Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

SportsLink

Mike Leach Monday remarks

We're having trouble embedding the usual press conference video, so you'll have to go to wsucougars.com for the videos. Sorry for the inconvenience, we'll have our own videos next week. For now, here is the transcript of what Mike Leach said during his 22 minute press conference.

Question: What do you see from Oregon State's defense?

Mike Leach: They're very aggressive, a very aggressive defense. They run to the ball, everybody runs to the ball. More pressure, probably, than the teams we've played up to this point and they're starting to disguise stuff a little bit.

Q: Are they starting to buy in to the culture change under new coach Gary Andersen?
ML: Well, I think they're a tough, hard-nosed team. They were last year. They've got several of those guys back.

Q: What are the challenges in taking over a first-year program?

ML: I think the biggest thing is getting everybody on the same page, you know? Getting your message, your process across and getting everybody on the same page so they work on it, build on it.

Q: Why has their secondary been so good?

ML: Well, they've had good players and they're tall by secondary standards. One kid is about 6-foot and the other is about 6-foot-3, so they're tall kids. Then of course Utah defense, the (defensive coordinator) went from Utah to Oregon State, they have a funny way of getting their corners drafted in the NFL on a pretty regular basis, so they're kind of familiar with corner play and the importance of it as far as putting them in a situation to create pressure.

Q: Are you taking a step back to allow the players lead in big moments?

ML: I don't know that you ever step back. I think more leadership you get from the players, the better. I don't know exactly the instance you were referring to but Luke does talk to the players and rally up the players from time to time. The more he does the better because he's good at it and they can draw from him.

Q: Was your team's response to being down 10 a sign of maturity you hadn't seen?
ML: Well, it's all pretty easy. You just focus on one play at a time. Get the most out of one play at a time and have the mental discipline to do that. I mean, I'm glad we did that. But we need to continue to, it doesn't matter about the point in the game. Just get the most out of that play and then get the most out of the next one.

Q: Where has Luke grown the most through five games this year?
ML: I think still, I think still continues to grow as far as moving the offense, utilizing the offense, becoming familiar with his weapons.

Q: How important was the OSU game last year for his development?
ML: I thought he played well against Oregon State and of course they were on a heck of a roll, had just beat Arizona State. The biggest thing you saw was that he was really composed. He does a good job of that. He played really composed down the stretch this last game and in overtime.

Q: Does his humility give him some credibility with the players?
ML: I think his work ethic gives him credibility with the players, I think his work ethic. I think he artfully exhibits a little humility, but you've got to be a pretty confident guy to play quarterback and you've got to be a pretty assertive guy. He's got a good balance of both.

 

Q: How important was it to score at the beginning of both halves?

ML: Well, as it turned out every one of those points was important. I think it's important. Not just for the points but to start competing the half. Just the level of competition, focus and the stature of the half.

 

Q: There was a funny moment when coach Reinert urged you to go for two. What was that discussion like?
ML: He was like Richard Nixon coming off an airplane, he was giving the peace sign. He didn't say anything about going for two. There was just a discussion on whether we were going for one or going for two. We went for one, obviously. The thought would be, I thought their chances were decent of stopping us for one play. I didn't think they could stop us for successions of four plays. They're kind of an explosive group and we had gotten some three-and-outs. Now, we'd given up some three-and-outs, too, which I'm still disappointed with. We got them in three-and-out several times. We thought they were an explosive group. They're the type of team that might score in one or two plays, but might not score in four plays and our chances were higher than theirs.

Q: Was the success of the running backs a variation of the offense or just what their defense gave you?
ML: Really kind of both. I thought our offensive line ran blocked better. Stayed square, stayed lower, ran their feet better. I thought the backs hit the hole better. Too often backs have a temptation to stretch it to the sideline. And you see backs everywhere do it and it's just nauseating. And it's nauseating to the point where if I'm watching some team I don't know anything about and that back thinks he's going to exhibit how fast he can get to the sideline, it pisses me off, and I don't know anything about the team. I thought we did a good job hitting the holes real hard and then you makes some stuff happen when you do that, and they did. Their defense at times was trying to talk us out of the run but was playing the pass and I thought we adjusted to that pretty well.

 

Q: Do the defense's stops in key situations change the math for you when evaluating to go for it or punt?
ML: Yeah, maybe a little. Maybe a little. Our defense plays hard, we run to the ball good. We need to have a little more precision as we play but we're doing a lot of good things.

Q: Seven sacks for the second consecutive week. Was it a similar situation to the previous week?
ML: I forgot or I don't know the comparison. I mean, the bottom line is sometimes he held the ball, sometimes we got beat. I think their front is a very imposing group. Most of this team were on the Rose Bowl championship team, so they're very talented people. I thought sometimes we broke down on the offensive line and sometimes we kept the ball and sometimes it was a combination of both. So, I think they've got to improve at it. And anytime we give up a sack, as far as I'm concerned, not just the o-line, I don't just have a problem with the o-line. The quarterback has an issue too, they're both responsible for it and then in this case it was there weren't a ton of blitzes so it wasn't the backs or anybody not blocking. Occasionally, receivers weren't open but still, we've got to protect or get rid of it.

Q: Steve Sarkisian has been fired at USC. Your thoughts on that situation?
ML: Well, I don't have any thoughts on it. I don't know the details. I know Steve and I like him, you know. I don't know the details of the issues of what happened.

Q: Do you agree with your players that the team is past playing to the level of its opponent?
ML: I don't know. I think we have to constantly check that. I'll have a better idea as we practice this week. The only level you should play at is the best you can possibly play. If we're doing that this week in practice … If we don't then well obviously we'll offer some serious motivation on the subject.

Q: Did you and your staff actually address that issue?
ML: We were fairly blunt on the issue and what we thought needed to be changed and adjusted. Yeah, we were very direct with them.

Q: Do you think they've responded to it?
ML: I think you're constantly responding. I think the guy improves, as the guy gets better he's got to keep pushing to raise the bar. Failure to do that and you don't improve. I think our guys need to embrace each play, get the most of it and do it every day in practice. I think we're improving at that, I don't think we're perfect at it.

Q: Are expectations like a Pac-12 Championship realistic?
ML: I don't think we need to worry about any of that. I think we just need to worry about the next play. The next play's going to be tomorrow's practice. If we do really well with that play then maybe we can do even better with the following one. That's all we need to worry about.

Q: Did you see this group as the most talented you've had at WSU?
ML: We're more talented than we have been. We've got a lot of youth that we've got to blend in and play together better. We knew we have a lot of knew faces who we're going to have to develop in their roles but we're better in some phases than we have been in the past.

Q: Is there anything about this team that will make them able to build on a turning-point win when they couldn't in the past?
ML: No, I mean we're going to go out there and see if we practice well. There's not all this big picture stuff. That's for you guys to do. And a portion of that's why you guys aren't invited to our meetings because you'll get sidetracked with all this this, that and the other thing and why is there air and all that other business when we need to focus on improving our skills each play. And if we do that, and we can do it successively, we'll have a chance to be pretty good. If we lose our focus and start thinking about extra stuff that doesn't count, then we're going to play distracted and incomplete.

Q: How did you guys first start recruiting Shalom Luani?
ML: Very impressive player. I felt like he jumped off the screen. He played at San Francisco City College. I thought he jumped off the screen. He was a hard hitter and hit hard to the point where I actually expected him to be bigger in person when I met him. Very quick feet. Not sure how fast, he's not slow, but he's got incredibly quick feet. There's some story, which I haven't totally followed through on, about him being on the Samoan National Soccer team and evidently some kind of documentary on the subject. Which, you know, in the offseason I'll make sure I check out as many Shalom documentaries as I can find. But he's gotten better and better.

I thought he had a good camp and then there was a point when the package was moving a little fast for him and now it seems like he's really getting into a rhythm and on a roll.

Q: Was he raw or someone who needed development?
ML: Well, a little bit. There's some package differences. We knew he was a talented guy and then he played smart.

Q: Who is the hardest hitter you've been around?
ML: Dwayne Slay. Played for us at Texas Tech. He was a JC guy. Slay was from either Georgia or Florida. 6-foot-4, 230 kind of guy. Played free safety. I think he was from, oh what's that junior college there in Chico? (Butte?) Might have been, any way we had several players from there. I think he might have been from Butte JC and they still show on TV in the middle of the night, there were two hits against Kansas State, we were playing Kansas State and of course Kansas State, like they always were, were very physical. And Dwayne Slay would come from free safety full tilt and just blew that kid up over and over, and I mean over and over. He was the Big-12 defensive Player of the Year. You would see, though, and people talk about this, people say this but it's almost never true, occasionally a guy will button up as he hears footsteps or something. You would see guys run routes on other teams and as they got inside the hash they would gear down. And I mean, it was visible on film. These guys would just pack it in because they weren't going anywhere near Dwayne Slay.

So I said, 'Slay, what are you going to do when you get out?' He said 'I'm going to write a biography.' So I said, 'What's the biography going to be called?' He goes, 'Well it's going to be about my ideas and my life. It's going to be called The Mind of the Slayer.' So anyway, I think it's fair to say I've got a lot of respect for players I've had before and players I've had since, the hardest hitter was Dwayne Slay and any of them that want to dispute that, I would love to see a contest between them and Dwayne Slay on hitting anything.

But certainly Shalom's working his way in that direction. Hercules (Mata'afa) is another one of them, in a more confined position. He's really strong.

Q: Is Luani the hardest hitter you've had at WSU?
ML: Yeah, I think so. Travis Long, very physical player. Well, you've got (Deone) Bucannon, though, too. Bucannon was a big hitter but Bucannon looked like one. Bucannon, you had a guy built like an outside linebacker so he was very complete that way. Bucannon had that big hit against Auburn, blew that kid up and knocked the ball loose but forgot to pick the ball up. I thought the hit was great. I wished he'd have picked the ball up.

Q: What are your thoughts on Christopher Columbus and should he have a holiday?
ML: Well, being Scandinavian I certainly think Christopher Columbus should get some credit. I don't have any problem with that, but I think we've got to make it Leif Erickson Day or Viking Day, so that would suit me if we got our day, as well. As we begin to diminish political correctness, we've better get him pretty quick since we're inclined to make sure everybody's happy.

But in Cody, Wyoming as a kid holidays' significance was based on whether you got out of school or not. Well, we didn't get out of school so I wasn't a big Columbus Day guy. But I know (Eric) Mele and (Mastro), those guys will be celebrating Columbus Day. It will probably be hard to get any work out of them. I haven't given it a great deal of thought. You know technically Columbus never made it all the way to America. But it was impressive. It was like anything. A bunch of people told Columbus it couldn't be done and he went and did it anyway.



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

Follow Jacob online:






Looking for a Grip on Sports?

Vince Grippi's daily take on all things regional sports has been moved to our main sports section online. You can find a collection of these columns here.