Leach's sack record, coaching tree are super

PULLMAN – Washington State quarterbacks Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday say they're excited about operating Mike Leach's famed spread offense, and for good reason. Not only did all 10 of Leach's Texas Tech teams post winning records and play in bowl games, but all 10 teams finished in the top six nationally in passing and total offense. Six of those teams were No. 1 in passing.

WSU quarterbacks also will be heartened to know that Mike Leach's Red Raiders teams rarely gave up sacks.

Despite throwing the ball far more than most teams, Leach's last four teams at Tech (2006-09) gave up just 81 sacks in 52 games. The 2008 Raiders tied for fourth nationally with just 1.0 sacks allowed per game.

By comparison, Paul Wulff's four WSU teams (2008-11) gave up 186 sacks in 49 games. All four of those teams finished in the bottom five nationally in sacks allowed.

The Cougars did improve their passing numbers substantially this year. Despite going through three starting quarterbacks, WSU currently ranks 10th in the nation with 322.3 passing yards per game.

Mind you, that's 15 yards less than Leach's first Texas Tech team passed for in 2000 – and that was the low mark during Leach's tenure. The high mark was 475.3 in 2003, when B.J. Symons set the current Football Bowl Subdivision records of 5,833 passing yards and 5,976 total yards in one season.

Excuse Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday if they just started drooling. Leach asks a lot of his quarterbacks and receivers – there is more than one choice to make on most plays – but the rewards can be spectacular.

"All I can really describe it as is excitement," Tuel said.

Leach's no-huddle, hurry-up offense features plenty of short passes and quick releases by the quarterback behind an offensive line that often leaves large gaps between players. Leach likes to spread out his O-linemen to push defensive ends a few extra feet away from the quarterback.

It's hard to question the validity of Leach's offensive strategy. All seven Football Bowl Subdivision teams that have passed for 4,000 yards this season currently or recently had offensive assistant coaches who coached or played for Leach, and all seven teams run some version of Leach's spread offense.

Leach's most famous pupil may be West Virginia coach Dana Halgorsen, who eventually worked his way up to offensive coordinator under Leach during their eight years together at Texas Tech.

Halgorsen went on to serve as offensive coordinator on explosive teams at Houston and Oklahoma State. In his first year at West Virginia, the Mountaineers are ranked seventh in passing.

Another head coach who worked under Leach at Tech is Baylor's Art Briles. The Bears are ranked fifth in passing this season and quarterback Robert Griffin may be the Heisman Trophy favorite.

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