PULLMAN – After its most recent loss, Washington State coach Mike Leach diagnosed the 0-2 Cougars with a lack of toughness.
On Monday, he described some of the symptoms.
“We run out of bounds more than any team in the country,” Leach said. “We’re the easiest team in the country to tackle.”
Then, Leach described his prescribed treatment, which will involve shuffling of the starting lineup, more drills and “significantly louder verbal instruction,” along with potentially “elevated contact.”
At the time of Leach’s weekly Monday press conference, the Cougars had only had one practice: The short workout the Cougars have after every Sunday, except when the team plays well enough to earn the night off.
According to running back Jamal Morrow, the Sunday night practice following the Boise State loss had a different feel.
“We had a padded practice yesterday, so that’s probably step one of (Leach’s plan to instill toughness),” Morrow said. “It was more physical. More up-pace.”
Leach did place responsibility for WSU’s woes at the feet of the coaching staff, but mostly so far as suggesting the coaches were too generous with the players by assuming they could walk and chew simultaneously.
“It all starts with coaching. We have this assumption that they know stuff, but as coaches we have to be smart enough and disciplined enough to get that out of our heads,” Leach said. “They don’t know anything. We wouldn’t be re-teaching the same stuff we did last year if we could trust any level of retention. We can’t. We have to be smart enough and disciplined enough as coaches to not suggest or assume they know anything.”
The increased hitting at practice will, according to Leach, be done with the intent of making his players uncomfortable. He described practices in which the players nod their heads in assent when given instruction, but then demonstrate the message was not communicated.
“I don’t care what they say. I really don’t care. We’ve taught all this stuff, we get the concerned expression and the head nod, and the bodies don’t move,” Leach said. “I really don’t care what they said. I care about what me and my coaches are going to tell them. There’s not going to be – this week in particular — there’s not going to be a lot of indulgence on what they said but there better be a hell of a lot on what we said.”
This is far from the first time Leach has called out his players for a lack of mental fortitude – he famously said after the 2012 Utah game that two of the Utes players could whip five of his in an alley brawl.
But now Leach has a team entirely composed of players he recruited. Players who seemed to figure out what it takes to win during last year’s 9-4 season.
Leach said that the triumphs of the 2015 campaign have contributed to WSU’s current problems.
“I just think we have a very immature team and I don’t think we handle success well,” Leach said. “Mentally we overindulged last year’s success.”
And Leach reiterated that the coaches were going to change their coaching methods in pursuit of a tougher team, most likely in ways the players will likely find unpleasant, even if they’re productive.
“This business of pretending we’re playing hard and we’re not, pretending we’re playing as hard as our opponent and we’re not—there’s going to be a price to pay,” Leach said.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.