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Mondays with Mike Leach, part 1

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — Mike Leach held court for 32 minutes today, discussing his team's performance against Oregon, Connor Halliday's progression, and the difference between film study nowadays and a few years ago. A transcript of the first half or so of his press conference is after the jump, but first, a few notes.

— Leach said Halliday “probably” will start against Oregon State this week, which is as close to a sure thing as we're going to get. Halliday and Jeff Tuel are still listed with the “or” tag on the depth chart.

— The only change among the starting ranks on the depth chart is a formality — Matt Goetz is now listed as the starting right guard with Jake Rodgers listed as the starting right tackle, which is the lineup we've seen the last two games with Wade Jacobson out with an undisclosed injury.

— There's been no change to the status of Dan Spitz, who is still clearing up what Leach called “personal problems.”

— Tweeted this earlier and it's made the rounds pretty well today, but next week's home game against California has been selected for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on the Pac-12 Networks.


 

(On the effort in the Oregon game) “I thought we improved. I thought we got better this week. We’ve got a long ways to go. I wish we would have started out this way after our first game because I think you improve in increments each week and we did this week and I think we need to continue to get better. Some good things, I think there’s only a handful of plays that the game could have been differently and I think we need to figure out how to get those plays. It’s one thing to play hard, it’s another thing to play hard and play precise and have things in context and all that.

(On the defense's performance) “I didn’t think it was OK, but I thought we had tremendous effort and we had a lot of people playing together hard and I thought as we grow as a team we can play more precise. And down the road when we have other opportunities I think we’ll be a better team for it. You’ve got a team like Oregon that’s several years in the making and a lot of things have gone their way that they’ve earned and then they’ve stacked up several recruiting classes and done a lot of really good things to build what they have. That’s what we need to get to. That’s what we need to do. I think we’re heading that way but it’s difficult to make it happen overnight, just like it didn’t happen for Oregon overnight. But I think we’ve made some progress. I do think it was a closer game than the score. I think their sense of timing’s a little better than ours is as a team. They know when to tighten up and focus in on what counts a little better than we do, where we’re a team, random plays type of stuff.”

(On the different challenges of preparing for Oregon vs. Oregon State) “I think Oregon State’s actually more traditional. That’s the thing, especially in this conference and all conferences, there’s a lot of variety to what people do and what they do offensively. Oregon’s more the one that you don’t see as much, as opposed to Oregon State and what they do. There’s nothing easy about them. They’re a good solid team, they’re a team that took their lumps last year and feels like this is their year.”

(On Connor Halliday's progression) “I think he’s done a good job. I think he does a good job with that. Explosive guy, I think that he does a lot of explosive things. Now I think just the consistency, just the steadiness, OK, they’re giving me this so I can get that. A lot of times you’ve got a guy that really wants to play well, real eager, that type of deal, so he tries to make too much happen on every play. A 5-yard completion’s a hell of a play. This is what they’re giving us and this is what I have and we need to take it. I always tell him the more plays that you have out there that I could have done myself, the easier it is. It’s pretty high percentage and it’s pretty simple. You get a superior athlete, guy throws the ball all over the place, works for you, well he doesn’t want to throw the ball that coach Leach can throw, he wants to throw the ball only he can throw. Well, the ball only he can throw is going to be a heck of a deal and it’s going to bail you out of a bunch of stuff, but the more of them you get that I can throw, percentage is going to be high, you’re going to attack the integrity of the defense and you’re going to move the chains, but the thing is you can’t always get the ones I can throw. But where you can, you need to take advantage of them. Of course we’ll go back there and there’ll be real tight coverage and he’ll go in there and hit some guy in the face and maybe we catch it, maybe we don’t, but it’ll be a heck of a play and he’ll have out-executed the defense too. But can you do that 10 times in a row? Well, that’s hard to do that 10 times in a row. Some stuff underneath or some stuff where they’re overplaying, you can dump that off for a period of time, plus you need to hold them accountable for the space, so that’s what we’re working on.”

(How long does it take to develop that?) “You definitely need reps and experience and you try to accelerate that as much as you can in film and practice. There’s not a magic number. Everybody’s different. I think he’s ahead of schedule and he’s doing a lot of really good things.”

(Halliday vs. Tuel) “I think they’re similar. They both do some good things. Connor’s kind of given us a spark and has been playing pretty well so we’ve stuck with him.”

(On the receivers) “We try to have eight  of them play. You have your first four and we want somebody behind them so some rotation of eight of them playing. I think it’s good if those legs have enough clues to make a play and stick their toe in the ground and explode out of cuts and consistently catch it and tuck it and go straight up field. Can we do it with all eight? I don’t know about that.”

(On Gino Simone's game) “He’s improved. I think in spring and in camp he was inconsistent, and then as we moved some people around we wanted to get another guy at the position and he played really well in that game. He got all kinds of mop up catches that were very hard catches to get because he outworked and outhustled people. Some of them were borderline circus catches and I thought he did some really good things. He’s playing as well now as he has since I’ve seen him.”

(On Marquess Wilson) “I think Marquess early in the game struggled a little bit and I think as the game went on he got better and better but yeah he needsto be a physical, complete player and just excited to go out there and play. Towards the middle-end of the game I thought was really hot and really played well and wanted the ball and that type of thing.”

(On watching film) “We don’t have any control over it. I’d like them to watch as much as possible. I would hope they’re watching it now but the powers that be that don’t let us coaches have a great deal of say in that other than make it available to them. But you need to, if you’re dedicated and you care about what you’re doing and if the desire to be great exists at all, you read and study your work. I don’t know whether you guys went to college or whether you went to journalism school or whether you started out in the mail room or whatever, but you guys all learned your trade. You guys all paid your dues. They didn’t just hand you a camera the first day and say, 'go get ‘em, tiger.' You work your way into this stuff and so do players and part of their thing’s film study. If they care about it at all and want to really elevate their position, they’ll dedicate themselves. I think in most things including football, the harder you work the luckier you get and I would say watching film’s part of that.”

(On the film software) “It’s all buttons to me and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know how to push the button, so when my buttons are unpushed I say hey, somebody comes in and they push the buttons and I used to say, 'now what buttons did you push, so when you leave I can figure it out.' I’ve fouled up more computers than I’ve ever gotten to work correctly, so then after that they get exasperated and they say 'I’ll tell you what, when you need these buttons pushed, just call me, I’ll come push them again,' because they don’t want me to screw up their computers so it’s been a vicious circle for years. Nevertheless we watch a lot of film.”

(Do you like it, though?) “I think so. I think it’s worked good. They can store stuff, they can retrieve stuff. The one thing (with) the video, I like the rewind and the fast forward better on the video. This has the feature where you can end the play, just seems like forward and rewind’s a little slower on this. I’m paranoid, like in video you knew you got all the plays because it ran from start to finish. On this thing it’s stored, (I'm worried) there’s some bug wandering around inside that computer and it hits some circuit and it skips like 10 plays or something. I am always afraid that there’s a certain number of plays missing or that I didn’t see because it’s not something that I feel like has a beginning, a middle and an end. You’re sticking little blue bars, hitting a button and hoping for the best.”

(There's been some film controversies recently. Is that in the back of your mind?) “In a game you can tell because there’s a clock and you have a play by play. Has anybody hosed me on film recently? No. Over the years? Oh yeah. When it was 16 millimeter and video and stuff like that, there was all kinds of hijinks.”

(Hijinks?) “Film would be missing, people would claim their thing didn’t work which sometimes was true. Like 16 millimeter, you’d have some kid go up there and shoot the film, you didn’t know what was going to come out of that. The kid with the broken leg, hey come here, come shoot this. OK, how do I do it? Just push this button and aim. Sometimes they would video or film some extracurricular stuff, like you’d be sitting there watching and it’d be like, what the hell’s this guy doing? It’s kind of like you’d see a plane or something, that thing would end up in the sky or he’d be looking at girls in the stands or something and that thing would turn with him and there’d be some things where you wondered what they were looking at. Video, sometimes they would strategically make sure it was really static-y when it came in. There would always be the somebody sent it late, 'oh, well it didn’t make it on the plane.' So you’re getting ready for a game and you get your film two days later and they’ve already had theirs, that type of deal. There was a time where GAs or younger coaches would sprint with this film to the airport to get it on a plane to fly to the opponent’s place and some places, depending on where you’re at, you might have to drive a couple hours just to get to the airport on Sunday where there’s limited flights and the rest, and get them to express the film to whoever your opponent was and vice versa. A lot of stuff can happen. As a young coach you’ll have been up all night, watching the film, cutting it up, in meetings and then you’re hurrying to the airport and you’re late and there’s only one flight or something like that. There’s all kinds of stuff. Somebody forgets to bring the film, you’re flying all the way up and you’re supposed to exchange film with somebody and then somebody forgets it. It’s endless. It’s almost like recruiting and things like that. Well, now the button pushers have taken over, in this case probably for the positive, and so it’s like that’s why, especially now, people say, well did you watch so and so on TV since you’re going to play them in three weeks? No I did not, because I have all of last year’s film, I have all of this year’s film and even though I can’t push the buttons to get them to come up, there’s people in my office that can. Boom, there I’ve got 12 games, so it really is handy from that standpoint and within the conference some time on Sunday everybody transports their film simultaneously, so everybody has everybody’s film. I even have everybody’s film that the conference has played.”

(Do you watch those games for ideas?) “Sometimes. It’s busy during the year, usually it’d be in the offseason when I do that. Like if you just like something, ok, we played this team and like what they’re doing, well that’ll be on our server, just look it up and off you go.”

(On improving in second halves) “I thought we improved. We’re not there yet. I don’t like the way we begin third quarters. I don’t think we began the third quarter very well. I did think we played really hard in the fourth quarter. On our sideline everybody wanted to get out there and play and there were plenty that were disappointed the game was over, which I thought was a real plus this game.”


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