Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ask an Expert: Mike Leach Responds, Part III

This is part III of our interview with former Texas Tech -- and future Washington State -- football coach Mike Leach. Previously we posted part I and part II.

Q: "If you had to rank the reasons for your success, how would you compare the offensive scheme itself, player development, and identifying overlooked raw talent? Or was there something else that helped you win?"

A: I think it’s all of the above. It’s all very important. I think you try to do all of it. As far as, I can’t really rank the reasons.

I think our scheme is very good and constantly being polished. Our scheme, what is important to me scheme-wise is to utilize all the skill positions so the defense has to account for every skill position. Second is to make sure that our scheme respects all the space sideline to sideline and the downfield. Then, uh, and you don’t need, say, 10 different ways to attack the flat. You need three you can execute really well so you can develop your skill specifically at what you’re going to do. And then, I think somebody may have a better way to attack the flat than us, and I might take their play and take out a couple of mine so we don’t lose ground on the execution level with that.

Player development, I think that’s constant. I think that it means different things. One thing you find when new players come in, no player really knows how hard they can work. You know, everybody has worked at whatever level they’re at, and everybody can work harder. Then, they discover that they, and then they start pushing onto another plateau working hard. Some need to work on focus. Some need to relax. You’d be surprised how many players I get that need to relax. They put too much pressure on themselves.

Then, raw talent, I think you can constantly develop. You look for, sometimes with raw talent there’s just a role. You know, the guy might not be a complete player, but in this role and this situation, he’d be great. You might have some raw defensive linemen -- not very disciplined, not real good against the run maybe -- but great as far as a pass rush. You put him in there on third and long and turn him loose and you get great results. As he develops in that role, he can expand on it and improve.

Then, the other thing that is everybody pulling in the same direction? You know, our number one goal is always to be a team, and I think that’s very important. Be a team.

Q: "The 2003 Houston Bowl between Navy and Texas Tech was the biggest clash of styles I can think of, have you ever talked with Paul Johnson after that game and laughed at the absurdity of it? Also, is that one kid still ringing his bell?"

A: Aw, shoot, I remember that video, and I’m not even going to comment on that because there are several connotations to that on the bell.

Paul Johnson is a friend of mine. Paul Johnson and I did laugh about it. We were the number one offense in the nation. They were the number two. We were the number one passing team in the nation. They were the number one rushing team in the nation. Everybody said that we were totally opposite, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Very similar teams. The only dissimilarity was that we threw it, they ran it, because our philosophy as far as attacking the field with lots of personnel came from the wishbone. Even though the wishbone ran it all the time, the wishbone made sure all the skill positions touched the ball and made the defense have to account for everybody. In other words, distribution was very important to them.

Their idea of balance wasn’t 50% run, 50% pass. Their idea of balance was distribution. They made sure you were getting contributions out of all the offensive positions, and that’s exactly what’s important to us.  We got that from the wishbone, and uh, Paul Johnson running a form of the wishbone -- we were incredibly similar.

We wanted to attack the field. For example, they’re very good sideline to sideline. When you run the option like they do, it kind of layers up as you go upfield because you get overlaps at other levels. Things like that.  But, in both cases, we were the two best -- I’m proud to say this and proud to be in the company of Paul Johnson -- we were the two best offenses in America at distributing the football, and that’s why we had the results we did.

Coach Leach is also the author of "Swing Your Sword" and "Sports for Dorks".

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