Washington State head football coach Mike Leach spoke on the phone with members of the media today to talk about the Cougars fall camp. We've put together a transcription of the call's highlights, which you can read after the jump.
(The receivers always run a lot of vertical routes on the first day of camp. Why?)
We always do it, especially early on. Part of it is there's the learning curve like, if you have a clearly defined route like say a curl or a dig, it's exactly like this, like this and the guy's probably going to catch the ball here. A vertical route is a little different. A vertical route can be thrown underneath or over the top and as you're stretch the field vertical, any point in that path, that vertical path there may be a connection with the ball and the receiver, depending on how the coverage reacts. So it's a play where the receiver and the quarterback have to get on the same page and there's a level of anticipation.
I mean the thing that makes a vertical route effective is that it really can't effectively be covered with one person, OK? But what benefits the defense on it is that you're requiring a level of perfect execution so you're not going to achieve the perfection part of it but you're going to get better at it.
Where the quarterback is going to throw it now and the receiver is going to expect and catch it now and getting those two guys on the same page to execute that – it's a harder play to execute but it's also one that, well, that you can't cover. But the thing is the ability to execute it is kind of a, I can't remember the word, but there's a lot of speculation on the play … in other words there are going to be windows of space and eventually you're going to hit windows of space and then the ball must meet the receiver in those windows of space and those windows will be in a different place from one play to the next, and the space is going to be a moving target.
The ability to execute that I think requires a little extra emphasis.
(What are your biggest priorities for the time spent in Lewiston, other than daily improvement?)
Team chemistry as far as the team being around each other and all that sort of thing, some of that happens naturally and then the other is players don't stay the same whether it's growth spurts or working harder in the offseason, people have developed.
We need to try to quickly identify those skills and abilities and see exactly where it's at and how it can best be utilized for the team. And then of course there's the young guys and what it is that they can do, what they can potentially contribute and what we can build on and that type of thing.
(Would you like to have a firm idea of who the starters are by the time you return to Pullman?)
It won't go up into the first game that doesn't mean occasionally there aren't changes but you'd rather there's not. I would like … in some cases it may take longer than others, especially if guys are comparable. But before the first week we should have it sorted out I think, that doesn't mean I'll tell you but we should have it sorted out.
(Will Luke Falk and Peyton Bender split reps at backup quarterback?)
Luke will get more because Peyton's still learning the offense. As he becomes more familiar he can do more. But, you know, the three quarterbacks we're going to predominantly rep will get a lot of reps.
(Calvin Green is listed as Rickey Galvin's backup at the H receiver position. What gives you so much confidence in the true freshman?)
Extremely fast, very physical and, you know, I thin ka lot of times as coaches and whatnot you look at a guy and one guy's a junior or senior and the other guy is a mid-semester freshman and you say, “he screwed this up, he screwed this up, he screwed this up.” But then if you look at it, guy's his age he's very impressive. First of all, he wants every football. He's not afraid of anything, he's really fast and he's developing his skills to have very focused work.
He's dangerous with the ball in his hands and for a guy that basically hadn't caught a lot of balls in his career he really has good hands and has developed there. If he keeps going at the pace he is I think he's going to do very well.
(Aaron Balthazar is reportedly no longer transferring to WSU from Boise State?)
I'm not allowed to talk about it, I mean I can't talk about, I think he's still recruitable so I can't talk about it.
(Someone took a full-page ad in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal asking the Texas Tech University administration to pay you for the 2009 season. Have you seen it?)
I heard about it and then somebody sent it to me on an email. I read it pretty quickly. It all sounded pretty accurate and of course there're a lot of great people in Lubbock that know I haven't been paid for 2009, the last season I worked there, and I think there's a lot of people that doesn't sit very well with. Partially because, if you agree to pay a guy you pay him, but just the integrity that goes along with that. They're proud of their relationship with Tech just like I was proud of mine and you want to retain the integrity of something that you're proud of.
(Will freshmen Marcellus Pippins and Patrick Porter be in the mix at cornerback?)
Well I think at corner we're quick and we're athletic, we're not high on experience. Pippins is very quick and did some good stuff in spring, needs to continue to develop his skills. Porter did a good job in the offseason but most of what I know about Porter, and of course we were impressed with him out of high school, is kind of by word of mouth because of course I'm hearing about him from our strength coaches and from our players as they go out there and throw but I haven't seen it, you know I haven't seen it firsthand. But I'm excited by what I've heard and it doesn't surprise me because, you know one thing that we really liked about him out of high school was his toughness.
(Thoughts on the defensive line?)
Last year we pretty much played on the d-line with five guys, and had a lot of guys redshirt. The thing is, the first two thirds of the season those redshirt guys weren't as good as the guys we played with. The last third of the season they were every bit as good and I think some of those guys who redshirted will challenge the guys who played ahead of them. But, more importantly, I think we're going to roll about nine guys at d-line and one of the things that happened to us on the d-line last year, I thought we had quality individuals but we only had five of them, and so then you wear down and that certainly happened to us. And so I think it's very important that we evolved to where we can roll eight or nine of them in there without losing much ground.
(How do you assign rooms at team camp?)
We try to mix it up. You can't get it perfect, I mean it's not going to be perfect but we try to have offensive guys with defensive guys, big guys with little guys, linemen with skill players, so old-young, big-little, offense-defense and then try to mix the backgrounds, too, because the biggest thing is you want people associating with their other teammates that they may not see or be as familiar with in drills and just appreciate the backgrounds that make up our team.
In the end, even though it's unfamiliar that's really what is the most exciting because no sport has the diversity that football does as far as all in one setting. It's funny, because after camp and stuff, maybe months later, you'll see two guys hanging out where you're thinking, “wow. They don't have anything in common. I didn't even think they were friends,” and then you think back and, “oh, they were roommates at camp.”
(Could you talk about Beau Glover's play?)
He just made a lot of plays, progressively gotten better. And we're talking about a guy that, you know, really didn't start at the top of the food chain. I mean, showed up, walked on, worked really hard and pretty soon he'd do one thing, and then another thing, and then another thing. And then the biggest thing you see with him is just constantly making plays. He just constantly makes plays. Right place, right time. And then when it first starts, you're thinking, “well geeze, he's lucky there,” and then, “he's lucky there,” and it's like, “well, he's lucky again.” After awhile if a guy's lucky that many times, well he's just developed skills of anticipation and all that and then the other thing, if you have your choice of playing with lucky people or unlucky people I try to select lucky people because there's no defending luck. I don't have a game plan for luck. I mean I have a game plan for a fast guy, I have a game plan for a big guy but a lucky guy, I don’t have a game plan for a lucky guy. You know who he reminds me of? In the NFL there's a guy named Jimmy Leonard who is pretty impressive and Glover kind of reminds me of him, as he started making play after play on us that's who I started thinking about.
(Why is this your best team?)
I think now they've been through two really intensive off-seasons, the guys that have been here the whole time. I think our recruiting classes have gotten better and then there's just kind of a tighter cohesion to our team just as far as chemistry and working together and being excited to achieve things.
When I first got here I always got the sense that there was too much satisfaction just being on the team rather than achieving a great deal and now people really push each other to achieve. We're working at a higher rate than we had before and the funny thing about the effort and the work out there is a lot of it is kind of self-propelled among the players.
Working really hard is consuming and it's really fun because you see the one guy do something and then you do something better and then another guy over there does something better and if you really get rolling then it'll perpetuate itself. And obviously we need to improve and get better at it but we're kind of heading into that phase of things which is an exciting place to be.