PULLMAN – Mike Leach’s first job in football was coaching the offensive line at Cal Poly, and though he now has an entire football team to oversee, the first thing he watches on film when Washington State’s practices conclude are the offensive line drills.
Over the past two weeks he has taken a more hands-on approach with the linemen, eschewing the time he usually spends with the quarterbacks and wide receivers during one-on-one drills to coach up the linemen and running backs.
“I’ve noticed a difference in the pace of practice, especially for the offensive line,” said left tackle Andre Dillard. “Leach has been getting on us a lot more about getting off the ball, driving our feet every play and reaching our second level blocks. He really emphasizes that o-line is important in every offense and we’re really working hard to focus on those key things.”
The extra coaching paid off in last weekend’s 51-33 win over Oregon. The Cougars rushed for 280 yards and the running backs averaged 7.8 yards per carry.
According to Pro Football Focus, quarterback Luke Falk has been pressured on just 13.7 percent of his drop backs, the lowest rate of any Pac-12 quarterback.
The type of coaching Leach does when he spends extra attention on the offensive line can look foreign to outsiders. The Cougars have their offensive linemen in a two-point stance and with much wider splits between them then the two or three feet favored by most teams.
But that’s not what Leach was correcting when he switched up his focus before the UO game.
“I thought we were too passive,” Leach said. “This business of, somehow there’s a different practice speed and a game speed. Just the typical, ‘Oh, don’t worry coach, I’ll do it in a game’ type of crap. I even told them, ‘Your body better move right and if I don’t like the expression on your face, I’ll tell you.’ Then everybody ran fast and we’re all happy for the time being.”
Leach says the offensive line still has a lot of improvement left in it, but is getting better every week. Considering the success it has had in both pass and run blocking, that’s a scary proposition for opposing defenses.
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