Mike Leach blasts golf, lauds Halliday, Tago

SEATTLE — There isn’t a ton of information in cyberspace about Washington State football recruit Logan Tago out of American Samoa. But this much is certain: when you see “athlete” listed as his position on his WSU bio page, it’s literal. “The guy is 6-foot-4, 225,” Mike Leach told Cougar fans Friday in Seattle. “What’s he play? I don’t know. I got it narrowed down to about six positions.”

Tago, who chose WSU over offers from Oregon State, Washington, Colorado and Hawaii, is rated a 3-star outside linebacker by Scout.com, but his position at WSU looks to be anyone’s guess.

“He can play outside linebacker, defensive end, inside linebacker, wide receiver, tight end … he played both sides of the ball (in high school) and does it all very well,” Leach said at the Night with Cougar Football gathering at the downtown Sheraton.

The coach didn’t elaborate on that mention of “tight end” — a position that, to date, hasn’t been part of the Air Raid — but CF.C will look to get some clarity on it in the run up to spring practices, which begin March 26.

In addition to football — in which coaches voted Tago the American Samoa High School Athletics Association Player of the Year in 2014 — he also is a standout in basketball, volleyball and soccer.

IN ONE OF THE MORE SURPRISING developments Friday, Leach answered a question about an injury at great length. Of course, his loquaciousness may have had something to do the with fact quarterback Connor Halliday has no eligibility remaining.

“If you’re going to break a leg, he broke it in the perfect fashion possible,” Leach said of the record-setting signal caller. “Now, I broke a leg one time, so try to avoid it if you can. I was talking to him about it the other day. They put a rod in his leg and he says that it is stronger than the other leg. He was actually getting all fired up about it.

“I’m sitting there thinking two ankles. This is sort of like breast implants,” Leach added. “Why don’t you get the other one done?”

Joking aside, Leach gave Halliday’s NFL chances a ringing endorsement. Last week, the Ferris High/Spokane product attended the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but didn’t go through on-field drills. WSU’s Pro Day is set for March 12, and as of now, it’s uncertain if the lanky passer will participate or hold his own workout sometime in April.

Most draft analysts expect Halliday to be a late-round pick or a free agent signee.

“I expect him to get drafted,” Leach said. “He’s got an arm. Honestly, this isn’t just (his) coach talking. This is a fact. I can show you clip after clip. He’s got a special arm. He’s got an arm that few have ever seen. It really is impressive. He’s a good person, works hard, so I expect things to go well for him.”

THOSE WHO DELIGHT IN Leach’s off-the-beaten-path commentary were in for a treat Friday. Leach was unfiltered and in his element during a pair of question-and-answer sessions with emcee Jaymee Sire of ESPN. No topic was off-limits. He even acknowledged an injury.

With a healthy collection of former Washington State football stars gathered to help raise money for the Cougar Athletic Fund, it was Leach who had patrons looking up from their three-course dinner to make sure they heard what they thought they did.

Why hold the sessions so late at night?

“How many fourth quarters are we going to have at six in the morning?" Leach asked the audience. “As I did the mental math, it came up to zero.”

Then he offered a theory on why other teams condition in the morning.

“Coaches do this thing where they want to do everything like the military," he said. “I like the military, and I've rooted for us in every war we've ever had, but I'm thinking just because they do it for their purposes doesn't mean we need to do it for ours.

"When I started coaching, they used to say if you want to keep them out of the bars, get them up in the morning,” he added. “That’s not how it worked for me. I'd just say hey, I'm tough. I'll just rally. If we occupy them and the (bars) are closed, then they have to sacrifice a little bit. The idea is to sacrifice. To let everybody be together.” 

NETFLIX RELEASED THE THIRD season of its hit political drama, House of Cards, on Friday. Count Leach among the horde of devoted fans that plan to binge-watch Kevin Spacey as the villainous politician Frank Underwood. That is, as soon as he finds somebody to let him use their Netflix subscription.

“I don’t have Netflix but I 100 percent endorse House of Cards,” Leach said. “The last episode of Season Two -- that was pretty wild.”

Leach admitted he became a fan of the show recently while babysitting his granddaughter while visiting family.

“There are times where the only people in the house that were up were me and the granddaughter,” he said. “We enjoyed two full seasons together.”

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Leach had high praise for QB Tyler Hilinski, who Scout.com ranks three stars and the No. 13 quarterback in the West. The Upland, Calif., product is getting a head start on his college career and will participate in spring drills that begin March 26. He graduated from high school in December and enrolled at WSU in January.

    "Tyler Hilinski, he's on campus right now... Not only is he a pretty good sized guy, he's pretty vocal for a guy his size,” Leach said. He has a way of winning games and making things happen.”

  • Don’t expect to see Leach cruising around in a golf cart at Palouse Ridge anytime soon. Asked by Sire to reveal his handicap, the 53-year-old said he “hates golf.”

    “Golf is for people that have inadequate swearing skills,” Leach said. “If you’re not very good at swearing, take up golf and you’ll be pretty good after that. Right now, in my life, I don’t need golf. I may at some point in time, and if my skills diminish, I may take up golf. I don’t have a handicap right now.”

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