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PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE MEDIA DAYS


July 23, 2014


Mike Leach


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

COACH LEACH:  All right.  We've got Connor Halliday, our quarterback with us today who has done a great job leading our offense, continues to improve and develop, and then our linebacker, Darryl Monroe, very smart, instinctive player that does a great job with our defense.  That is the opening statement, as captivating as it was.

Q.  Do you remember a time in another conference when there was such a good group of quarterbacks in one setting?
COACH LEACH:  I was trying to think.  There was a time in the Big 12 that there were a bunch of quarterbacks.  Well, let's see, in the SEC at one time it was Tim Couch, Peyton Manning, and Danny Warfel.  That was kind of impressive.

Q.  Who was in the Big 12?
COACH LEACH:  Then in the Big 12 there was a time, and the years kind of blend together.  But we had Graham Harrell.  We had Sam Bradford.  We had Missouri.  Chase Daniel at Missouri.  A&M you had McCoy at Texas, and then you had well, actually, depending if he'd blown his knee or not, you had Griffin at Baylor.  Anyway.  But to answer your question, I don't know that I've been around 10, where there are 10.  We have 10 returners here that are all fairly impressive.  I don't know that I've been around 10.  The thing is at that position, being the core position that the other players draw from, I think it helps maintain the identity of these teams so that they can build on it.  I think the conference already had a lot of depth to it.  From top to bottom it was probably the strongest conference, but I think the quarterbacks add even more to it.

Q.  What have you been up to?  A book tour?
COACH LEACH:  Yeah, book tour.  Did a little bit of that.  Wrote a book on Geronimo, leadership strategies of an American warrior, which has kind of been beneficial as far as the football effort because you're constantly thinking about what is greatness, how to create it, how to prepare for it, the mentality of it, which we went into some detail of that illustrated through Geronimo's life.  Anyone interested in that, go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  You can get it.  It's really a good book.  I had already studied a lot, but I learned a lot doing it.
My staff and I went fishing up in McCall, Idaho on the Snake River and got a huge 9.5 foot, 350 pound Sturgeon probably 95 years old.  Of course turned him loose so he could pull somebody else's boat around for a while next time.  Then my oldest daughter had a granddaughter, so we went to Atlanta for that.  Then went to Florida for a little bit, and on my way back from here we go to Bristol, Connecticut to do more of the same.  On the way back from that, my second daughter is getting married in Tulsa, so we'll hit that and be home for several days and be off running for camp.

Q.  On having an offseason training camp:
COACH LEACH:  It's probably a good idea.  Fall camp is not really the time to do that.  The best time to do that in one week that I read a lot, there is a book called "Wooden" by Steve Jamison, and I have kind of key players that I thought were thinking about too much.  I had made that required reading for some of them.  But the best time for required reading is kind of that January off‑season period.  Because if you're doing too much, it just gets‑‑ you've got academics going in the heat of the season.  So that January off‑season is when I put them on that type of thing.

COACH LEACH:  Well, I've never thought that was unrealistic just from the stand point I wouldn't be here if I thought it was.  The biggest thing though is you've got to worry about the day‑to‑day stuff.  Just improve each day, one day to the next and win one game a week.  But this winning one game a week gets better every day.  Play the next play it's just a series of mixed plays put together.  And if everybody maximizes their abilities and builds on that over and over, and you synchronize it easily as a team, then the score will take care of itself.

COACH LEACH:  I guess there is a lot.  But win one game a week.  How about that?

Q.
COACH LEACH:  I think two days maybe.  I'm not sure.  Somebody has the answer to that.  It's not a secret hidden thing.  I think it's two days longer though.

COACH LEACH:  Yeah, I thought it was good.  Get back to the basics and the fundamentals.  Our team gets to be in dorms together, where on campus they're scattered around.  They get to be in the dorms together, and then also the food is really good, but it's kind of old school.  We take yellow school buses to the middle school and practice on basically the type of practice field they all grew up on and develop our fundamental skills.

Q. On the bowl game’s impact:
COACH LEACH:  Well, it's the first bowl they've gone to for 10 or 12 years.  I think it cracks the door open on what our potential is.  The biggest thing we need to do is the same things over and over again just do it a little better.  I think our entire team thinks our season overall could have been better, so now we need to take all the things we learned from last year and improve on it this year.

Q.  On Connor Halliday at quarterback for another year:
COACH LEACH:  The biggest thing, and he's a very talented guy, and he's steadily improved and with a young supporting cast ended up fourth in the country in passing.  So clearly he's one of the best quarterbacks in the entire nation like the debates and media faces.  You might be rooting for your guy, and I don't care what you think, he's better than your guy is.  And I think the biggest thing is we have all our receivers back.  We're not going to have the smallest O‑line in the league this year.  We're going to average about 310 [pounds] and be a little more athletic.  Now we're going to have three red‑shirt freshmen starting, but we're going to be bigger and more athletic.
But I think the biggest thing is the more they play together and get used to what the guy next to them is doing and where you really multiply your efforts is where you have guys that started some games, played a couple seasons.  Then in the back of the line between reps, the older guys can work with the young guys so you have more voices; three and four, what you're doing and what you're trying to coach, and that helps things take off.  The most important role that he has is to make the players around him better.  The more he knows the players around him and they know him, the easier that is.  So I think that will be the biggest improvement.

Q.  On the biggest turnover on the team:
COACH LEACH:  I think the biggest is the offensive line because they're new faces.  But they've had a really good spring and getting better all the time.  They don't have a ton of game reps, but they're big, athletic people.  So there will be some growing pains.  But they are a talented group and we're excited to break them out this year.

COACH LEACH:  No, not stunned.  I mean, anytime you're in a competitive situation there's going to be people that rise up.  The biggest thing is Luke Falk had a great off‑season and spring, and that's just a byproduct of that.  Everybody's trying to find their space and their place where they can play.  So Luke did a tremendous job.

Q.  On the competition for starting spots on the roster:
COACH LEACH:  No question.  In any case you try to come it competitive.  But in that case, you play eight receivers, you play one quarterback.  So in that there is limited space, and it happened everywhere.

Q.  On renewing scholarships:
COACH LEACH:  I think they should have done it a long time ago.  You mean‑‑ wrong notion in my head.  I thought you meant five years of eligibility is what I was thinking. No, I like renewing the one year.  If they don't behave and hold the team lineup to your standards, I think you should have the leeway.  It's funny.  With all this dialogue on “make everybody a professional” and stuff like that, which I don't know which side of the coin you're on, and the thing is there are 900 sides to that coin, and I think that's the problem right now.
But I think you should have to perform each year, and if you do, you renew your scholarship, but there have been few I haven't renewed.  Right on the papers it says felony, or kicked out of school, obviously, you're getting a scholarship for what?  Being in Folsom Prison, that would be a little difficult.

Q.  What is the next step for Connor?  Where do you want to see him develop?
COACH LEACH:  Just keep doing the same things over and over.  Do it better, and just keep working.  If he keeps working and they become familiar with each other, they'll get better and better at working together.

Q.  How about the quarterback, can you tell us anything about the fall?
COACH LEACH:  Not really.  Not really.  I mean, it gives us less depth, but it clarifies things and you're not dealing with reps. They compete for it and you're not dealing off the reps, so he will get more reps as a result of that.  The negative is we have less depth.  The positive is you'll end up with more reps as a result.

COACH LEACH:  We'll find out.  We'll find out.  Ball comes off his hands, great feet, getting bigger.  Every time I've seen him, he's grown more.  His dad's a pretty big guy too.  So, yeah, we're excited about him.

Q.  On USC’s scholarship troubles:
COACH LEACH:  I don't know.  Not very much.  How many scholarships were they down?  Four?
I guess it doesn't make a difference on ten more guys divided by 500 players.  That means not very much.  I don't think it will make much of a difference, I really don't.  Because they've already had a huge appeal.  The other thing is you can get it done with limited numbers providing you select the right guys.  Then them getting first pick in a lot of cases.  I don't know how big of a hit that was depth‑wise probably.

Q.  On not subbing if a player is tired to prevent injury:
COACH LEACH:  Oh, yeah, that's total foolishness.  The funniest thing is I don't think anybody buys that notion either.  I don't think anybody else believes it.
I'm pretty well documented on that.  It's kind of a dead subject because, long story short, they want to manipulate the game around their philosophy, and they're hiding behind that to do that.  So far it's been ineffective.  Quite frankly they're probably a higher incidence of injury if you have guys with white knuckles and high hats trying to set up and tee off on somebody than it is with everybody hurrying and scurrying around.
The other thing I've always felt fascinating on that is somebody starts, I guarantee you, the second team guy would probably like to play.  So if your guy is so tired, which I don't believe he is, but if he is, sub for him.  We've played defense on defense all last year because you know why?  That's how deep we were.  We were one deep.  That's as many guys as I had.  Well, they played all year.  Did they get tired?  Damn right.  But you know the solution to that?  Play the second team guys, and then the solution to that is if they get tired, play the third team guys.  If they get tired, fire your strength coach.  It's about as simple as that.

Q.  Do you feel you've had a decent amount of time coaching now in the league where your defense has?
COACH LEACH:  Oh, no.  They have time to sub in.  Balls go out of bounds.  They have all kinds of time.  It's just a bunch of self‑serving linemen, that's the way it is.  And that is the best way.

Q.  On players adding weight:
COACH LEACH:  They're doing good.  A faster, more powerful guy than you think.  I think he's going to have a great career and then the other thing is like I said, we've red‑shirted a lot of guys that were good from my sport, definition, some are going to be out starters.  I had some input on some of it.  I've been in some bigger, better than I expected.  It's the biggest locker room I've ever been in.  It's the biggest weight room I've ever been in.  It's the best football operation complex I've ever been in.  This one's got this, that one's got that.  Plus it's right in the middle of camp.  They toured you through it.  What did you think?  Can you think of anything better than this hit and miss thing?  Well, that's probably why.

Q.  Does that make a difference on game day?
COACH LEACH:  On game day?  Well, I don't know.  Statistics are a funny thing.  I imagine it could go either direction.  It might.  You know, the loudest stadium I've ever played in was 45,000 people at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas.  The entire thing is concrete.  It's like dropping a ball bearing in the neighbor's basement.  Just the whole thing echoes.  Anything you say or do echoes five times.  Well, five times 45,000 is almost 250,000.  It's really loud.  Of course everybody wants their stadium to be the loudest.  All those people want their stadium to be the loudest.
When Arkansas used to play, it wasn't as loud as War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas.  But, yeah, I imagine.  Then there are other places that are quieter and have a lot of people and somehow the noise doesn't hold.  But we've been regarded as a relatively loud environment.  Of course, anytime you're the home team, that's hard to gauge.  But when I coached at Oklahoma, I thought, yeah, it's pretty loud.  Then when we played against Oklahoma, I realized it was really loud.

Q. On working in Wyoming:
COACH LEACH:  Thought it was good.  Learned a lot about defense.  I think it really helped me offensively.  I worked with an incredible guy named Ray Adams, who is literally the most caring people I've ever dealt with.  He was a great guy to work with.  A great example of a person.  It was kind of a transitional period in my career, so I knew I was going to move on.
But, you know, just because of the nature of the resources and configuration of junior colleges, he'd have kids everywhere and living everywhere.  The other thing is you'd be recruiting and cutting deals and having kids come in a week into camp.  You'd be a week into camp and somebody would show up.  Of course they'd run off about as fast as they'd show up too.  The complexity of your team from one year to the next would change quite quickly.
But it was a good place.  It was funny.  Everybody talks about everybody wants to win the weather battle.  I'm proud to say I had a bet with a guy from Chicago who said Chicago is windier and colder than Wyoming.  But Wyoming dominated them.  Our weather is way windier and colder than them, and it heats like this too.  Everybody wants to be in a battle for the most uncomfortable as well.  You know, he'd go home and we'd have roadrunners running around our field.  Actual roadrunners.  They're about this high.  Their joints and legs go about as high as the guy on a cartoon.  Then running around our field, our mascot was a roadrunner.  You know, you'd go home that night and guy would say hottest place in the nation today, Phoenix, Arizona, 112°.  Well, I drove by the bank all day and it said 123 in Palm Desert, California.  Then you go to the mall and there is a T‑shirt.  On the T‑shirt there are two skeletons laying there dead next to a cactus, right and one skeleton says to the other skeleton, yeah, but it's dry heat, you know?  So it's the hottest place I've ever coached.
COACH LEACH:  Where are you from?  Oh, you're in Nashville, yeah, that's a little tough.  That's a developed skill.  It takes some time.  Here's one thing.  Not knowing where each is from, it's a great place, a very beautiful place.  Also in Atlanta there might be snow.  Macon might be good weather.  It's not very far apart.  It's right in between there is a period of time where these gnats get all over your face and they bite.  And the Macon crowd is funny.  They can sit there like nothing's happening.  There would be gnats all over just biting the hell out of your face, and they just‑‑ it doesn't even bother them.  You're going like even down in Valdosta, because the gnats rarely got too hot, I guess.  And then finally this one high school coach, as I'm recruiting there, he says try this.  Now I have big old fat lips, so it didn't work very good.  But he could fire up a little puck, kind of blow the gnats off, then they had Skin So Soft, which is big, and I don't know what that is, but evidently gnats don't like it.  They rub that all over.  But it looked kind of oily, you know?  What I think is the gnats don't care about it, but it probably puts a little sheet of oil on there so it's harder to bite you.  You don't feel the bite.  That's just one guy's theory.  I'm sure I'm wrong.

Q.  Is Valdosta hotter?
COACH LEACH:  That's a fascinating question.  Now Valdosta is hotter, yes.  And Valdosta is hotter yet, and you're right by the Okefenokee Swamp.  And alligators and water moccasins and great fun by all.  Go ahead.

Q.  What are some of the advantages of playing at home?
COACH LEACH:  Always fun to play at home.  You're familiar with your routine, and I'm excited about the commitment our schools have had, our fans have had as far as putting together the new facility more than we have in the past we get to bring the show right there to Pullman, Washington.  It's a tough, mean, nasty place to play.  I can't guarantee anyone's survival there, but they have to come there anyway.

Q.  What if you have to travel to cover your games?
COACH LEACH:  Okay, what do you want?  I can get you all the information.

Q.  Where do you go on a Friday night before the game?
COACH LEACH:  There are a lot of good places.  Black Cypress is kind of fancier, but every place is fabulous.  So that's one thing.  Every place is casual.  Black Cypress in Pullman is good.  Right up the street is a little Mexican restaurant and I go there a lot.  It's called Chaparrita Taqueria, okay, which is awesome.  Then there is a place called Sangria's in Moscow which is only eight miles away.  It takes you ten minutes to get to Moscow.  Sangria's is awesome.  Some of the best barbecue I've ever had is a place called CD's BBQ in Moscow.  I mean, there are places all over.  Other stops in between.  Because I worked in the media for two years, and you're going to want a few places like that.  You'll have to call me ahead of time and I'll get you some restaurants.

COACH LEACH:  I don't think so.  We can test it.  But what I'm thinking is we get a large bag and we stick in Coach Petersen, Coach Whittingham, and we shake that bag up really high and really hard.  That will be a tough guy to walk out of the bag on, I think.

Q.  On “super” conferences:
COACH LEACH:  I think BYU needs to scramble and get into one of those conferences.  They just need to get in.  Cincinnati, I know is a little different.  Cincinnati's kind of a computer school.  But BYU is a campus, you have money on campus or near campus, draw 65,000 people.  Has a tremendous history and tradition.  That's not taking anything away from Cincinnati, and I am more familiar with BYU.  But anyway you measure it, high academic school, reasonably high academic school.  Large university, 30,000 some people.  65,000 come to their games.  They need to get one of those conferences.  Because if they don't get one of those conferences, and I don't know what the future is going to hold, it's very up and down and a series of knee‑jerk reactions and who knows when the dust settles.
But they need to get one of those conferences.  There was a time where it was a safer bet to be independent when these conferences were bigger and they didn't play as many conference games.  But that's kind of past because so many in‑conference games nowadays.  I think they need to get into one of the bigger conferences.

Q.  I read your book.  It was great.  Should we understand your coaching philosophy better by reading that?
COACH LEACH:  Well, I don't know about that.  But I do think I learned a lot studying Geronimo, and I learned a lot from my players.  You have a great diverse background, 125 people from different backgrounds, all kinds of coaches.  You have the opportunity to learn from a lot of people, and historical figures the same way.  I've learned a lot from Geronimo, and I've read a lot about him over the years.  So I think in the course of that some of it rubs off.
Yeah, I hope my players see the world a little like Geronimo as far as conditioning and expecting to be successful, achieving greatness.  Not being surprised when you have a high level of success and do things that other people didn't think you could, because you're trained for it.  You worked for it.  Shouldn't be too surprising, you know?

Q.  He never took a knee?
COACH LEACH:  No, he was not a take‑a‑knee guy.

Q.  unknown
COACH LEACH:  I don't know him really well.  Met him several times, always liked him.  Mainly met him at coach's gatherings.  I don't know him really well.
COACH LEACH:  I don't think so.  Because you know no disrespect to him, but that has been amped up for a long time.  I don't think I had anything to do with amping it up.  I think it's been a high level.  A meaningful game for both schools, and you know I think both schools have quality players, quality staff.  I think it will be an exciting run this year.  The last two games have been really exciting the other will be a war, and first team to lose will be contested in the end, and we came up a little short.  I'd like to think if we played another five minutes, we would have won.  But they don't let you play another five minutes.

Q.  On Oregon:
COACH LEACH:  I think they're really good.  We were talking about that before.  I think it's really impressive.  A lot of the identity of your team, the offense is drawn from the quarterback because he gets to talk.  So they have the leadership and the presence of that guy back I think is going to make the Pac‑12 teams execute at awe higher level than if those teams were transitioned.  I can't say that I can think of a time when there were 10.  I can think of a time when the SEC was loaded with quarterbacks.  I can tell you when the Big 12 was loaded with quarterbacks, but I am other not sure I can put together ten.  It's going to be a fun year.

Q.  Dallas Cowboys in Arlington for eight games, what more can you do?
COACH LEACH:  I don't know.  Dallas Cowboys have six of them?

Q.  Six games including a title game.
COACH LEACH:  It's a heck of a stadium.  We used to play Baylor in there every year.

Q.  That's one of the games?
COACH LEACH:  Yeah, my favorite games are at home.  I think if you play there every year I think it's best when you play the same opponent there every year.  In our case we're playing an out of conference team there.  Which Seattle, you can tell by all the flags around.  I mean, sure there are some flags laying around, but there are way more blue flags.  You get the opportunity to play at the Seahawks stadium, which is an incredibly nice facility.  In some of these places where they do that you might take a back seat on facilities.  Not Cowboys Stadium, not Seahawks stadium.  It is nice to bring it closer to some of the fans, but in something like we always play the same team there every year, I think that would be good.

Q.  On the Wave The Flag tradition:
COACH LEACH:  I've heard of that.  That's not an action.  That's a tradition and an organized effort.  You'll see them at the Masters, the World Cup.  It's a great tradition.  If you have an incredible mascot, you want to share it with people.  But they tell you if you're a Cougar and you don't want to feel bad, instead you take the flag out and show everybody.

Q.  On returners:
COACH LEACH:  Well, we have a lot of starters back.  I felt like everybody elevated their play.  We had six guys come that were the most I've ever had.  Usually 0 to 2, and those six I thought made the most out of their time, and some of those guys are going to contribute to us this year.  Really it was just kind of the improvement.  Because with just a few exceptions, we were all pleasantly surprised how much we get through.

Q.  On differences in expectations:
COACH LEACH:  Not a lot different.  But just I think as the team's expectation raises, their expectations of themselves are going to raise, so I think you can go even further.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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