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Video: Mike Leach Monday press conference

Video Courtesy of WSU Athletics.


Question: What did you expect from the offensive line this season?
Mike Leach: Well, we're a real young group. We're funny, we have two seniors and the other three are real young. I don't know; we keep raising expectations. We try to ensure the fact that they don't live up to them but we steadily improve. I think they're improving. I think they're improving and they've done some good things. I thought we were spotty the first half but we were real tough the second half and of course Arizona State brings a lot of pressure.

Q: How important has their play been to Luke Falk's successful season?
ML: I think it's huge, I think it's the most important position. I always have. And I think people who lose sight of that, it's damaging to them. It's the most important position, on offense certainly.

Q: Where do you think you've seen the most progress from the line?
ML: Playing together, probably. Playing together and they've got another year under their belt. I think their technique is a little more consistent, which that's a constant state of corrections and I think that the run game, we've played with lower pads and done a better job of moving our feet on contact, and technical things that we need to continue, and need to be constantly monitor, and honestly, what I just mentioned wasn't one of our stronger points last week. I think we could have done better on contact than we did.

Q: Have you noticed that the team is closer this year and does it help on the field?
ML: Yes, I've noticed. I definitely think it affects things. I think the offseason contributed to it a great deal and then I also think, without naming any names, we have a far less selfish locker room. It's one that everybody's pulling for one another, pulling the same direction and just a more focused group where it's all about the unit.

Q: Does that come from the kids or staff?
ML: I think all of the above, I think everything and I think it's tough to put your finger on so I think you want to be as precise in attitude, focus and that sort of thing everywhere that you can be. I wish I knew exactly just the one simple stop to it. I think it's a variety of things and I think it changes, and has to be adjusted and, that being the case, I think you need enough people that believe and think that way that it's self-correcting along the way.

Q: Could you speak to what you saw in Midnight Maneuvers this offseason? Were there more black shirts and fewer pink shirts?
ML: You know, that's all graded on a curve and it's all relative. I thought it was a very good session, I though it was a good session but, likewise, the better your guys get, it's going to be hard to get a black shirt. It's still going to be hard to get a black shirt and then as your pinks become better, your black shirts become better, too. And then as you go through the thing, because it's all sort of gauged on were you the best in your group, how did you grade within your group, and then defeating the guy in front of you, if he's developed his skills in a more superior fashion, it becomes all the more difficult to keep up. And you keep it that way otherwise you're not improving. But we did have a good Midnight Maneuvers.

Q: Are players who got black shirts in the past getting passed by younger players?
ML: Yeah, a little. But now we're to the point where if you look at it we really don't have that many older guys. Like (Darryl) Paulo, he got black shirts, and so did Destiny (Vaeao) and Ivan (McLennan). I mean these are kind of elite guys. And then Dom (Williams) and Joe Dahl would. But there's more young guys than older guys, so they're outnumbered for one.

Q: In your book you wrote about keeping guys' grades up with punitive measures. Still doing that much?
ML: Yeah, we've had this semester two sessions, two sessions but not too many people. I am kind of interested in how our grades come out. I think we're a work in progress, we're improving. I wasn't pleased with how they were last semester. I mean, they weren't horrible, but I wanted us to take a bigger step than we did. And we didn't take as big a step as I wanted to. I'm optimistic this semester, but we'll see. The other thing, again, is we're kind of a young group and the grades come a little harder when you're a freshman and sophomore as you're sorting college. I do think as they'll get older they'll naturally improve, but we want to elevate that before we get to that.

Q: Have you come up with any cool new techniques?
ML: Well that's, what you're describing is kind of a punitive measure. That's sort of a, if you don't change or do this I'm going to cut you, type of deal. This is more, the biggest thing is we've got a lot more individual attention on these guys and all the coaches are involved. All the coaches are involved and if a guy misses class then he's getting a call from about four coaches and academic counselors and so we've kind of organized a fashion where there's a lot of support to do well. But also enforcing that you're' going to be where you're supposed to be and attend what you're supposed to attend, because we do expect to improve this semester and I'll be disappointed if we don't.

Q: How rare is it for a team to actually improve every week?
ML: Well I think it's hard. I think that's what everybody battles to do, I think that's what everybody battles to do and that's what the good teams do. Everybody would be a good team if it was real easy. But the things is, if you're going to be a good team, you have to do something different than the other guy. Because if you do what the other guy does, that's who you are, you're the other guy, you know what I mean?

Q: Anything stand out on film from the ASU game?
ML: Just really as a team, I guess I did recognize it, we played with really good tempo the second half and didn't the major portion of the first half. We tried hard, we battled hard, we did some stuff. We just didn't do it together and not as fast. I thought we played really hard and I thought we played really hard the second half. That fourth quarter I thought we played really hard.

Q: Is coming back in that manner a sign of maturity?
ML: I think there's maybe a little maturity, but I don't exactly know what that is. I know what it's supposed to mean, but it's such a big term and plus, I used to get tagged by my parents and teachers as not having it all the time, so it's not really even my favorite word.

I think the ability to not panic and to stay focused would be an element of that. I think the biggest thing is just taking the most out of each play and pushing through on that and collectively, our team's doing a good job of that and reinforcing it from one guy to the next and just doing it for 60 minutes. But I thought we were playing faster and more precise the fourth quarter than we were the first quarter. And I thought that was our best quarter, not just because we got the most points but we were playing faster, and sharper and better.

Q: How did Jacob Seydel grade out?
ML: I thought he did good. Yep, I thought he played good.

Q: Do you think there are too many bowl games?
ML: No, not really, not unless you hate football. People that don't like football probably want less bowl games. I've always thought they should have more games to begin with. Which, of course, if they would do what I would like to do and have a 64-team playoff system then the winner would play 16 games. But I would still see that everybody's ensured 12 games and I think a great time would be had by all and the thing that's always amazed me is Division-1 college, it's always, 'How can that be? It's not possible! There's no way! I mean, nothing like that's ever been done before.' Yeah, nothing like that's ever bee n done before except in the NFL, except in Division-1 AA, exception in Division-II, except in Division-III, and except in major high schools in major states. It's never been done before except in all those places. So could they do it? Yeah, of course they could. And actually the number of bowls they have right now would usher in the whole thing nearly perfectly. But anyway, that's somebody else's dragon to slay, there.

Q: Does the Rose Bowl have any significance to you?
ML: You know, I've never played in the Rose Bowl. I've never played in the Rose Bowl and when I was in L.A. I always wanted to go to the swap meet—they have a swap meet there at the Rose Bowl. I think it's on Sundays. And I wasn't necessarily planning to buy anything as much as say hey, this is cool, it's right by the Rose Bowl. I never did go but it'll be exciting to see the Rose Bowl. It's a great place to play and we're excited about the game.

Q: Is it significant to you to become bowl eligible?
ML: I mean, it's fine but we have to focus on this one. We've got to find a way to play the best we can and find a way to win this week.

Q: Have you looked at UCLA much?
ML: A little. Yeah, they're like they are. A very talented group. A very talented group, do a variety of things. Not real elaborate but they do have variety to both of their packages.

Q: Do you use your previous years' scouting notes much?
ML: Sometimes, if they have the same people. They same coordinators and things. Sometimes but at this point, now that they've played – one, we didn't play them last year so anything I'd have on them would be irrelevant and two we've played, I forget, you can tell me how many games we've played. Whatever it adds up to. Eight or 10, or whatever, that's more significant.

Q: Do you like being underdogs?
ML:  I don't know. I haven't paid a lot of attention to underdogs. If we'd paid attention to that, we wouldn't have won any games this year. So we're better off not focusing on who's favored in these games.

Q: You've run a lot of two-back sets this year, what are you liking from those sets?
ML: Well, we're deeper at running back than we have been. From a standpoint we're more polished and with Keith Harrington, we've got another one. So they're a pretty good group and give us the opportunity to get good athletes on the field. It's like, in other words, if you're thinner at running back you do more one-back stuff.

Q: Is the ratio comparable to what you ran at Texas Tech?
ML: We might be a shade higher. I always shot for about a third. I don't know what it is but, without forcing it, I've always hoped it was about a third.

Q: Could you see using four running backs next year?
ML: Probably not. I mean, we'll see who beats who out, who beats who out and go from there.

Q: Is UCLA as talented as any team you've played this year?
ML: Yeah, they could be. It's difficult to say before the game. I've got a clearer picture after the game. They're talented. Arizona State, well, I don't know if they're any more talented than Oregon was. Oregon's big and fast. Oregon's got a funny way of their big people all being big and their fast positions all being really fast. I don't know if they're as fast as Oregon. They're big like Oregon, but their skill position players are probably a little bigger. I don't know if their skill players are quite as fast as Oregon, and of course Oregon's got monstrous big people. Stanford's huge, too, of course. That's the trouble with this conference: Everybody's pretty good.

Q: Are you happy with where the team is at?
ML: Still tyring to improve, still trying to get better. Don't feel like w'eve played our best game, played some good ones. Still think we can get better.

Q: Anything in specific to improve?
ML: Well, everybody's trying to do it and obviously we've done it better than other people and we haven't done it as good as we can do it. So that's what we're shooting for. We're shooting to being as perfect as we can.

Q: Who is your favorite band or musician?
ML: Favorite band or musician, that covers a lot of ground. That's a wide swath right there. Jeez. Well, I don't know. Let's see here. Well on the way over here I listened to Marshall Tucker Band sing Fire on the Mountain, so they're definitely a good one. And then they're talking about the Eagles getting together for something. The Eagles are really good.

I've always had something between Neil Young, Jimmy Buffett and Lynrd Skynyrd have always been very much toward the top. Jethro Tull, The Doors. I'd definitely be leaving plenty of people out. But yeah, there's a lot of good ones. Bob Dylan.

Q: Have you seen any of them in concert?
ML: I've seen a few. I'm not an aggressive concert guy but if they're right there I'll go. The best concert I've been to, and I like him, I like his stuff. I guess his stuff isn't my very favorite, by the best concert is Bob Seager, that I've been to.

It was just very active. And John Mellencamp had a very good concert, too. And some of his back musicians were very good. He had a bunch of musicians behind him that got involved, too. Just incredible energy to the thing.

Q: What about Neil Young interests you so much?
ML: Neil Young was just a shade before my time, a little bit, I would say. See, when I was in high school, music was evolving toward disco and that was a very dark time. And it was a horrible, horrible period. To all the disco people out there, I'm going to offend I don't care. I really don't care. If you're a disco person, your music's awful. It is terrible. And the damage that it's done to music, we still haven't fully recovered. OK.

And, so anyway, as the bottom's melting out of the music world your choice is to hold your breath toward the future, or you have to go backwards. So a lot of us, we went way back. We're talking Beatles and Buddy Holly, which is obviously way back.

And those that held their breath toward the future, well then the overcorrection from music is punk. And then punk came out. And yes, it was an improvement to disco, but I don't think that we're fully happy and fully comfortable with that, and that didn't totally withstand the test of time. But it did usher us into something better. OK.

So in drawing backwards, Neil Young I guess was almost the anti-disco. I've always valued lyrics a great deal. A song should say something instead of just be strictly music and I always, he had a wide variety of message. Everything he touched musically, he was a master of. He thought independently when disco personified those that didn't think independently. Neil Young was the ultimate in independent thinking. Elevated every group he was every with. I still like Crosby, Stills and Nash, but they weren't the same when Neil Young left, not even close. Neil Young's kind of on the list of people I'd most like to meet. I don't imagine he loves meeting people very much but, nevertheless, yeah, Neil Young's always been toward the top of my list.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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