PULLMAN – Derek Sage has been learning football from Mike Leach for much of his professional life, from afar.
So when the opportunity arose to study under the man himself, he had to take it.
Leach introduced Sage as the new inside receivers coach at Washington State on Thursday morning, giving WSU its third coach at the position in three years.
“Just to join Mike Leach, he’s the godfather of the Air Raid,” Sage said. “Couple that with being in the Pac-12, I think (WSU) sells itself.”
He added, “I have (video tapes) dating back to 1993, 1994 of Mike Leach in some clinic he did in east Texas or west Texas or something. Anybody who’s a sponge in this profession, trying to learn concepts and score points in football, I think you’d be a fool not to look into coach Leach’s offense.”
Sage, 38, replaces JaMarcus Shephard, who left the program after one year to coach at Purdue.
He comes to WSU after three years as wide receivers coach at Toledo, where he helped the Rockets improve their passing output from 234.2 yards per game in his arrival to 322.8 yards this past season.
“Derek is a proven receivers coach who will blend in well with our program and hit the ground running,” said Leach in a press release. “He brings a great deal of energy, passion, understands our offensive philosophy and has a great reputation as a coach and recruiter.”
Sage will spend his first month on the WSU staff moving to Pullman, meeting players and, first and foremost, recruiting. While his specific recruiting region has yet to be defined, the Cougars have at least one receiver committed, as well as a couple athletes who might wind up at that position.
With less than a month until national signing day on Feb. 1, all of WSU’s coaches will spend most of January visiting with high school prospects.
“I just got off the phone with somebody,” Sage said Thursday afternoon. “The one thing you’re going to get with me is honesty. I’m brutally honest (with recruits). I think in this day and age you’ve got to be honest with players and parents about what they’re getting into. But I think the biggest thing is establishing relationships.”
This last year at Toledo, Sage’s wide receiver corps produced two All-Mid-American players in first teamer Cody Thompson (1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns) and second teamer Jon’Vea Johnson (773 and 10).
Prior to joining the Toledo staff, Sage spent four years coaching wide receivers at Wyoming, where his career overlapped with WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Prior to joining the Cowboys, he coached with Grinch and former Oregon coach Chip Kelly at New Hampshire, where the program earned bids to the FCS playoffs in each of Sage’s five seasons.
There Sage coached David Ball, whose 58 receiving touchdowns broke Jerry Rice’s previous NCAA record of 51. (Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp, who had 73 touchdowns over the last four seasons, now owns that record.)
Sage hails from Sparks, Nevada, and played his college ball as a tight end at Sacramento City College and Cal State Northridge. He has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.