Mike Leach doesn’t look like a man whose team is on the verge of breaking out. His demeanor more closely matches that of a college professor.
This will be the third year for Washington State with Leach at the helm. The Cougars haven’t had a winning season since 2003. The team came within a game of that mark last year, and it has a good chance to improve on that this season.
Yet Leach, something of an offensive savant, was more interested in talking about his summer. Not how he has prepared for the upcoming season this summer. Just his summer.
He wrote a book on the leadership style of Geronimo and toured the country to promote it. His daughter had a child. Another is getting married. He went to Idaho with his coaching staff to go fishing.
“Got a huge nine-and-a-half foot, 350-pound sturgeon,” he said. “Of course, turned him loose so that he could pull somebody else’s boat around for a while next time.”
The program seems to be nearing a turning point. The school invested $61 million for new football facilities. It has a quarterback who put up numbers better than almost anyone in the country last season. It reached its first bowl game in years.
And Leach, one of the more interesting characters in the conference, hasn’t changed at all.
Football-wise, the Cougars should continue to develop. They have perhaps the best and deepest receiving corps in the conference. This year, the offensive line won’t be the Pac-12’s smallest, though they do plan on starting three redshirt freshmen. And Leach believes quarterback Connor Halliday is as good as anyone.
“Wherever you’re from, you might be rooting for your guy,” Leach said. “I don’t really care what you think, he’s better than your guy is.”
Last year, Washington State opened the season by nearly beating Auburn and then actually beating USC in week two. That, Halliday said, “was huge for us.”
The next step in the progression is to have more wins than losses. Leach said he thinks it’s reasonable that they can be in contention to win the Pac-12 North, though he said he never thought it was unrealistic.
Anyway, Leach has a different goal for his team.
“Win one game a week,” Leach said. “How about that?”