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Story Archives: Leach tells it like it is
|Leach tells it like it is|
I expected the book "Swing Your Sword" by Mike Leach to be an entertaining read.
I was not disappointed.
It's easy to see why Leach is considered one of the great offensive minds in the game.
And why he's considered one of the most controversial.
Leach attended Brigham Young and law school at Pepperdine. His comparisons of being a lawyer and football coach are very enlightening.
Leach followed former Kentucky head coach Hal Mumme from Iowa Wesleyan to Valdosta State to Kentucky.
Too bad they parted ways after that, as Leach took the offensive coordinator job at Oklahoma when Mumme went on to Southeastern Louisiana. I believe SLU fans would have fell in love with Leach.
Leach and Mumme led Kentucky to a 7-4 season in 1999, and the first New Year's Day bowl game since 1951.
The Wildcats lost to Penn State 26-14.
Leach said this about visiting LSU.
"My all-time favorite road trip was that visit to LSU. I have coached in a lot of fantastic atmospheres, but LSU is the greatest place to play. "
Leach talks about the slow ride by bus to the stadium and the way their bus was greeted, some of it not fit for print.
He also talked about Mike the Tiger in his cage on the field.
"I thought I had a pretty good sense of how big a Bengal Tiger is, but I had no idea," Leach said. "He's enormous. His eyes are the size of my fists. The bars on that cage they keep him in are no bigger than the thickness of my finger. There is no doubt in my mind that if that tiger wanted to get out of that cage, he's getting out. I went over to examine him. I felt like my chances of survival were high because he had lots of people to choose from for a snack. He looked a little bored."
Leach said about Tiger Stadium, "It's one big, intense, hostile place."
However, behind quarterback Tim Couch, Kentucky pulled off a 39-36 upset win.
Leach followed Bob Stoops to Oklahoma. A year earlier in 1998 he interviewed for the Middle Tennessee and Louisiana-Lafayette coaching jobs, as well as talking briefly to Arkansas.
Leach recruited quarterback Josh Heupel to Oklahoma.
Talking about recruiting quarterbacks, Leach said, "The reason teams struggle when evaluating quarterbacks is that sometimes their priorities are out of order. They get caught up in arm strength, size and speed. Did you see the guy throw it through the goalposts while kneeling at midfield? That's great, but the last time I checked you don't throw passes in games from your knees. I've got defensive ends with great arm strength, but they aren't accurate. I bet they would love to play quarterback."
Leach said arm strength is sixth on his list. He has accuracy first, followed by good decisions, how tough, good feet and leadership abilities.
When Leach arrived at Texas Tech he had very little time to recruit. He said recruiting coaches was more important.
Wes Welker signed with OSU two weeks after signing day. Leach said Oklahoma would not even accept him as a walk-on.
"He was this slow, short guy from Oklahoma City," Leach said.
Welker brought his tape to the coaches and Leach sent him out with the strength coach to tour the facility so the coaches could watch his tapes.
"It was the most impressive high school film I've ever seen," Leach said. "His production was off the scale. He returned kicks, punts and interceptions back for touchdowns. He caught touchdown passes. Then he finished the thing with an exclamation point, hitting a game-winning 52-yard field goal. This is all in one playoff game."
Welker went on to start four years, catching 259 passes for 21 TDs and set an NCAA record with eight punt returns for TDs.
Welker was not invited to the combine and was not drafted. He signed with San Diego as a free agent. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer later acknowledged that in terms of roster cuts, releasing Wes Welker was the "biggest mistake he ever made." He was later traded from Miami to New England.
Leach was also criticized at times for running up the score while at Texas Tech.
"Next year those third-team guys might be my starters," Leach said. 'If we have an injury or two, they might become our starters next week. Regardless of the score, you've spent a long time teaching technique and lifting weights, and if there's some number-three left guard yucking it up, I will rip him. The buses don't leave until the clock says 00:00. That means attitude and body language and continuing to develop your skills until then."
Of course, most people will buy the book to read about Leach's confrontations with Craig James and his son, Adam when he was head coach at Texas Tech.
That's a column in itself.
"Adam's daddy, Craig, came around and campaigned for his son," Leach said. "He talked about how good Adam was. It all started when we beat Cal in the Holiday Bowl. Craig, who was there to announce the game, came up to our hospitality room. He started talking about how great his kid was and how great the bloodlines of the James family were. I later found out that he tried giving the same sales pitch to the Nevada staff after calling their bowl game too."
Leach said his biggest regret was not cutting Adam James.
"I kept hoping he'd develop a work ethic. He had two position coaches, first Dana Holgorsen, then Lincoln Riley. He didn't get along with either one."
To appreciate the entire story you need to read the book. Believe me, you will appreciate Leach's stance against the James' a whole lot more.
I can't wait to see Leach back on the field. The interesting thing is that Leach's first game as Cougar coach will be at Brigham Young, the school where he learned a lot of his wide-open offensive schemes. I think Leach will be serving as teacher this time around.
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