Mike Leach jumped on a conference call this afternoon, giving a State of the Union type address ahead of spring practice. The Cougars hit the field tomorrow, beginning a month-long practice schedule leading up to the spring game -- though there is one practice following the event in Spokane. Washington State will practice on Tuesday and Thursday, with scrimmages taking place every Saturday except the first (scrimmage dates subject to change).
Just before the conference call, the spring roster was released, as well. Skylar Stormo is no longer on the roster, though that was the only surprise on the first run-through. A few other names are missing, including C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi, but nothing quite unexpected.
Leach expects to have the offense fully installed within the first four days. Instead of using a playbook, most of the work is done on video, with players watching cut-ups of certain formations and plays all in one nice and tidy package. They're already at work learning the system, and will start putting it into practice right away.
"It's kinda like once you learn the alphabet," Leach said. "You write a lot."
And that basically sums up his philosophy on practice and drilling plays. Once things are installed, they'll drill and drill, then drill a little more. The inherent advantage of his simple system is that it allows the team to out-rep the opponent. The offense can rep a small set of plays day and night, sharpening its skills, and should be more polished as a result.
There will be an open quarterback competition, with Connor Halliday and Jeff Tuel both working with the ones -- about a 50-50 split that could change depending on the day, Leach said. The younger guys will get reps and looks, as well. In the spring, Leach runs two passing skellys, keeping an eye on one and watching tape on the other after practice. There will be plenty of work for all the quarterbacks on the roster, and all will get many reps.
The goal for spring is to get a look at all the players, figure out what the staff has and work from there. The quarterback competition is the obvious one, but Leach is also taking a look at everyone, and evaluating everything as the practice sessions kick off. There's an adjustment period, and he expects to know more pretty quickly as practices get underway.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 3-4 front Mike Breske brings will play a large role, but Leach was also interested in multiple fronts. Travis Long received plenty of praise as a versatile athlete that can do a lot of things in the system. He may move around from play-to-play, showing different looks at different times throughout a game.
The linebacking corps will look different, with Kaufusi and Mizell out and others working into the rotation. Leach said he's got some good bodies to work with and is excited to get a better look at them, too. This was a common theme in the press conference.
He also added this, on the blitzing philosophy: "It's like a raffle out there. One gets his number called and gets to fire away." As a linebacker, that's probably exciting to hear.
If you were wondering what's happening with the rumored HBO series starring Leach, he doesn't know anything more about it either. The crew was up for a few of the most boring days of the offseason, with the coaches moving into their offices and doing some housekeeping while cameras milled about. Leach did say it was interesting to talk to Peter Berg and the HBO crew, using it as a learning experience to pickup more about the production aspects while meeting people from all walks of life.
It's snowing in Pullman right now, a pleasant surprise to walk out to this morning, but the group will be outside no matter what. This led Leach off into a tangent about his first spring practice at Texas Tech, when he played a Braveheart clip before the players took the field. They were all amped up, then ran outside to hail, mud rain and awful weather. But because they were amped up and practicing well, nobody wanted to pull them off the field or stop practice.
Practice gets underway on Thursday at 3:10 p.m. Guessing they'll be outside no matter what.