NO CLICHES OR boilerplate statements here. The Pac-12's Media Day is generally marked with tired phrases and the same safe answers from the parade of Pac-12 coaches. But Washington State's Mike Leach just doesn't operate that way. Asked which head coach in the Pac-12 would make for the best hunting/fishing partner, Leach relished the opportunity to answer.
called it a good question and said, "let's take some time" so he wouldn't get it wrong. Holding a running commentary, he then worked through a playoff system in his mind and ultimately settled on Utah's Kyle Whittingham, in part because of the geography surrounding Salt Lake City. Arizona's Rich Rodriguez was the apparent runner-up.
and Travis Long
accompanied Leach to Los Angeles for the media event and when asked which military leaders he would compare Tuel and Long to, Leach had them laughing in the aisles. The funny thing, he was probably dead serious.
"I'm really more of a Civil War guy...Jeff is Stonewall Jackson, he can attack from different angles... Travis is more of Ulysses S. Grant guy -- he's in the trenches and if required to attack Vicksburg for a month, he's prepared to do that," said Leach.
When a reporter mistakenly directed a question to "Coach Price," Leach didn't miss a beat, beginning his answer with, "On behalf of Coach Price..."
He set the tone from the start, letting reporters know this wasn't going to be your standard spiel on how excited he is on this aspect or that aspect headed into fall camp. Leach instead said he's not big into opening statements, acknowledged the obvious that everyone is excited, and let's open it up for questions.
Among the other highlights:
Leach said if fans think they are more disappointed than the coaches and players are with losses or when something bad happens, "then they're out of their mind."
Leach said either everyone should have a conference championship game or no one should.
Tuel said he's 100 percent healthy.
Leach said the most important thing a QB does is make the players around them better.
Leach was asked about the differences between Pullman and Lubbock. He said there aren't as many differences as people might think. He said WSU is a true college town whereas some that claim to be college towns are not. Leach also said WSU offers a unique college experience but one thing similar to Lubbock is that there are a lot of people who once they get to Pullman, they love it and see the electricity that revolves around all things Cougars.
Asked if there needed to be a culture change with Leach arriving, Tuel said former coach Paul Wulff was doing a great job and that Coach Leach would tip his hat to the recruiting Wulff did. What Leach has done, Tuel said, is to bring in tremendous confidence. Asked the same question, Long laughed, "Sounds good," he said, referring to what Tuel said.
Leach said he doesn't focus on the long term but rather how to get there -- working on one day to the next and what WSU can control, such as how hard they work and improvement.
Asked to compare WSU wideout Marquess Wilson, one of the Pac-12's rising star talents, to two former Leach pupils in Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree, Leach said Wilson is explosive, has a lot of long range, able to get to balls you wouldn't think he would and that he likes to be in traffic -- "like a pinball machine". He said Marquess is improving on his focus and drive, implying those are two areas Wilson needs to shore up before he can become a finished product. In other words, basically what Leach said back in the spring and was well documented at the time on CF.C.
The challenge in football is packaging plays, not finding plays, said Leach. There are lots of plays that are out there, but attacking the whole field with the package is the thing, and BYU was a system that he looked to and borrowed from in creating his system.
Asked for the transition to Leach, the naturally quiet Long finally had a question to answer and said it was an easy transition, that all the players latched onto it. Tuel added that Leach made examples of a few guys who went astray and that opened up players' eyes.
Asked about going through the offense the first time, Tuel said it was easy and that learning the playbook wasn't the issue, it's learning what to do with the ball and when, and to match what Leach sees. Tuel said he's not focused on throwing for say, 5,000 yards, he's focused on working on all the little things that would get him there.
Asked how the defense might improve in 2012, Long said the Cougs' focus is on forcing more turnovers, and to bring pressure. He said the D will be on the field a lot with this offense and they worked a ton this spring on forcing turnovers.
Tuel said the biggest change between this year and last for him is his confidence level. Last year he still learned despite not being able to appear in more than three games due to injuries.
Leach said he's never thought the Pac-12 has anything to prove to any other conferences, saying that all the chatter about which conference is best is self-serving. "I just think it's a whole hollow thing... whatever conference you're in you think is the best, just go out and play...I don't care what the other conferences think," said Leach.
Asked about his high graduation rate at Texas Tech, Leach said there's no question he plans on the same being the case at Washington State. He said when he got to Tech, they had one of the lowest graduation rates and were on academic probation. He said academics is also something WSU can compete in. Encouragement, proper teaching, pressure when needed and being conscientious about it, which is key, is the recipe for good things to follow on the academic front.
LEACH, TUEL AND LONG ENTERTAIN PAC-12 MEDIA DAY COHORT.