It's always fun to listen to Mike Leach holding court during an interview. He is, perhaps, the easiest interview in the world. Give him a question and he'll meander into a lengthy answer, almost like a high-schooler responding to an essay prompt with less structure. That's why it's always a good idea to keep an eye out for any radio hits he does and make sure to try and catch the audio.
On Monday, Leach spent about 20 minutes with Ian Furness and Jason Puckett on KJR (podcast available here). He was humorous as always, but also got down to business and tackled some of the pressing questions. With two spring practices in the books and a few notable offseason roster changes, Leach had plenty to talk about.
Among the topics at hand, Leach spoke at length about the quarterback competition, had strong words of praise for Andrei Lintz, and explained a few of the dismissals from the last two months. And yes, he did address Sekope Kaufusi specifically, though we may be reading a bit much into his answer.
Some of the interview is transcribed after the jump, along with a bit of analysis.
About the quarterback competition, Leach had this to say:
Well, we'll have it down to two, for sure. We don't typically name a starter. I'm sure somebody's gonna come out of spring with a slight edge. If it were to happen today, it'd be Jeff Tuel. But we don't have to do it today. Because you want it competitive through the offseason. When we go through the first part of [fall], we're going to do the same thing we're doing right now. They'll go head to head and then after two weeks then we'll name a starter.
Crazy enough, Leach's thoughts on the quarterback competition between Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday match up with this. Don't freak out over Leach saying Tuel would be the starter today. Halliday opened the spring by taking a shot to the liver again, and sat out the second practice. He missed the reps and may also have to rest up and recover after taking the hit -- though, again, it's unlikely any injury he sustained was serious.
So yes, if WSU was playing tomorrow, Tuel would start -- somewhat of a necessity with Halliday dealing with whatever he's dealing with. I don't mean to minimize what Tuel's been doing, because he's looked very good in practice, but Leach isn't going to be tipping his hand any time soon.
On Monday, I included Andrei Lintz as a player to watch this spring. There was a reason: Lintz has been getting reps all over the place and lining up at just about any position imaginable. Leach seems to have an affinity for Lintz, and had the following to say on KJR:
We're gonna have him do all of it. We're gonna have the defense figure out whether or not they're gonna need to use a linebacker or a safety. It's like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. You know the really mean, greedy rich guy where somebody comes on his property and he says "release the hounds." And that's kinda what Andrei Lintz is. We're going to release the hounds.
It's hard to convey in words, but the way Leach said "release the hounds" sounded like he was talking dirty to me.
All that aside, Lintz figures to factor prominently in the offense this year and Leach confirmed what's starting to become obvious. With Lintz's size and athleticism, he adds another dimension to the offense, giving Leach another toy to play with.
Finally, Leach discussed the offseason problems.
I think it's been pretty good. We haven't really had ... yeah, I mean, I dismissed three guys. A couple of them were bad apples and one of them made a mistake. A serious mistake that was well over the line. There hasn't been this thing where you're panicking every time the phone rings. That really hasn't been a huge problem.
Two of the three were 'keep an eye on' guys. And then one guy was just one of those deals. One of those things that happen with guys between 18 and 23 years old.
It bothered me, in a way, to see Kaufusi dismissed from the team. Not because the rule was too harsh -- it was a rule made clear as day, and everyone knew it. Instead, it was just a kid who made a dumb mistake that doesn't reflect his actual character.
Kaufusi is a good guy. The first time I met him, he had an ear-to-ear smile after finishing up what was, for him, a good game. He's always been polite and well-spoken while never giving off the impression that it was all a front.
After talking to the media, Kaufusi scooped up his young child and wandered off with his girlfriend. It was a common sight -- Kaufusi was playing the game to support his child, and he adores the kid. Seeing him throw it all away because of a marijuana arrest was just a sad situation.
Back to the task at hand: when asked if the player that simply made a mistake could find his way back on the team, Leach hedged:
I think it's possible. I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball on that.
Asked again, this time with Sekope Kaufusi's name mentioned in the question, Leach thought for a moment and gave an answer that made it seem like the door was cracked open, if only slightly.
[pause] Yeah ... it'd be an extended period of time.
I still wouldn't read a whole lot into this. In no way does it mean Kaufusi will be running around in pads this week, next, or even during the spring. It doesn't even mean Kaufusi will be back at all. Leach didn't sound like a man who had made any kind of decision about whether or not Kaufusi could return or what conditions would have to be met in order for him to rejoin the team.
We'll ask for clarification after practice, but for now the question remains kind of open-ended. There's a discussion to be had about the rules and whatever decision may come next, but we'll cross that bridge when the time comes.
-- "When you consider how big and how long he is ... Travis Long, Travis Long (giggles like Beavis and Butthead)"
-- "I'll be a little disappointed if we don't have one practice out there in the snow"
-- "These guys up here are vikings ... They'll go out there in shorts and shirts. It doesn't phase them one bit."
-- "One night we were just trying to get familiar with the town, so my wife and I had gone to a movie. So we drive downtown and I'm just curious where my team and charges are hanging out. There's nothing downtown. Downtown's dead. So we drive up College Hill. As we're going up College Hill, shoot there's mini-skirts and hot pants everywhere. So I ask her 'what's the temperature?' I go, 'it's gotta be pretty warm out there, huh?' Thirty-seven degrees! Thirty-seven degrees! I don't what's in the water and exactly how tough these people are. Certainly they didn't need jackets to be necessary at 37 degrees."