Harrell to CF.C: Leach tough & fun for QBs

FORMER TEXAS TECH quarterback Graham Harrell loved playing for Mike Leach. Loved it. He made that clear during a 20-minute interview, when he mentioned at least a dozen times that he loved playing for Washington State's first-year coach. But Cougar quarterbacks such as Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday ought to know this, too:

"He's tough on quarterbacks, and puts a lot on them. He doesn't have a problem yelling at them. They'll be times when they're going to get mad at him," said Graham Harrell, now a reserve for the Green Bay Packers. "But you're going to have a ton of fun. If you're a quarterback who really wants it, he gives you freedom. You can check to whatever play you want, as long as it's a good call. It's a quarterback's dream system."

Whatever you've read or heard about Leach and his approach to football is not far from reality, Harrell says. Often when the team or quarterbacks met, Leach spent half the session talking about something other than football.

"He might talk about murder cases or retirement or Native Americans. He knows everything," said Harrell, son of a Texas high school coach. "He's definitely not your traditional football coach. He's his own guy. That's what makes him great. One of the things that makes him great is he believes in what he does."

Harrell, who passed for 15,793 yards and 134 touchdowns from 2005-08 at Texas Tech, said it's a little weird at first to not work out of a playbook, as is customary under Leach. But his approach in developing quarterbacks is solid.

"Everyone else, when they hear there's no playbook, they say "What?' I loved it. The best way to learn isn't staring at a piece of paper," Harrell said. "Coach Leach doesn't expect you go home and study. He wants you to learn through experience and getting a ton of reps."

Harrell said Leach's offense is simple to pick up for a quarterback, because it's a few plays with a lot of looks because of formations. For example, "there are 20 versions of "92," but for the quarterback it's the exact same read," Harrell said. "It may look like crazy chaos, but there aren't many plays to learn. Most people pick it up pretty quickly. It's all about putting your team in the best possible situation. Coach Leach has always said the quarterback's job is to make everyone around you better."

What's unique about the Leach offense during practice is that it's a lot of the same-old, Harrell says. Drill the same plays, day in, day out. Boring? Hard to argue against Leach's track record of 10 consecutive winning seasons.

"His philosophy is we're going to be better at what we do than what you do," Harrell said. "He's not going to put in 10 new plays during the week because of something he saw on video. From the day a kid shows up at Tech to the day he graduates, it's the same offense over and over and over. It's what you work on from Day 1."

When Washington State unveiled Leach as its new coach, Harrell cheered.

"I was pumped. Coach Leach is great for the game of college football," Harrell said. "One thing he brings to a program is interest. So many people see him as an off-the-wall guy, but they want to hear what he has to say, because he's interesting. I've been waiting for a couple years for him to get a job. He's going to be successful at Washington State, and two, he's going to bring interest to the program."

Harrell says when his playing days end, one of his first calls is likely to go to Leach.

"I always tell him, whenever I'm done playing, save me a spot. He says he will," Harrell said. "Absolutely I would love to coach for him. He's a fun guy to be around on a daily basis. He's not going to drive his assistants into the ground. He expects a lot out of his assistants and his players, but it's not like he's going to drive them into the ground."

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