Leach eyes another big OL recruiting class

SPOKANE -- Mike Leach made his in-season Spokane Cougar Club luncheon debut on Monday and told a full house that the Washington State Cougars need to exorcise the ghosts of seasons past. He also talked a little recruiting, specifically on the o-line needs for the 2013 class.

Among the more intriguing areas Leach touched on, the head man of the Cougs talked about what needs to happen going forward with the offensive line:

"We need to get bigger. We need to get stronger. And we need to get more of ‘em'" he said. "We need to get them bigger and we will do that. When we were at (Texas) Tech, our biggest year we averaged 330 pounds across the line."

And to help accomplish that, Leach said he plans on adding another four o-line commits to the three already on board in the 2013 recruiting class.

"We're looking to bring in seven o-line guys next year, and I think two of them will be junior college guys who can come in and play right away," said Leach.

Washington State has two known o-line commits in the 2013 class, high schoolers Cody O'Connell and Cole Madison, plus incoming grayshirt B.J. Salmonson.

Leach brought in five o-linemen in the previous recruiting class -- all of whom are redshirting this season.

Leach said that the demands on offensive linemen are different than those on any other position player, adding that, on every play they need to depend on what players to the left and right of them are doing.

"They are always at the point of the attack on every play," he added.

Leach stressed that, long-term, a successful program needs to focus on bringing in high school players and developing them.

"You have to remember that the things that got players into junior college in the first place? Very few of them are good," he said. "In the end, you need to build from high school players."

LEACH OPENED BY setting the record straight on what an off-week in the middle of the college football season is all about.

"To hear people talk they must think it's a vacation," he quipped. "And I think that our players, after they hear enough from their friends and their families, they think it's supposed to be a vacation, too.

"We had two fairly hard practices Monday and Tuesday and we got back to fundamentals. We had seven coaches out on the road Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We had a fairly light workout Saturday and got down to preparing to play Stanford Saturday night and breaking down film. Stanford is an old-fashioned football team and we're excited to get out there and play them."

Leach said for some of his players this season, the problems have nothing to do with physical talent.

"We have a little too much ‘Here we go again,'" said Leach. "Instead of putting that behind you and concentrating on going out and winning the next play we start focusing on adversity.

"We need to focus on winning the next play, and the next play, and the next play."

Asked if there were some "fragile egos" on the team, Leach was blunt: "Fragile egos? At some point you have to make them un-fragile."

Leach talked for more than an hour, showing 16 plays from Washington State's 31-17 loss at home to Cal. Among those he highlighted were plays involving Marquess Wilson, Brett Bartolone and Cyrus Coen, to name a few. Then, while sipping coffee, he took questions from his audience on a variety of subjects.

Several questions dealt with the Cougs' execution on game days, or lack thereof.

"I think some of it is performance anxiety," he said. "We need to coach them better. We need to teach them better."

Speaking specifically about the Cougar receivers, he said the bottom line is simple.

"When the ball is in the air … you should be able to catch it," he said. "Right now, I think we just need focus. We went out there Tuesday and had our worst practice all season and I think we dropped something like 800 balls. But we came back Wednesday and had the best practice all season."

Leach said he has been impressed with his freshmen.

"I think our older players are a little defeated," he said. "The freshmen haven't been through all that. They're like "I'm a freshman, hear me roar!' I'm impressed with some of our young guys."

Leach talked at length about the ins and outs of changing plays at the line of scrimmage, explaining that sometimes it means a team doesn't have confidence in its quarterback, and how it can often be just a show to confuse a defense. But when asked about how he coaches leadership, the coach got serious and singled out Spokane senior Travis Long.

"To begin with, you have to love football and Travis is a prime example of that," he said. "In football, you have to learn to play with the pain, because that's a constant part of the game. The weakest guy on the scout team is playing with pain. Your best player is playing with pain. You need guys who are going to ignore that and still go out and give you their best."

Long, he said, is that kind of leader, adding that you can't always judge a leader by sheer volume.

"It's not always the holler guy because a lot of time they're just hollering to hear themselves holler," he said. "They'll say you absolutely have to do such and such, and they're usually the first ones not doing it."

ASKED IF HE watched NFL football and if there was anything the professional game could teach, or if there were things in the professional game to avoid, Leach said it was a little of both.

"I spent five weeks with the Jets and with the Eagles and a day and a half with the Giants (before being hired at WSU)," he explained. "The work ethic is amazing in the NFL. Guys in the NFL who have been there for a while, their work ethic is off the charts. They are so focused on things like lifting weights and preparing themselves to play the game."

The downside?

"The NFL is so scheme-oriented that technique goes out the window," he said.

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