Washington State coach Mike Leach held his weekly Monday press conference today, and addressed the team's poor play of late. The biggest concern in Leach's mind appears to be focus. He said that the team needs to isolate outside distractions -- particularly the positive ones -- and focus on doing what he's seen it do in practice.
He said a lot in the 20 minute press conference, including more thoughts on the previous game, his evaluation of the linebackers and offensive linemen, how the coaches can get more out of the players and he gave a status update on Gabe Marks, who it appears will redshirt this season.
The video of Leach's press conference is above, and a transcription is after the jump.
(You've placed responsibility for the last two losses on the coaching staff. What can the coaches do better?)
You know, I think we need to make sure we're sharper on their focus. Right now we're a team that practices well, lifts well, trains well -- we don't play very well and that's been our biggest problem. That's been our biggest problem. Now, in the course of things and I've been in the middle of this before and it was a bit like that at (Texas) Tech, the first thing you'll start doing is practicing well, you'll practice with a lot of enthusiasm. And then you'll train real well and push through things. We just have to get over the hump as far as playing well because right now I don’t think we've played as well as we can the last two games and part of it is emphasizing detail but part of it is have the ability for the team to really embrace their focus when they're under pressure.
(Is the team still getting too much positive reinforcement after losses?)
I think that's still a problem. I think that's still a problem. I think the more we can isolate our focus, our motivation, our point of view to our room, the better it's going to be. I mean there will be opinions outside are going to vary, in the NFL they call it a lot of time – they put it a lot of different ways – they say 'don't listen to the noise, don't pay any attention to the noise,' and we have to have the discipline to not pay attention ot the noise. And I think sometimes it's more troubling where it's all positive noise because we need to change stuff but if something doesn't go good for you, everybody wants a pick-me-up and you're trying to hear something good. Well I mean we're at a point where we really can't accept that. We need to focus on our work and know that our work has got to be better and not follow human nature and let ourselves off the hook.
(Do these losses test the team's ability to focus on the next game?)
I think what's got to be understood, I think what's got to be understood and I think that we've made a lot of progress but you're talking about two teams that have won a lot of games historically, you're talking about two teams that a majority of the guys in their class have all experienced winning seasons and you're also talking about teams that are predominantly juniors or seniors. None of those things are the case with us. I think that we're going to get there and we're going to steadily improve but the biggest thing is we've got to stay our course and stick together and work hard and focus.
(When coaches take the blame does that encourage the players to think they don't have to change?)
I don't know. (That was a good question.) Coaches I think constantly ask themselves, you wonder what helps, what's important. Now, with that said, I mean there's always, you know there's 125 people out there and our case with travel probably 65, and so you're trying to reach all 65. Now, this notion that everybody's let off the hook, well you'd be sadly mistaken if you thought that was the case. But everybody's in it together, there's no real separation in my mind. That's why it's called a "team," you're one entity. Players and coaches aren't separated. There's no bad players but great coaches or great players but bad coaches. It's one entity, everybody working together and so I don't think there is a separation from the coaches and I think we've coached about as well as they've played.
(What positives have you seen in the first two weeks?)
Well most of the positives we've seen are out on the practice field, we just have to get it on the game field. There are individual efforts, there are individual things, you see a lot of individual things where this guy did this, that guy did that, that's coming together well and like I said we've got a lot of young guys out there playing. I thought Robert Lewis played real well, Robert Lewis played a few snaps the game before and played a lot this week. Thought he did real well. On both sides of the ball we've got a lot of young guys playing and I think they're doing some good things, finding way's to contribute; Calvin Green's starting to hit his stride on offense and we've got a couple of them over there on defense. Darius Lemora, it was the first time he's ever started and he's done some good things and some of those young defensive linemen. There are things there, it just has to come together so it's a cohesive unit. The biggest thing is we've got to keep plugging away and we're excited about some of the guys that we may or may not redshirt depending on how ready they get to go.
(Do you think the offense needs a sense of urgency from the start?)
I think you're misunderstanding the whole thing. There's not a lack of urgency, I think focus gets affected at times. In college football, for the most part there is not a lack of urgency. Offensively it took us a little bit to get going but we played a good game on offense the first game, second game we didn't play well on offense, I didn't think the whole day. We moved it and we got a chunk here and a chunk there but we didn't finish drives and I think that … like I say, and of course you guys ask about it every week, two things: sense of urgency and is somebody motivated? Everybody in this business is motivated. Sometimes folks think, well, this is just an epsidoe of the Road Runner where it's just a series of dastardly tricks and sometimes you fool somebody and sometimes you don't. It's a game of execution, everybody being cohesively together and doing it consistently and that's what it is and we've got to get our parts moving in that fashion.
(Do you think the team has taken a step back in consistency since last year?)
I don't think necessarily back, I don't think back. We haven't gone as far forward as we'd like and I think that, like I say, in camp we did a lot of good things with the faces we had. I think out there in the practice field and getting it out on the practice field and what it looked like on the practice field just has to come forward on the game field.
(Is finishing one of the biggest concerns from the last two games?)
No question, no question that's the biggest thing right there. Some of it's just the expectation and getting used to winning and part of the thing we're battling here is there is nobody on our team that has won in college football, and so we have to take that step and that's why it's so important that we're strong internally. Because for well over 10 years nobody's won here. There are no players on the team that have won, nobody's won. And the notion that we're going outside that we're going to find out, that's crazy. We have to stay inside and maintain our focus and deflect any notions that are counter productive to that to be effect. I think it's a process and it's one that we're getting better at but we need to keep working.
(Do they just have to do it, then? Win to learn to win?)
Yeah but some of it I think is just a bunch of the clutter in their heads. There is so much, 'if this then that, well this is important, well that's important.' No, all that's important is that there's never any excuses, just go make plays. I think too often we'll embrace little things. Somebody gets bumped, well that's an excise. Something didn't go well so they want to lay around the field or walk around with some anguished face. No, no, that's just an excuse, all that is an excuse. Guy says, 'I believe we're going to win,' well then why are you, through your body language, preparing an excuse before the game's over, sometimes in the first half? We've got to get rid of that and some of it we just have to learn this is how winners do it and that's not part of that.
(Is that something that the leaders have tried to cut out?)
We're still developing team leadership. We have some guys that are older than others but I think we're still developing team leadership. We don't have one guy or anything like that that I think OK, this is the team leader that's the standard. Part of it is we're in uncharted territory because there is nobody on the team that has won in college football. We're the ones who have to change that but to put it all on a player would be fairly difficult because none of them have any experience in it.
(Will Jeremiah Allison play more?)
Yeah I think so he's really explosive. Smart guy, really explosive and he's been right on the bring for awhile.
(Has Darryl Monroe played up to the expectations you had heading into the season?)
No, I don't think he has. I think he's played cluttered and he's got to just clear his mind and play as well as he can play, just focus on what he can do and play as well as he can play.
(The running backs often lead the team in touches in the Air Raid. Would you like them to be more involved be it receiving or rushing the football?)
Yeah, no question. That was one of the disappointments last game. Running backs should have touched the ball a lot more, I mean the running backs should have touched the ball a lot more, no question about it. Last game in particular.
(Does playing in Martin Stadium change the way guys go through the week knowing they get to play in front of their home fans?)
It better not, if it requires that then we're not making as much progress as I'd hoped. It needs to be centered on we have a game, we have an opportunity to win. We just have to love football each play at a time so that's what should be required. That would be some of the clutter that we need to eliminate.
(Have you seen Portland State on film?)
Yeah, I think they're a good, aggressive team. Run a variety of defense, they'll come up on you and press you, and they'll play off you, and they'll roll through several things, give you some variety and see how you work through it.
(Thoughts on how the offensive line is functioning?)
I think (it is) getting better. I think getting better. It's been an impressive unit from the standpoint, shoot, we're playing with two former walk-ons and three first-time players and I think they've played really these first couple games. They definitely need to get better but I think it's been impressive up to this point when you consider all that.
(Watching the tape of the Nevada game it seemed like there were an unusual number of calls that might be open to interpretation, any way you can address that?
Well, at one time I got fined $10,000 for addressing that. I'm going to have to leave this one up to you. I'm going to have to leave this one up to you but I saw the same game that you did and I think it would be surprising how close our points of view may be on that.
(Student Question: You were in a commercial [below] this week. What are your thoughts on that and did you ever think you'd do so much acting?)
I've got to see that commercial because I haven't seen the finished product of it and somebody said it was kind of interesting, unique commercial. I've got to see the finished product. If somebody has it on their phone I can give you my thoughts. I haven't seen it. I mean I remember doing it and this wasn't a one-time deal. It wasn't 'OK, that's perfect. Well that's it.' There wasn't any of that stuff. There was a lot of reset, put your arm here, move your eyelash there type of things. Some guy somewhere across the country calls me and mentions something about it, so evidently it was kind of artfully done and the people who did it did a good job.
Yep, I said 'Go Cougs! I love these things,' probably 100 times that day. I'll tell you, in the first 10 or so of those things were pretty good. I started to get board after eating about my 40th one.
(Anything new on Gabe Marks?)
You know, we're going to try and redshirt him if we can. He's been doing a lot of good things, he's been really selling out there. Basically, we have two seniors at the position and it's sort of clouded up right now and he was behind in his offseason for definitely understandable reasons and so sequence is better for us, better for him, so that's what we're shooting for.
(Is Brett Bartolone in the same situation?)
Yeah, I'd say that's pretty accurate. Biggest thing is he had to work through some issues and has through the offseason. Nothing serious, just had to be right physically.