FROM PULLMAN -- Apologies for getting this posted so late, but other responsibilities occupied our time earlier in the day. Anyway, here's the transcript of Mike Leach's press conference today, with player videos following.
(Has Marquess Wilson left the team?) "I don’t know. If he left the team that’s his decision, but he is suspended."
(So he hasn't told you that he's quit?) "No."
(Have you ever had anyone leave a practice before?) "Yeah and I cut ‘em."
(Can those players work their way back?) "It would depend on the circumstances and we’d have a discussion on it and so it goes."
(So he's still on the team?) "As far as the last I heard he’s still on it, but he is suspended this week."
(What does his suspension entail?) "I’m not going to share that with the media and open it up. That’s between he and I."
"He’s suspended for violating team rules. That’s as far as we’re going to go with it."
(What haven't the coaches done well this season?) "The biggest thing is, is as a coach you’re trying to find a way to reach your players, find a way to get the most out of them and when you have a level of complacency, is it confidence, is it lack of effort, is a prime example of something where a guy needs to be pushed. Somewhere in there is a delicate balance. Part of it is teams change they don’t stay the same, our team in particular, the predominant number of our starters are freshmen. That year’s kind of all over the place so I think it’s been really challenging as far as figuring out the best approach and I think there’s a number of approaches that apply to different people. The biggest thing is we as coaches got to find them. The thing that was inexcusable about last game was lack of effort. You could make the argument that two of the better teams in the conference we played better than anybody did … but any way you slice it we fell short and we’ve got to improve and we’ve got to get better. This notion that somebody doesn’t play well and they’re not going to get pressure put on them, that’s just not the case here."
(How could you tell the difference between effort and execution?) "I think it was pretty apparent. I think you kind of start with the television set and of course we film all these plays."
(Is there anything wrong with the way technique and scheme are being coached?) "I don’t really have a problem with the technique and scheme. The biggest thing, there’s obviously plays that you’d like over again and things like that. But I think just really in our case player evaluation, motivation, things like that. Part of it is just it’s a frustrating process because this team here has lost for a lot of years. Well we’ve got to get that turned around. This business of things have to be the same or we’re used to having it this way or it’s going to be that way. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Other people are going to get uncomfortable in this process, there’s no question."
(Are the freshmen embracing your message better?) "I think the freshmen embrace it a little more because the freshmen have been a little more aggressive about their focus and objective, with freshmen sometimes you have to teach them how to work … a lot of them haven’t had an offseason and those offseasons are critical. … it’s challenging to be a freshman and of course the physical load’s impressive too. You work through it, you improve. You don’t sit there and bemoan things and feel sorry for yourself, you just press through. You have what you have and you go out there and you press through and you battle through. You don’t make excuses and you don’t allow people to hold you back. Somebody doesn’t want to pull the rope as hard as everybody else you shake ‘em off and then you get new people. It’s about as simple as that."
(More on coaching) "One thing that I wish, and I don’t have a specific instance, as a coaching staff I wish we could have been more precise in figuring out who can do what when and that’s bouncing all over the place with freshmen. All of a sudden one day a guy can do something that he can’t the next. And so having guys settled into position so they constantly get reps there, that’s been a challenge and that’s been something that with a crystal ball we certainly would have done better at and wish we could have speculated better."
(On the offensive and defensive linemen speaking with reporters) "I don’t think it hurts to have them take ownership in the team. It’s interesting to me which I don’t care, I get media all the time saying can I talk to somebody, can I talk to somebody, can I talk to somebody. Well conservatively speaking I gave them 20 people to talk to but they didn’t like the ones I selected to talk to, then of course they complained. Not most, but a few. If o-linemen and d-linemen aren’t a guy’s cup of tea that’s too bad, you don’t have to ask them any questions. I think they’re valuable members of our team and I think they’re certainly guys that take ownership in our team and there’s certainly some players there that I’m very proud of and well anybody that doesn’t like offensive linemen and defensive linemen really aren’t my type of people. I coached offensive line for 10 years. So if you don’t like offensive linemen I’ll be nice to you, I’ll be polite but you’re really not my kind of guy."
(So was it meant to single them out?) "Everybody wants to talk to this skill guy, that skill guy. Offensive line and defensive line impact play in a significant way."
(What would you grade your coaching performance so far this season?) "I don’t give grades. You do the best you can and there’s stuff you’d like to have over again, stuff you’d like to evaluate differently. You just focus on doing the best you can and then try to improve from there."
(Has this season been more challenging than you thought it would be?) "Yeah because the part that’s been the most challenging is just, I didn’t anticipate we’d have to play as many freshmen as we did but I think in the end it’s good because then they get seasons under their belt and pack reps under their belt and improve and steadily get better. In the end it’s going to be good. Just the adversity we’ve had in lineups shifting around, different guys playing here, playing there, this guy’s not ready to play for whatever reason and having to shuffle it around to put that guy in. we’ve had a lot of adversity as far as shuffling lineups. And then we kind of have distracted focus and we have a certain amount of satisfaction. I think there’s still a certain amount that exists on our team the team that wins is the one that has the most fun and as long as there’s a treat at the end and everybody has a good time and gets to wear the same t-shirt we’re all happy. Well that’s not the case and that’s really not how I view college football. And so I think there’s a difference in philosophy. In some cases it’s going to have to be changed."
(Do you think your players respect you?) “I don’t know. The thing is, we’re not changing. This isn’t a democracy. We don’t say ‘hey you 125 guys, so how do you want practice to be and what direction do you want this or that to go?’ We don’t do that. So we’re not changing. Our standards are what our standards are and we’re going to hold them to those standards. That’s how we’ve all done it for years and you don’t have any progress by wallowing and getting all wishy washy in what your standards are. And the fact that the standards don’t appeal to some player or another really is pretty irrelevant. That’s how we’re going to do and they’re either on board or they’re off and I can live with it either way, as long as we have a key path and direction and we’re ready to go.”
(On not being bothered by Utah going for two) "Because I don’t care. If we don’t like it we can stop it. We’re in charge of our own fortunes. We can’t sit and worry about what the other guy does. A starting point would be for us to line up to it correctly. Then we probably stop it. And the other thing as a coach, I coach my team, he coaches his. The thing is, making your team the very best it can possibly be and however you decide to do it is your prerogative. Counting one extra point, I can’t think of anything more irrelevant in the whole equation of that game. and so do I care? No. If they need to work on the 2-point conversion thing, fine. That’s their prerogative and we need to figure out a way to stop it. I’ve never held it against somebody that they scored a bunch of points against us. I’ve never took responsibility for scoring a bunch of points on somebody else either. As a coach your job isn’t to worry about the other team. Your job is to worry about making your team the best it can be and if you don’t like what the other guy’s doing, stop it or change it, because that’s what your job is.”
(On calling his players empty corpes, cowards, etc.) "I get asked about my evaluation in this business and it’s said a bunch. These things typically, if I say them at all or if they’re even quoted in context, I say them once and that certainly wasn’t the entire gist of the quote. That may be how you took it and so honestly there really wasn’t much of a question in there, more of an editorial comment on your part, so you go ahead and write whatever you feel good about."
(On UCLA) "They’ve got big, strong, powerful guys, and then I think they’ve got a quarterback that’s pretty explosive and they’ve got some receivers. Their running back’s really good. And then defensively they’ve played pretty well. They’re stout up front, mix their coverage up a little bit. Really I think they kind of brought some elements together that were there and emerging some at times last year. I think they’ve done a good job and they’re a talented team."
(On the goal over the final three weeks) "We just have to steadily improve. We need to improve as a team and we need to get better. That’s the only thing you’ve got control over, just focus on improvement, being committed to the effort and being the best team you can be. We’ve got plenty of work to do and we’ve got guys we’re going to work with four or five years in a lot of cases."
(Have you thought about shuffling the offensive line?) "We’re kind of limited. I’d like to and certainly next year at this time there’ll probably be some new faces if guys don’t hang onto their jobs. We’ve got a certain number that we’re redshirting, we’ve got a certain number that aren’t eligible at this point, some things like that. I do think there’ll be some new faces certainly on the offensive line next year. Right now we’re just kind of limited in what our options are to do it, because really we’re playing with six."
(On player defection) “From the beginning I knew there’d be a certain amount of shuffling. First of all there’s natural attrition anyhow but there’s always going to be a little bit more as you’re trying to turn it around and as you set a new vision and direction. Does it surprise me? No. The other programs I’ve been in, in similar settings, which is nearly every one of them that I’ve been involved in coaching, yes there’s definitely been some turnover.”
(When do you expect a winning season?) "I expected it this year. I think everybody just does the best they can, works the hardest they can and develops as fast as you can. I think that’s the key. Expect the best and prepare and work together as hard as you can. That’s what we’ve done throughout this season. Our results certainly aren’t where we’d like them to be but the biggest thing is you just keep plugging away and keep working to improve."
(On whether he should criticize players publicly) "I think what’s interesting about that is people kind of select a phrase they like or that they’re most motivated to attack me or our program with, without looking at the parts separated by a mere comma where I talked about how that correlated with our coaching efforts and together had to improve and certainly weren’t satisfied with our results and our effort combined as a team first and foremost starting with the coaches and first and foremost starting with myself. That was conveniently left off. You do bring up an interesting point, because I have considered this over the years, having the yes-no press conference where every question’s answered with a yes or a no. I certainly wouldn’t rule that out. If somebody says, well how’d the game go. Well it was OK. Well I mean, when we play real well I say we play real well. I may go to that yes-no thing because in this era of ridiculous political correctness and things like that, there seems to be some dissatisfaction for style points. Typically if I’m asked a question I give an honest answer and I can see that there’s evidently some dissatisfaction with that, but I can go to the one syllable answer and I kind of like that and it appeals to me and I’ve done things a certain way for a number of years and so maybe it’s time to change that and to check that out. Hell, let’s just make this a kind, gentle the rest of the way. I’m going to try it the other way. Go ahead, ask me some questions.”
(Question about how the team can have success this season, answered with heavy sarcasm) “Well, I think they’re doing everything they can to be successful. I think as a team we’ve had a lot of guys participate and they’ve had a lot of fun and they’re trying as hard as they possibly can and everybody wants to win really bad that they’re trying just so hard and I couldn’t be prouder of them and everybody’s done everything we could and this program this year, we’ve taken it as far as we possibly can and we couldn’t be happier with it, because we’ve tried that hard and I think next year’s going to be even better because everybody’s great and everybody’s done a perfect job and I like the way everything’s going.”
(On Travis Long) “Great effort, great mentality, the type of guy that kind of personifies what we’re after, the mentality that we need the whole team to share, although he’s outnumbered. But you know … (heavy sarcasm) Everyone on this team is a great partner, win or lose, no matter how hard they try and there’s a lot of love in the room, all the time, totally.
“Is this better? You like this better? I’ve adjusted. I’m adjusting to your whims and your guys’ desires. I’ve been guided this direction. How’s it going?”
(Have you had players come back from walking out of a practice?) "Yeah, I’ve even had guys a year later, over the years, I’ve had fellas do it even a year later. It just kind of depends how committed they are, how focused they are, how important it is to them."
(Do you expect anyone who played last week to be out this week?) "Well, there’s 125 of them out there. None that I can think of."