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Mike Leach discusses fall camp, among other things

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — Mike Leach met with media for about 24 minutes this afternoon, previewing fall camp while also getting a little philosophical about a number of topics. We have a full transcript for you below.


First, a few notes. … Not surprisingly, Leach said there's no update on Jeff Tuel's redshirt status, which is in line with what Tuel said on media day. … The roster distributed by WSU sports information lists the names of some new walk-ons. They are: QB Connor Johnson, RB Jeremiah Laufasa, DB Konner Kafentzis, WR Mark Urtz, DB Joe Njoku, LB Najee Ali, DB Parker Henry and OL Matt Adamson. Defensive end Jacob Tuivaiave, a 2012 signee, is not listed on the roster. Might be a very-beginning-of-camp addition. … Leach couldn't comment on the report that defensive back Raymond Ford has signed with WSU, meaning there is nothing official to report on that end.

Here's Leach:

(On evaluating freshmen, and whether some will be asked to do more than others) “We’ll look at all of them, and then the end of our practices we’ll work some of the freshmen some if we didn’t get enough reps out of them, to look at them and to evaluate them. Really, the same applies to some of those older guys. You earn your job every day and the starting lineup’s going to be based on performance, not how many years you’ve played, how old you are, how many stars you had as a freshman. I didn’t know anything about those stars when I recruited them so that certainly doesn’t impact now that they're here.”

(On whether the incoming defensive linemen have a better shot to play early) “I think anybody’s got potential to play right away. Obviously the new guys, it’s going to take a few days to evaluate what they can do. We have to identify what they have the ability to do. So especially with the new guys for about a week and a half, there’s certainly a spring football quality to it as you’re kind of sifting through what their capabilities are. From there you’re trying to plug it in as quickly as possible.”

(What personnel groups are of most concern) “Really all of them. I’ve always viewed all of them. Our first level guys I feel pretty good about, but by the same token you want to get enough reps to get guys established so they’re comfortable with what they’re doing. It’s one thing to say this guy’s this good and he can do that, but if he hasn’t had the reps to develop his skills, I mean … all that other stuff’s on paper until you develop your skills and you’re familiar with the scheme and you can transition on what you need to do. And then so there will be an evaluation process of that and then move them up as far as that goes as well. We need depth pretty much everywhere so there’s always going to be spots for depth, then if somebody overtakes a position in the starting lineup, that door’s certainly open too, based on how they perform.

(Long, complicated question about individual player award watch lists) “I think it depends on the individual. All those individual awards, I’ve always viewed as team awards because there’s nobody that accomplishes anything without the efforts of the rest of the team, so there’s a team award and I try to make sure any individuals on those lists recognize it the same, but by the same token we’re not going to adjust practice, game plans around any of that. Occasionally there’s a weak-minded guy that might at some point feel entitled. I worry about the individual getting distracted by it. Our team won’t. I don’t think our team will. On an individual level I’ve had it happen. Where you see it the most is somebody will have a great freshman year and now they’re a sophomore and they think they’ve got it all figured out, and they’ll have a horrible sophomore year and hopefully they get back on track. But any of this far away look like 'I’ve got bigger concerns, the rest of the coaches and the teams just don’t understand' – baloney, we’re not putting up with any of that. You’re going to have to go do that in your room because you’re not doing it around here.”

(When do you want to start game-planning for BYU?) “About a little more than a week before, probably 10 days. I don’t have a perfect answer. As coaches you’ll watch the film more gradually but it’s not because you’re scrambling to put a game plan in or something like that. It’s just because you have time on your hands. You can get it done early since you don’t have to deal with something that happened the week before. That’s the biggest reason. I don’t think you sit and game plan three months for one game and then six days for every other game, you know?

(What will be focus of camp) “Biggest thing is block and tackle good, fundamental, have low pads. The simplest fundamental stuff. Whoever was your junior high coach, provided he was above average, virtually everything he told you we’re going to emphasize big time. And we’re going to do that over and over. I know it sounds strange, there’s nobody so good that he doesn’t need to play with low pads. There’s nobody so good that he doesn’t need to come out of their cuts quickly. There’s nobody so good that he doesn’t need to be in a great stance. There’s nobody so good that he doesn’t need to block well and tackle well. Most important skill on offense is block and most important skill on defense is tackling. And then as we do that, we want it to all tie together, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams so it’s synchronized together. Quite frankly, throughout the course of this entire season we’re never going to get off of that, but as you get toward schemes and stuff like that, look at film, evaluate film. Well, then we’re going to emphasize and feature the things that we think put our best foot forward as far as that, but fundamentals never go anywhere. It’ll be accelerated, it’ll be intense and it’ll be focused, certainly for two weeks. But we’re not going to go away from it. But if we do, and if you see us, you be the first to alert me. And don’t be polite about it, either, because that’s the worst thing you can do is take the eye off that ball as a coach.”

(Is receiver deepest position?) “I think so. You could probably talk me out of it. I think so, but the biggest thing is, from what it looked like in spring perhaps, but by the same token we don’t have a lot of experience there and we have to get experience. We have to manufacture experience in camp.”

(How do you feel about front seven after dismissing three potential starters?) “I feel good. One big thing about being a football player is really wanting to be there, wanting to be a part of the team and putting the interest of the team first. So I feel real good about it.”

(How does it impact you when you dismiss a player?) “At some point you’ve got to really … there’s nothing fun about it. You’d like to save everybody. That’s why you’re in coaching. You invest all kinds of time and effort to improve guys and make them as good of players as you can, and on a certain level, if you’re not successful and you don’t save them, you feel a sense of failure personally as a coach.

“I think you accurately should look in the mirror and say what could I have done different? Now these guys, I didn’t know as well, but obviously there’s going to be a time where I’ve been here three years and I’m going to cut somebody and of course the thing is, what could I have done differently? How could I have saved them? Why couldn’t I reach this guy? How did the message get clouded? Unless you feel responsible as a coach you’re never going to improve and develop your ability to be as good as you can be.

“But I think, you know, the evaluation’s really kind of simple. It becomes difficult because you see talent walk out the door. But you know, if you run into a situation, it’s like if you have a problem with somebody’s behavior, it’s like, the first thing is, can I change it? Well, if you can’t change it, then can you tolerate it? Are you able to tolerate it? And if you can’t tolerate it, then you’ve got to get rid of them. It’s about as simple as that, really. It’s just part of the deal. A lot of times it’s focus ont his guy, focus on that guy — well, you’ve got to think about the other 120, you know? The other 120 are more important than the individual.”

(Who replaces Anthony Laurenzi at left tackle?) “It’s difficult to say that he had the first crack at it to begin with. We played a variety of people there and will continue to. We didn’t have a set group of starters there and things like that over the spring. We played a variety of people. I don’t even know that he got the majority of the reps, he might have. I don’t know who specifically. We’re going to get out there, run drills and figure it out. I know that they’ve talked about — not specifically because of this, but just to give our defense as much dimension as possible — doing a variety of things.”

(When do you want to decide on a QB? When you start gameplanning?) “Prior to that. Probably within the first week, somewhere after the first week. Here’s what you’re up against — you want to evaluate what you have, and we’ll have two pass skels going on every day, well, then we’ll have some freshmen work afterward. I guess we’ll have three pass skels every day. That’s a lot of pass skels. But at any rate, we’ll evaluate everybody in that context. Then when it comes to kind of working with the ones and that sort of thing, we’ll rep 'em and spread 'em out so we can take a look at everybody. Then there’s going to be a point where we pare it down, we declare a number one and a number two, the number one’s going to end up at some point getting two thirds of the reps, the number two will get about one third.”

(Did you make a call on Silas Redd?) “I didn't make a call on him and I don't know very much about him, other than he's got pretty big numbers. A guy on my staff, Eric Morris, was at Houston when they played in the bowl game. Said he's pretty good. We're kinda more focused in on our guys here right now, you know?”

(What's the plan as far as redshirting freshmen?) “Plug 'em in where we need 'em. In other words, see what we got, see what they can do. If a guy's in the two-deep we're not gonna redshirt him. If he's not in the two-deep we probably will.”

(Any update on the HBO series?) “I haven't heard. I know they came and shot some footage and stuff like
that. I don't know what they're schedule is. I'll cooperate to the extent I can. But I haven't heard anything. I've been kinda occupied with my day job.”

(Summer in Pullman? How do you handle the 'savior' label?) “As far as Pullman, Pullman's a gorgeous place. It's like a light switch. When summer hits here, I mean it's just like a switch. All of a sudden everything's green and everything's got leaves. I don't know that it took three days for that to happen. It really is quite remarkable. Gorgeous place.

“And you'd be surprised. I talk to several people that come up to this part of the country to vacation, spend the summer, that type of thing.

“This program, I'm proud to be a part of the legacy Washington State has. Savior? You know, individually I'm not the savior of anything. I've got a great coaching staff and I've got some great players to work with. And we're gonna work together and do the best we can. Not only do the best we can, but always try to discover ways to do even better. All anybody has is their best efforts and that's what they're gonna get out of us. And we're gonna see where that takes us.

“Whether you win or whether you lose, your best effort is what you have. One thing I get a kick out of … a lot of times, we have a reasonable, pretty good season going on. You play somebody, maybe Nebraska or somebody like that, and they say “I'm sure you're staying at the office a really long time and breaking out a bunch of new plays and having really hard practices because you're playing somebody just because they're a name recognition deal.” I mean, we talk about doing our best all the time. If you're not doing your best all the time, that doesn't become a habit. Then you're not raising the bar repeatedly and developing your skills. So there really shouldn't be anything else to give on any given practice. Everybody says “100 percent. I gave 110 percent” Well there's not 110 percent. As a matter of fact, unless you're perfect there's not 100 percent. But you come as close to that as you possibly can. And do it over and over so it becomes a habit. Then as it becomes a habit, then your skills improve and then your 100 percent is better and you have to do it over and
over. That's why some meaningful game or some game that people have a certain amount of passion about … oh yeah, we're gonna change everything. All this other stuff, we've just been going halfway. We're gonna change everything. Well that's crazy. We're doing the best we can this day and the next day and the next day. As we build on it and improve, that'll carry us through in the best fashion it possibly can.

“I am excited. This is the best coaching staff we've ever had. I'm excited about these players. We've improved a lot and gotten a lot better. I'm really excited about them. And every day I look out there and somebody does something I didn't realize they can do. And I'm excited about that. We're just gonna go out there and try to just win one game a week.”

(On pressure, hype, etc.) “I just do my best. That's all I have. If they're happy with the results, well I still need to do my best to just think of something we can improve. If they're unhappy with the results, well you think you're unhappy with the results, try it where I'm sitting. You think you're unhappy sitting in the easy chair? Come sit in this chair, you'll know what unhappy is if you didn't like those results. Same with the player. Whether it's a scout team player or a starter. Some player going through the drills and all that. You didn't like this play in that game? Try sitting where he's at, you'll know what really not liking it is. But by the same token, you're already fully-invested. You already have everything in it. So there's really nothing to alter. But I do appreciate the fans. Well that's the great thing about football. Even though roles are different between coaches, players, fans everybody, you get to share it with everybody. So many people taking an interest in it is an incredible experience as far as players, coaches … I mean everybody. You can just go to some random place with Cougar fans around all fired up and excited … that's a heck of a deal. I mean it goes worldwide. Walking down the street in Europe and there's somebody with a Cougar hat on.”

(On time spent in Key West this summer) “I wish it was all that easy. It was almost more like my office moved there. There was a pretty active phone, fax machine and my wife's email rolling along at a pretty steady rate. So it was almost like my office was in a different setting as opposed to very much changed.”

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple


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