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Highlights of Mike Leach’s press conference

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — Mike Leach spoke about his recruiting class for roughly 51 minutes on Wednesday. And while we didn't transcribe the entire thing, we did come close. The result is posted below for your perusal.


(On the rush to complete the class) “You’d like more time because recruiting’s about relationships and the longer you have to establish those relationships the better it is. … As far as the effort and what was accomplished in this period of time was probably the best of my career when you consider what we were up against. The staff mobilized quickly, we had guys with contacts throughout the region and by that I mean California, Arizona, Washington and then the islands. It was important for us to get into the islands some and we were able to do that. We wanted to have a bigger emphasis in southern California so I thought was very positive. But can’t say enough about the staff and what we were able to do together.”

(On the class of receivers) “I’m pretty excited about it too because we’re going to throw balls at a whole bunch of them and so we want to have a lot of cans to open up as we throw the ball around. What I like about them all of them are – players, they weren’t just fast guys that well, if you do this that and the other thing they can play receiver. They were already successful receivers. I think really just a good group of receivers. And our reception with receivers is understandably high. This is really a quality group.”

(On evaluating players who committed to the previous staff) “I think the biggest key was to set those priorities in December, first of all for those athletes so they could find other opportunities, also in our case so we knew what we were looking for and what fit what we do the best.”

(On whether he thought he was getting into homes WSU wouldn't have before) “Hard to gage. Everybody’s nice and people are excited about football so they’re generally happy to see you. Hard to gage. I don’t know about particular living rooms, I do know that we emphasized southern California. I don’t know if it was quite the priority in the past as it was for us, also the islands and our reception there was really good. Initially we didn’t know how positive the reaction was because it was a bit uncharted, but it really was a positive reception. We expected it to be positive, but I’d have to say more so than expected.”

(On his remark about this being the “best” effort he's seen from a staff) “Just like as we do this press conference and really, in deference to this class, the article you write, we want this to be one of the best of your career within the time frame that we have here and the class we had. We had a month and a half to recruit it, I feel like it was a tremendous effort and I can’t wait to read your article.

“I’ll be the first to admit, before I came in here, and I know I didn’t get 100 percent on this thing. I did have a little practice session trying to pronounce some of these names, because there’s a lot of vowels in some of these. This was a new one for me with regard to this class, I believe this is correct, this class spans a six-hour time zone. Six hours from eastern united states to Samoa.”

(On whether it's too early to say who might have an instant impact) “It is too early but the junior college guys, we’re looking for them have an impact early, either as starters or to provide depth. The freshmen, I’ve always found who adjusts the quickest is the guy who has the first impact. I’ve tried to do this for years. You look at the big, strong, fast guy or the guy that made the most plays and all this and say I think he could help us right away. After years of being consistently wrong on that, what I’ve found on the thing is, there’s always a little bit of a transition going from one level to the next. The guys that have had the ability to adjust the quickest are the ones that have the impact. They wouldn’t be on this list, we wouldn’t be recruiting them if we didn’t have a lot of respect for what they’ve already done and the abilities they already have, but sometimes a guy comes in, tries to do too much, maybe gets a little psyched out by the college experience and I’ve had, I can think of a receiver for us (at Texas Tech), he was on I believe one of the All-American lists, great player for two years, and when we first got him you’d throw him the ball and it’d hit him in the face and it always sort of puzzled me that it wasn’t at least batted down before it got to his face. It’s not from a guy not trying, he’s trying to do too much, trying to make too much out of it. And then of course the last two years he was arguably the best receiver in the conference. Then I’ve  had other guys that  come in and start out with a little role and part of the reason it’s a little role is as a coach, you’re trying to identify what they’re able to do, what they’re not able to do, and as you yourself get educated, about the time you think you’ve got it figured out, they’re a moving target because they’re improving as well and occasionally getting worse, maybe they’ve got a final or something they’re worried about or their girlfriend broke up with them or something like that. They’re kind of moving targets, too, as you’re evaluating and learning what they can do, carve out their role, they expand on it, they improve so you try to address it and get the most effective unit you can on the field. So the short answer is whoever adjusts the quickest has the best shot.”

(On whether the Pac-12 TV deal helped in recruiting) “I think it helped. I think it certainly helped with regard to other conferences and I think, I mean it helped recruit me. The Pac-12 contract, it’s not just, well we get to be on TV. Part of it is the commitment of the Pac-12, as there’s all these rumors swirling around about super conferences this, super conferences that, what’s the future of this program, what’s the future of that program. I think it did a good job of clearly defining the future of Washington State. They’re in the Pac-12, it’s going to be one of the dominant conferences and it’s here to stay, and right now it’s the most lucrative television deal that exists of any conference and so I think all the adjectives, credibility, stability, excitement around the program, obviously we wouldn’t have that if there wasn’t a huge amount of national excitement to see the program. All those things. And then you know, Dr. Floyd, Bill Moos, the direction and focus they have. That’s the thing here. The teamwork effort’s incredible and they have a vision for this place and I’m excited about their vision and excited about my part and my role in it.”

(On if he's relieved it's over) “Yes I am. Now, recruiting doesn’t really stop, it goes in phases, but we just got through the most intense period of it. Yeah, we’ve got a list of juniors, formulating juniors, still watching film and starting to build our class for next year.”

(On Jeff Tuel fitting into his offense) “You’ll see him hitting all those receivers, but there’s nothing wrong with having a guy with good feet. A lot of times you’ll find a combination of both. He does possess that and I’m excited about getting to work and the biggest thing that we try to do with the other positions is utilize all of them. Jeff’s a good player and those guys are good players too.”

(On his linebackers) “We want quick linebackers. I think speed’s really important to us for our linebackers. They all have pretty good speed and we want guys that you don’t just keep in a static he’s always aligned here, guys that have the versatility to move around to other alignments, other directions. As much dimension defensively as we can.”

(On Pierson Villarrubia) “We needed offensive linemen. A good solid player, the other thing is when he came up on a visit here and we were pleasantly surprised to see that he’d grown a little. Just a good, solid player. He’s one of those guys that plays from the neck up a little bit, anybody who’s like that you can really expand their role. Quick feet, long arms and he’s going to get bigger.”

(On Villarrubia's mother dropping a tape off at WSU during the summer) “I didn’t know about the dropping off a tape process. I know his mother’s from up here. It was great to meet his mother, an excited football fan, and I’ll tell you, based on this, if she’s got any more tapes laying around we’d like her to bring them by.”

(On recruiting the islands) “There’s just some players over there in Hawaii. I guess we laid groundwork in Hawaii and are really optimistic about our future there. Taylor Taliulu I think is a great  starting point. We do plan to utilize it. There’s definitely talent in Hawaii and then further consider – you say well, Hawaii’s a long ways away. Yeah, but we’re about as close as anybody to Hawaii. I think it’s a natural place for us to recruit. You can get nearly direct flights and things like that.”

(On whether he recruited Los Angeles at Texas Tech, and how he was received there) “Limited at Texas Tech, I’d done it some at Oklahoma and Kentucky. I knew my way around some because I went to law school at Pepperdine and lived out there for several years. I haven’t found that (resistance) to be the case. Every state you go to, the first thing they say, well, you’ve got to be from Texas to recruit in Texas, well you’ve got to be from southern California to recruit in southern California. I’ve never had one of these folks check my driver’s license when I came through there to see where I was from. I think one of the most important things in recruiting is persistence. The other thing is to sincerely demonstrate your vision, what you’re about and what you see their role as, and to see if there’s a connection between what you have to offer and what they’re looking for, degree-wise, and just your view on football and things of that nature. I’ve recruited probably, in some point in time, I’ve probably in some form or fashion recruited 40 different states and it might be more than that and I haven’t found being from this state or this state – other than not having to go to 7-11 and ask directions as often – to have  impacted any of it. I think getting to know coaches is important. I think getting a knowledge of who’s down there of potential prospects to expedite your work, I think that’s very important, but guys that have a sincere interest in playing football will listen to people that offer the opportunity to play football. I didn’t find any resistance and almost the opposite. There was a certain excitement. Southern California’s a place where it seems to me, and this is kind of a generalization, but they view the world as bigger than southern California and don’t mind having opportunities to go see it. Ultimately they may end up back in southern California, but they don’t mind leaving and going away to college elsewhere. Some places can have a little more regional quality.”

(On Dennis Simmons recruiting the LA area) “Dennis is a great recruiter and I think really did a good job. It was a fast furious team effort. Phone calls as we’re meeting, just try to get a lot of people in touch. In other words we understood that we had to make up for lost time in terms of developing relationships with these players, so we tried to meet them, talk and connect as much as we could. It was an aggressive, tireless effort but in the end we’re really excited about this class and I think it really paid off. Dennis is a great recruiter and has been for a long time.”

(On whether Washington is always a priority) “I think that’s absolutely right. I think there’s no question about it. I think you do the best you can to lock down the state. If you’re on a guy, similar players that play a similar position and in your mind they’re even, I think you go with the Washington guy and I think that’s going to be a huge emphasis for us in the spring. We made some headway in Washington this brief month and a half, it’s going to be a huge emphasis for us in the spring.”

(On any memorable/funny stories from the recruiting trail) “Shoot, I should have collected my thoughts on that. I get asked that every year and then I give a crummy answer every year, and then as soon as I leave the room I think of one thing after the next.

“When Seattle got snowed in, the Seattle airport got snowed in, that was a bit of a battle, all kinds of flights redirected. Coach Russell got stranded there for about eight hours and eventually drove down to Portland to fly out and kind of let us know his thoughts and frustrations on that. Of course the same time my flight was redirected from southern California to Oakland since I couldn’t get into Seattle. That was kind of an adventure.

“Coach Breske and I flew to Hawaii to go meet with Taylor and his family. We were in Hawaii about 10 hours, we landed at about 11:50 AM, had time to go the shrimp trucks, had a little bit of shaved ice, went to Taylor’s high school, met Taylor’s family and caught the 11 p.m. flight back, and I’l tell you what’s tough about that: You go to a place like Hawaii, just the beauty of the place, you look out the window, you check it out, and you drive around, you see all the incredible stuff that’d be fun to do for a couple weeks and then it’s yanked away from you as you’re flying back home.

“It was really good for our staff because there was some guys that hadn’t worked together before, to really get to know one another to drive around in the car and things like that and get to know one another. There’s kind of a certain bonding quality to it.

‘Went to Alex Mitchell’s house one late rainy night and met with him and then, there’s always a bunch of stuff … Jeremiah Allison, we attended a girls basketball game, Austin Apodaca’s dad’s from Wyoming and I’m from Wyoming, and if you’re from Wyoming, you’re not a recognized minority but perhaps should be because there’s  not a lot of us, so we did the secret handshake which I can’t tell you what it is because only people from Wyoming are allowed  to know it, so that went well.

“Brett Bartolone’s father is an incredible cook, cooks a variety of things, Italian dishes, everything else. That was exciting, great food, as a matter of fact there was a ping pong tournament there that Eric Morris participated in, and he’s a very good ping pong player and of course one of the mothers there dominated him in the end.

“Feddie Davey, I don’t know if there’s a guy any more fired up than him. That was one place I wasn’t able to make it out to the house just because of logistics, but he’s been consistently fired up from the beginning, hasn’t wavered at all, very enthusiastic athlete.

“Keith Ewing of course is our first one. You call, you say your piece, we’re excited about you. Coach Morris had some connection with him down there from coaching at the University of Houston. He was one of those guys who jumped right on board like, wow, this guy’s a great player, this is too easy.

“Alex Jackson, watch him run. That kid’s exciting.

“Sam Jones, holding down a couple jobs. Went down to Arizona, met him at a hotel, he’s holding down two jobs and taking classes at night, so just the effort and what  he’s going through is really impressive.”

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


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