Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ask an Expert: Mike Leach Responds, Part IV

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

Q: "In your opinion, which was more thrilling? Harrell to Crabtree or the Insight Bowl against Minnesota?"

A: Well, you know, Harrell to Crabtree, there’s a lot of moments like that. Plays that just didn’t have that timing in the game that that one did. That was a reasonably well executed play we work on every day. That was rewarding from that standpoint.

The Minnesota win, though I have to say, was more. It was the greatest comeback in bowl game history. I forget how many points. You’ll have to look it up: 31 or 35.  [It was 31 points. -Eddie] At any rate, so we came back that many points late in the third.

What’s more gratifying about the Minnesota win is that it was a team effort. We got contributions on all sides of the ball. It was the entire team involved with nobody really giving up hope. Harrell to Crabtree, I mean, that was a great team win, too, don’t get me wrong, but just isolated on that play, it doesn’t personify the entire efforts of the team. Minnesota, we had a ton of effort from all kinds of people all over the place, and that was gigantic.

Q: "One of the most striking things I've read about your practices is how every activity focused on the pass. How much do you credit to the number of repetitions versus the defensibility of the scheme itself?"

A: Well, I don’t, that’s not true. We work on the pass. First of all, we spend a lot of time working on the run, as well. We spend more time working on the pass.  You want to spend your time based on what you’re going to do and how often you’re going to do it. You say, in a game plan -- I mean, this isn’t a perfect answer -- in a game plan, if you’re going to run a play 10% of the time, that’s about what you have to work on about 10% every day. You may not be able to get those numbers, and stuff like that figured out exactly.

Vertical routes, for example, we need to have more time spent on them. They’re difficult to execute, and the quarterback and receiver all need to be on the same page, so I think they require a little more execution.

We probably emphasize the run more than we actually ran it just because we have a lot of time to work on the pass but the thing is if you call 70% passes, you need to work on throwing the ball 70% of the time.

With the linemen, a lot of times, especially early on when they got there, there would be a real emphasis on pass protection. About ten years ago, you’d get a high school offensive lineman and he wouldn’t have much experience pass protecting. He’d have plenty of experience run blocking but not anything significant pass protecting. You’d really have to develop his skills there, and there’d maybe be an imbalance working on pass protection because of his inexperience. Now, a lot of kids are coming out having pass protected in high school.

I would say that I’d like to think -- and again, it’s not perfect -- that it was in proportion to what plays we called. Sometimes you have deficiencies and it just requires more time on those.

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

Follow us on Twitter @TFGridiron