From Pullman — Like myself, Bud Nameck returned from Arizona today and wasn't around to participate in Cougar Calls with WSU athletic director Bill Moos. But Derek Deis filled in ably, and the duo had a guest visitor in football coach Mike Leach. Moos confirmed that the Cougars won't be playing the Apple Cup the day after Thanksgiving anymore, and Leach called in from Florida to give his thoughts on recruiting. The interview can be listened to in its entirety here.
We've also transcribed some of the highlights, which you can read after the jump.
(Was the overall New Mexico Bowl experience good?)
Oh it was invaluable. The players – it’s been 10 years since we’ve been to a bowl game so they didn’t know what to expect. Now, as we continue to improve the older guys are going to be able to share with the younger ones what the experience all about.
And getting the extra practices was extremely important. I went to the practices down there and the last 30 minutes or so Mike Leach and the staff would excuse the guys who were going to play – probably the two-deeps and then I got to really watch our young players scrimmage full blast each one of the days we were down there. We’ve got some impressive football players that our normal fans don’t even know about yet that are going to fill in nicely next year and down the road.
(Thoughts on the game?)
No lead is a safe lead and we just couldn’t quite get it taken care of and at the end the course of events there was heartbreaking for us and our players. I’ve received a lot of correspondence; I’ve received some supporting ones and ones that aren’t, but the bottom line is this: We didn’t go down there and get beaten by five touchdowns. We were in control of the game, people will say we mismanaged the clock at the end, I disagree. Put the math to it — we needed a first down. Probably should have thrown that we’re used to doing not unlike we did against the Huskies two years in the Apple Cup when we came back from being three touchdowns down.
(What do you project for the future?)
Well we’ve got an outstanding schedule for 2014. Seven home games, we have our facilities completed by next season so the stadium will look how it’s going to look for the years to come. And as you mentioned, we’ve got a lot of players coming back, marquee players … Those freshmen and sophomore are starting to move up into upperclassmen, and that’s invaluable.
(Mike Leach) like myself loves having the in-state offensive lineman because he, like myself, believe that when it’s 3rd and 3 and you’re inside the 20, that state pride comes through and you want that in the trenches.
(Will it be nice to have the Apple Cup in Pullman next year?)
And it’ll be on Saturday. Everybody can breath a sigh of relief. We did our two-year cycle, everybody has to do it we played on Friday and I alluded to it earlier, that great win in 2012, and we played on Friday earlier this year in Seattle. Now we get the Apple Cup back in our completed Martin Stadium and we always look forward to that. We’ve got a lot of action before the Apple Cup but it has not lost its luster over the years.
(Thoughts on WSU's performance in Arizona?)
Our guys are playing hard, we’re a little thin obviously with a couple of our better players. DaVonte Lacy pulling up hurting something, not sure on that, sounds like from what (coach) Ken Bone was saying it was a rib injury, but he just had surgery for appendicitis 10 days ago, a little longer than that now but 10 days from yesterday so I know they’re going to be eager to get back. The desert trip is always tough but 25 points in modern basketball isn’t very much and when you go back to last time 25 points or less was scored is 1938. And Derek – I don’t know, you’re so young – but they didn’t have shot clocks or three point baskets back then.
(How is recruiting going?)
So far the recruiting class is shaping up, they’re always a little different than you have on paper right now. They could improve a little or depreciate a little, it just depends what happens because the 18-year-old mind works mysteriously.
(How are the redshirt freshmen looking, particularly on the offensive line?)
Well we’re getting bigger and bigger, this last year we averaged around 275 up front, this next year we should be around 310 but we’ll be young. The good news is we get most guys back. The other thing – it’s a strange benchmark, I guess – the other thing I was pleased with the guys that redshirted, didn’t play and were on the sideline, there are a lot of guys within our room that are dissatisfied with the season.
I mean it was the best season Washington State’s had in 10 years but as a group we’ve gotten to the point where we’re dissatisfied with it because we truly believe we can do more and more. Now we’re to the point where we’re kind of seeing opportunities that we need to jump on.
(How much of a fight is it to keep recruits committed?)
It gets to be hand-to-hand combat. Some guys, it’s whoever talked to them last. So you make sure you’re on the phone all the time and hae a presence in their living room aggressively. But we’ve got great people, we’ve got great people. This is the best recruiting staff I’ve been a part of and I’ve had good ones.
Then the other thing that really sells it, Bill talks to them as a group and that’s pretty compelling because he can talk about what it’s like to be a Coug, and the tradition, and just a lot of the nuance from the inside and from the top both.
People say, ‘How is Washington State.’ And they get this knowing grin on their face like, ‘OK this is going to be hard to describe to you, I don’t know how to describe (it) to you.’ They shake their head and I go, ‘It’s great,’ and they say, ‘so what did you do down there,’ ‘I don’t know but it’s great.’ You know? And they go, ‘Is it a scenic place?’ ‘Oh, it’s beautiful,’ which of course it is, everybody that’s been there knows that. And the one thing you’ve got a little bit is they haven’t been there – they’ve heard positive things but they haven’t been there. And then part of it is if you walk out your door it’s students everywhere doing the same thing going in the same direction. Then if you walk across the street you’re on campus, you walk two blocks and you’re on the hill. It’s an anthill of students ant that’s something that everybody wants to be a part of.