Pac-12 Media Day: New Coaches' Grades

Universal City, Calif—Four coaches entering their first year as Pac-12 head coaches took the stage to answer questions from the media at the Pac-12's Media Day on Tuesday at Universal Studios. Each coach brought a unique personality to his session and several showcased a remarkable sense of humor. Here is their report card.

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Most Pac-12 beat reporters haven't had a lot of contact with Rich Rodriguez since he spent a large amount of his coaching career east of the Mississippi. Rodriguez has left both West Virginia and Michigan fans with a sour taste in their mouths for various reasons but Rodriguez seized this opportunity on Tuesday to make a great first impression. He maintained excellent eye contact and actually answered all questions with refreshing candor and confidence while refraining from using the standard coach-speak answers and cliches.

Rodriguez on his offense fitting in better in the Pac-12 than at Michigan:

"Of course I am biased, [but] I think it can fit in anywhere."

Rodriguez on criticism that a spread quarterback may not be prepared for the NFL:

"I think college quarterbacks — particularly guys that are coming out of the spread – are more prepared in a lot of ways than those so-called pro-style quarterbacks because in a spread offense they have to learn to get rid of the ball quickly, they have to see the whole field and I think they really learn offense. Maybe the new pro-style is the shotgun spread?"

Grade: A

Jim Mora, UCLA

Jim Mora has had exactly one year of college football coaching experience and that was at the graduate assistant level. While he was a head coach for four years in the NFL, the college-level coaching position requires diligence in following very restrictive NCAA recruiting rules, mentoring young men and keeping players academically eligible. Mora's hiring was met with some skepticism from the Bruin faithful but so far, he's erasing a lot of doubt. The practices have more structure, are more disciplined and have a faster tempo. Mora started off his media session with a quip when asked to make an opening statement. "What's that," he deadpanned.

Mora on differences between coaching in NFL and college football:

"I think what has been really outstanding for me — that stands out for me — is how much more involved in the lives of your student-athletes you are at this level."

Mora on why he is holding the first two weeks of fall camp in San Bernardino, instead of Westwood:

"I want us to be in an environment where if we're going to talk to somebody, it's going to be a teammate or coach. If we're going to go out and do something fun together, it's going to be with a teammate or a coach. I don't want girlfriends there. I don't want friends there. I want our football team to be together for two weeks where we can bond, work together, get to know each other better."

Grade: A

Mike Leach, Washington State

Expectations were high over Leach's first Pac-12 media day session and he didn't disappoint. Leach gave us a peek into how his brilliant mind works when he gave us a history lesson on military leaders. He also painstakingly mulled over which Pac-12 coach would be the best bear-hunting partner. While I don't think Leach was nervous, he did show anxiety and/or energy with a fidgety leg that rarely stopped moving during his session. Let's get to his quotes. Enjoy.

Leach on which Pac-12 coach would make the best hunting/fishing partner:

"That's a good question. Let's think about that carefully because we don't want to get this one wrong. Rich Rodriguez has spent a certain amount of time in West Virginia, so we gotta recognize some potential rub-off there. We'll have a bit a playoff here. We got it down to Rich… Kyle Whittingham is definitely right in the middle of this, there's no question about that. Colorado is a good location but I'm not sure what [Jon Embree's]… hunting skills are. I think I'm gonna give the nod to Kyle. He's sandwiched between a bunch of mountains, and he's familiar with those mountains, he's been around them for awhile and he's a tenacious guy."

Which military leaders or generals would you compare Jeff [Tuel] and Travis [Long] to?

"Jeff and Travis… let me think about this. I'm really more of a Civil War guy of the wars, if I were to select wars. Let me think here." (15 second pause)

"You know, I would have to say that Jeff [Tuel] would be a little more like Stonewall Jackson; kinda all over the place, attack from different angles. The cavalry is over here…. no, we're here… he's not afraid to split the force and connect and attack a guy at all different kind of different angles. Travis is more of a Ulysses S. Grant guy. He's in the trenches and if it requires bombarding Vicksburg for a month, he's fully prepared to do it. Gets down in the stance, gonna guard the river, gonna bombard them till they bust, providing he keeps his pads low…. and we're going to focus on that, right? (glances at Long). Of course, the bombardment will be shorter and just 'bash'… 'bash.' But quieter guy, just kind of steady. Quiet, steady persistence."

Grade: A+

Todd Graham, Arizona State

Graham's arrival in Tempe, Arizona hasn't resonated well with Pittsburgh fans but then again, a lot of coaches have left Pitt's program over the last year and a half for various reasons. Graham is known for being a disciplinarian who treats players fairly, but strictly. He appeared fairly relaxed on stage and was very proud of the two players — Brandon Magee and Cameron Marshall — he brought with him to the event.

Graham on what has been the toughest thing to instill when he arrived in Tempe, Arizona:

I think they will tell you they are in the best shape of their lives. Our program is all about training and I think we position ourselves where it's exciting.

Graham on describing Camp T:

I would describe camp as rustic. But one of the things I believe in is I love the history and the heritage of college football. It's one of the great traditions unique to Arizona State University and talking to our players and fans, far and away that is the tradition there. And you look at the age of the iPad, iPod, all that stuff — we're not going to have any of that — and we're going up there, and our cell phones don't work.

Grade: A-
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