Who will be Leach's game-day eye in the sky?

COUGAR COACH Mike Leach serves as his own offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, so the eyes most commonly found in the press box on game day spotting alignments and tendencies aren't there the way they are with other teams. So who's going to fill that key role for Washington State?

The booth eyes are critical for every team, but even more so for one whose head man is also the O-coordinator and QB coach.

Interestingly, Leach is turning to the youngest member of his staff to help him out.

Eric Morris, the man Leach nicknamed "The (evil) Elf" when the 5-9 receiver and punt returner was slashing and dashing for Texas Tech a few years back, is going to be the head coach's eyes in the sky at WSU.

Morris, 26, is entering his first collegiate season as a full-fledged assistant coach.

But make no mistake. He and Leach are definitely on the same page.

"He coaches inside receivers and he played for me ... he's my eyes up top," Leach told Cougfan.com in a telephone interview this week. "How it works is we verbalize and articulate what we see -- really, it's a recognition of what the opponent is in, what their tendencies are, how to attack it and how to proceed."

The communication between the two won't be limited to before and after each play.

"It's kind of a party-line conversation. Another coach is listening in to get the right play and coverage in, but Eric and I will have a conversation as the play unfolds," said Leach. "And that verifies that I'm seeing from the sideline what I think I'm seeing."

IF THE PAST is prologue, Morris could have a very bright future ahead of him. Two of Leach's eyes in the sky during his tenure at Texas Tech were Dana Holgerson and Lincoln Riley.

Holgerson is entering his second season as the head coach at West Virgina and Riley, who is only 28, is entering his third year as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at East Carolina.

Morris spent the past two years as a graduate assistant for Kevin Sumlin at Houston, working on offense last season and in quality control in 2010. He played for Leach at Texas Tech from 2005-08, catching 149 passes and 18 TDs over his junior and season seasons before moving on to Saskatchewan in the Canadian Football League in 2009.

ANOTHER LEACH ASSISTANT who is in a new role this season is Clay McGuire. He also played for Leach at Texas Tech, and later was a special teams and running backs coach there and at East Carolina. At WSU he's coaching the offensive line for the first time. But McGuire is no stranger to blocking schemes and packages.

"He played the tight end/slotback/h-back for us -- so he had a role in a lot of the protections," said Leach. "He was always a guy who from the neck up was pretty good, an overachiever as a player."

In all, between playing and coaching, McGuire spent 10 seasons with Leach. So there's a familiarity and comfort level that makes him well suited for the OL position -- a position Leach has called the "most important asset" for an offensive coordinator "because he has your offense's life in his hands."

"The other thing that is really impressive about him, we had a coaching change one year and he ended up taking over the special teams as a GA -- and he did a really impressive job of that," said Leach. "He has a lot of diversity in his knowledge. He is able to sort a lot of things out and quickly, and he has already for us here on the offensive line."

About the only thing Leach and McGuire seem to differ on are cowboys and boots. Leach says real cowboys wear square-toed boots, McGuire is partial to round-toed boots.

"Well, if you come from a one-stoplight town and you don't get out a great deal ... As good as he is with football and offensive line play, he needs to stick with offensive line play, and not cowboy boots," said Leach.

NOTABLE NOTE:
Morris in 2008 explained the nickname Leach had given him to Tech's student newspaper the Daily Torreador: "He calls me the evil elf because he has all these different things: elves are small, they're generally pretty mean and they corner well," Morris said. "They're good with a dagger -- he goes on and on about how elves have different traits, and he thinks that I fit the traits of an elf. He thinks that I do well with the football in my hands and calls the football my dagger."

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