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WSU's Mike Leach is asked about the best WR he's ever coached; also weighs in on the rise of Cougar lineman

WASHINGTON STATE's Mike Leach is a student of history -- and yet he had a surprising response to the question of who is the best wide receiver he's ever coached.

It may be "just the next game" but on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches call, the intensity of the rivalry between the two in-state schools was almost palpable. Unfortunately, just kidding. But there were some nuggets buried in the avalanche of coach speak and we've got them for you.

Mike Leach was asked to rank senior Gabe Marks in terms of wide receivers he's coached over the years. His response wasn't completely predictable.

“I think he's up there. Now I’ve had some good receivers so that’s not a 100 percent of a fair question. You have a funny way of falling in love with the ones you have right now, so we’re really excited about Gabe because he’s the one we’ve got right now. He was able to play early. Comes out of his cuts quickly and plays the ball in the air well. And he’s steadily improved in his time here," said Leach.

Does Leach see some of himself in Marks?

“Yeah, a little bit. We have a certain amount of (a similar way to) look at things and try to take it apart to see how it works and occasionally figure out where it went wrong," said the head man.

It was easy for Leach to describe what makes Marks one-of-a-kind both on and off the field.

“Gabe is a smart guy with charisma," Leach said. "The biggest thing about Gabe is he has a very intelligent quality about everything he says that captivates me and others. He knows a little bit about everything. Normal things can become kind of strange just because of his take on it is unique and his point of view. The way he sort of sees the world is unique. That’s one good thing about Gabe, even the strange and mundane can take a fascinating turn.”

Leach expanded on the rise of left guard Cody O'Connell from a reserve the past three seasons (including a redshirt year) to one of three finalists for the Outland Trohpy.

“He’s bigger than almost all of them (I've had). He’s definitely taller so he has long arms. He’s kind of real diligent and focused. He doesn’t have the ups and downs that some other guys have. He’s a talented guy. I think that’s the single most important thing. He’s tall, strong …and has gotten progressively better," said Leach.

RELATED: WSU's Cody O'Connell a Outland Trophy finalist

When Washington coach Chris Petersen took his turn with the media, he began by describing what he's seen on film that makes Wazzu an improved team this season.

“They’re playing better defense," said Petersen. "They understand their schemes and are playing really hard...and they’ve got some good players. I’ve always thought their run game was effective and now they’re just calling on them more. I think that’s helped them.”

But you would have thought Petersen handed the phone back to Leach in listening to how the UW coach dealt with the elevated importance Friday's game, one that includes not only in-state bragging rights but a Pac-12 North title to the victor.

“To say that I’ve got a different sense, I don’t think would be accurate," said UW's head man. "I like how our team has prepared every week and they’ve been really businesslike. They know we’ve really got a really good challenge on our hands but I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve played pretty well. Each week has kind of been the same. Hopefully this is as well and we can go out and play well again.”

Petersen, as if trying to impersonate Leach when asked to compare Jake Browing and Luke Falk, continued.

“Luke is really good," he said. "He’s great in that offense and what they do. I think he’d be great in a lot offenses to tell you the truth. He is a classic passer. He does a great job, obviously, running that system. I think Jake does a good job running our system.”

Both coaches seem to have more in common than you'd suspect from cross-state rivals. Stanford coach David Shaw believes that to be the case.

“Between the two of them, first and foremost each of them knows exactly who they are," he said, "Number Two, both of them are very smart. These are intellectual people that believe strongly in what they do and how they do it. That’s their similarities even though when you look at them they look completely different. Both have no misgivings about who they are and make no apologies about who they are.”

That brought about the latest unusual Leach topic presented by the media. If you're not familiar with Leach talking about the concept of taking a road trip with Petersen, watch the second video from our coverage of yesterday's press conference by clicking HERE

Even Shaw was drawn into a discussion about Leach and Petersen traveling down the highway together.

“I don’t know how it would go. I think it would be great to have an open mike and then just preserve that long conversation for posterity," said Shaw.


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