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Mele tells CF.C why Mike Leach's Air Raid is so hard to stop

WHEN DAVID YOST packed his bags for Oregon in January, CougFans on the CF.C message boards pondered if Yost bringing three years’ worth of Mike Leach and WSU knowledge to Eugene might hurt the Cougs against the Ducks this coming season. A recent CF.C conversation with assistant coach Eric Mele offers a decidedly different view.

Every offense has at least some things they try to keep under wraps. But Leach's offense contains far fewer of those things than your average college football attack. 

Leach’s offense, decidedly, is not about deception.   It’s built instead around repetition, repetition, repetition.  So much of what makes Leach’s offense successful is already out there for all to see.  Opposing defenses that had an excellent idea of what was coming still had difficulty stopping WSU this year, as evidenced by the Cougs' 9-4 record.

Mele chuckled when I asked about the college football assistant coaching carousel. WSU is replacing both WRs coaches with Graham Harrell having also left to become OC at North Texas. Might that at least slow WSU’s offensive development in 2016?  Although Mele is WSU’s special teams coach, his first 2 ½ seasons at WSU were as an offensive quality control coach. In addition to assisting with the development of Cougar QBs, he watched a lot of film in that role with Leach. 

He still does.

“Coach Leach has got his thumb on all of it, he watches every stitch of film. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions I heard before coming here: ‘He doesn’t watch a bunch of film, he’s not a grinder.’  False. Wrong. He watches every stitch of every practice film. Every period of o-line passing rush? He’s watching that. He watches receivers’ one-on-one pass period, team periods, everything. And then he’s in the staff room with the coaches (working on) the things that need to get fixed,” said Mele.

And the importance of repetition to consistent offensive success?

“To me, when it comes to ‘geniuses,’ everyone talks about the scheme or the plays,” said Mele. “Well, half the time they’re trick plays and those things are 50-50. The genius with Coach Leach is the simplicity, the repetition. He’s smart enough, and smarter than a lot of the rest of these guys, to know you don’t need 85 plays to make it happen. “

That can be a temptation for coaches, to continually add new plays to an already overstuffed playbook because something new often looks great on paper.  But not with Leach.

“If you have 85 plays in your offense, how many reps are you going to get each week in your offense?” said Mele. “Now, if you have 30 plays instead of 85 and the same amount of practice time, guess what, now you can hit it 2 ½ as many times in practice. That’s where the repetition and muscle memory and all those things he talks about really come in.

“Coach Leach is smart enough to know that guess what, if you run these 10 plays over and over again vs. these three different looks we’re going to see, they can’t stop them. To me, that’s what you need.”

There are a number of things, with experience, injuries and depth chief among them, that can make or break any offense on any given Saturday.  But with a solid core returning off the 2015 breakout season including budding star QB Luke Falk, and a passel of wide receiver honors candidates, the Air Raid could be more difficult to stop than ever in '16.

“It’s at the point now where it’s functioning on its own a little bit,” said Mele.

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