CHARLIE FISS: Tell us about the Red Raiders as you begin the fall
MIKE LEACH: Well, I feel really good about this group. You know, as far as I think when you can tell a lot about your team is in the off season, and they don't let you have too much contact with them. You're not allowed to have a lot of meetings or coach them. Yet you're still ridiculously in charge of their behavior.
But I think the thing, one thing that we tell our guys is who you really are as a person is what you do and what you think about when no one is around. And kind of along those lines, in the off season, when there isn't as much structure, how hard you work and what you do, at those times in those settings I think is an indicator of the type of person you are and the type of player you are, and then how that goes collectively, I think, suggests how you may be as a team together.
And I think this group's really done a tremendous job of that. And so the most important thing is to build and create those habits and then continue that throughout the season. There's no plateaus where you settle down, relax; you just continue the same thing and improve at it.
I've really been impressed with this group as far as that goes. And I think that all of us are excited about the season coming up.
CHARLIE FISS: Let's go to questions.
Q. Mike, you really turned the competition up for guys like Shannon and Graham. During the spring, despite them having some pretty good seasons last year, I wonder if you could talk about how they respond to the challenges you gave to them over the course of the spring?
MIKE LEACH: Well, I think that, you know, it was just kind of a sincere point of view as far as a coach and our coaching staff went.
I think that just human nature, somebody has success, there's a tendency to relax. And then I think that coupled with the fact that the people behind Kobey Lewis behind Shannon, and Taylor Potts behind Graham, very competitive and talented people, working very hard, very hungry to do well.
I think some of it is a credit to the people behind them. And also I don't think there's any time for anybody to relax, not work incredibly hard and all that.
And then sometimes, after you have a level of success, you look to your right or your left and say, Well, I'm working as hard as that guy or that guy. But the thing is is you've got -- been here longer, more capability, you need to work up to it and live up to it. Because everybody I think is required to do the best they can. And I think that sometimes as a guy has success and there's the temptation, as a coach, as a player, as anybody, to feel like I've got this figured out.
And then, of course, they say it's what you learn after you know everything that counts. And so I think any time somebody hits that little spot or that -- where they have too much figured out, they need to understand that it's what they learn after that that's really going to count.
But I think they -- I think the spring for our team is successful. I think how the team as a unit goes is what's going to be most important. I think certainly in this day and age it's easy to lose sight of teams as opposed to individuals. But one great example we had as far as team effort was our game against Minnesota. Late in the third quarter we're down 31 points. Individuals didn't win that game. The Red Raiders as a team won that game and how powerful a team can play together and do in a short period of time, you extend that over full games, full seasons, things like that, I think the key is to understand that and embrace that challenge and see how far you can take it.
Q. Can you just talk about Graham Harrell's progression and what he saw last year, where you would like to see him go this year in terms of things he needs to work on?
MIKE LEACH: I think he's really developed well as a player. I think he was clearly really good last year. I think in most settings, in most settings I think Graham would clearly be regarded as one of the -- easily one of the handful of best quarterbacks in the country. There's no question. And I think that he is.
And I think that he's somewhat overshadowed by the work of his predecessors at Texas Tech. After a point it becomes taken for granted that you're going to have a level of success throwing the ball at our place, which he did. But I think if you look at what he accomplished and what he did at his age and certainly some of the things that as a team we did and some of the key things that he was involved with there, I think he's as impressive as the guys that we've had at our place in the past and I think will continue to improve.
But I think he had a heck of a year last year. It's funny, because as people talk about quarterbacks, they have a funny way of dismissing the additional 2,000 yards that he threw for. So I guess his don't count (chuckling). If he's not one of the better quarterbacks in the country I'd like to know who is. I wouldn't trade it for anybody in the conference. But with that said, I think what's best about him is that he does a great job as far as making the team, players around him better. Because it's what you accomplish as a team that ultimately is going to count, and I think he does a really good job as far as that goes. And I think he continues to improve.
Q. You guys lost some really good wideouts, can you talk about your impression that got the step up in those spots?
MIKE LEACH: I thought Joel Filani played really well last year, and I think as far as -- I'm not half alarmed as -- just based on what I hear, seems like these roles should be reversed. I'm not half as alarmed at our demise of the wide receiver like other people are. It's like Mark Twain said, The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, as he appeared alive at that deal.
I think our receivers are alive and kicking despite popular belief, too.
There's going to be some faces that people aren't quite as familiar with. But they've been doing something over the years. They've been working and doing a variety of things developing as players. And as staff we feel really good about them. I thought they had a really good spring. I thought that -- I think as a core, as they continue to improve I expect them to be better than our receiving core last year was.
Q. Can you talk about your defense, lost so many starters. Is there any way they can improve on the accomplishments of the group that grew up together that all just graduated?
MIKE LEACH: We're younger and more athletic than we were last year. We're a more athletic unit secondary-wise, probably the most -- one of the more solid secondaries I've been a part of.
But I think the fact that they haven't been around as many years, a lot of them played significant roles last year. A lot of them contributed a lot last year. The fact that the guy is sitting on his couch eating a sandwich, isn't familiar with our defensive player or our receiver, whatever, I don't think has a great deal to do with what he's going to end up doing.
That's the tricky thing about the Big 12. There's going to be some team that's supposed to be down. Hell, the guys -- the new guys might be better than the old guys were. That's why I think there's going to be so many surprises in this conference.
I think this unit's good. I think this unit plays together better. I think that this unit has more explosion to it. I think they've got less experience.
Q. Question about the offensive line, Coach McNeill came and went. I know you've got Coach Moore doing the job for you. You lost a lot of players. How is the offensive line developing and obviously that's a big key for you?
MIKE LEACH: Yeah, I really think -- I think both lines. And as I said in the spring, I thought both the offensive line and defensive line did very well. I do think those are the most important positions on the field. And that's not just being nice to them, because they don't get their name in the newspaper. I mean, they really are. I don't have too many receivers that I wouldn't swap for great ol' linemen, with all due respect to our receivers.
But, I don't know, I'd consider some of those linemen out there.
Trlica, see if there's some linemen out there that we can swap some of our receivers for.
But at any rate, that's why they have football to begin with, is because of linemen. We'd be doing some other sport -- everybody would be involved with basketball or soccer or something if it wasn't for linemen. That's the important part of this whole thing.
What I liked about our group, line is the hardest place to hide a guy because you can't hide the fact the guy's not quite big enough, strong enough or tough enough, because they can find him too easy and expose him. But I thought our guys really played together well. And before I -- as an assistant I coached offensive line for ten years, and quite honestly I have to say that this group stepped up and really played well this spring.
Louis Vasquez, probably our cornerstone of our offensive line. We had several guys that played significantly last year that didn't start who I think are going to step in very nicely.
And then we've got some young guys there that, two guys that have really been working hard at camp was Lonnie Edwards and Mickey Okafor. And I'm a little curious, I feel good about the talent base and then my question as a coach, how can we most effectively teach them so that they gain their experience as quickly as possible and contribute as high a level as they can.
CHARLIE FISS: Coach, thank you.
Texas Tech Media Day Coverage
CHARLIE FISS: Tell us about the Red Raiders as you begin the fall