Mike Leach talks Midnight Maneuvers with CF.C

MIKE LEACH offered some color on the Midnight Maneuvers sessions that came to a close last Thursday at Washington State, including some of the leaders/top performers. One was an offensive lineman named “Frank.”

Leach is always more interested in talking overall team performance, but he also knows Cougar fans and alums are perpetually curious about which players are catching his eye. Leach also noted there’s always the risk of deserving players going unmentioned in talking about standouts. That said, we asked about leaders emerging and he answered.

Luke Falk is an obvious one,” said Leach. “And we have a corps of running backs where they're all back and they're all young (Gerard WicksJamal Morrow and Keith Harrington plus James Williams, who redshirted later year).  “So they're competing hard.”

Leach didn't name all the "young, hungry guys who love football" who distinguished themselves but gave Gabe Marks special recognition among the wide receivers.  Meanwhile on the offensive line, “Frank” came in for some praise.

“On the offensive line, I would say Ed Middleton. I always call him Frank. I don't have a good reason why I do, but I do. And we've got a lot of offensive linemen back. (Maneuvers) isn't exactly Riley Sorenson's event but he's a good, stable guy,” said Leach.

Leach also pointed to some of the high-effort players on D, including the Cougs’ starting nose tackle.

“You've got Robert BarberDaniel Ekuale -- Barber has really been impressive, I think,” said Leach.  “And Peyton Pelluer, and at the risk of leaving someone out... The secondary is all back. Shalom Luani (did well) and two real naturals at this type of thing, you look at how they're built and how they're wired: Marcellus Pippins and Darrien Molton.”

Leach tends to undersell some aspects of his coaching. He made it a point to mention most everyone does a two-week conditioning circuit focused on agility and building team unity. “We haven’t really invented the wheel on it,” said Leach.  True, but Cougar players have consistently told CF.C over the years they’re some of the most exhausting workouts they’ve ever gone through. 

“Some people do mat drills, we go out on the field, mainly because we have really good practice facilities and right next to the weight room.  The best way to summarize it is they're agility stations and grass drills. They're centered on a quick first step, change of direction movements,” said Leach.

Most other teams hold their winter conditioning workouts in the morning or afternoon. Leach’s workouts start around 10 p.m., about the same time as the fourth quarter for night games.

“It's got a hugely positive effect, it's very important,” said Leach about the workouts. “We do them sooner if it wasn't for recruiting. (But) if you were to do it the whole semester it would diminish weight and strength gains.”

Leach said this year's workouts were a continuation of a year ago, noting that he saw good camaraderie among the players.

“We have a really good group -- and it started last year, we're building off last year's offseason,” said Leach. “We have a young group, we're still young. Last year it was freshmen and sophomores, now we're predominantly freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

“I do have to say it's a combination of recruiting the right guys and also we have a lot of guys who came in in shape, who were in pretty good shape when they started out.”
For the freshmen that arrived last July and the new January enrollees, this was their first Midnight Maneuvers.  “I thought they did really good, and some of that is the example set by the guys ahead of them,” said Leach. “It's a very tight locker room and that's something that's been built over time.”

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