. By the look of it, he may be on his way already.
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