Were you stuck at work during Pac-12 Media Day? Did you miss Mike Leach holding the auditorium in the palm of his hand? Are you curious about the hairstyles of Jeff Tuel and Travis Long? Good news! The Pac-12 has posted the full video of Washington State's media session on its YouTube channel.
As we noted earlier, Mike Leach got the Cougars' portion of the day started off on the right foot, deciding he didn't need a microphone and instead just yelling out his opening statement. Mike Leach does not care for your amplification devices and will do things his own way.
It's also Travis Long's birthday, as you all know by now. The emcee wished him a happy birthday -- his 21st! -- while also praising Jeff Tuel's bowling skills. Tuel was apparently the best bowler the night before, so if a game ever comes down to a bowl-off, Washington State is golden.
The hunting part begins around 15:00 and the Civil War general part is at about 16:30.
JEFF TUEL: I'm healthy, 100% healthy, hand it off to Coach Price.
COACH LEACH: On behalf of Coach Price, we want him accurate. He's got to make good decisions and the single and most important thing that a quarterback does is make the players around him better. He's a guy that he pulls the trigger and distributes the football and the better he distributes the football the better the overall offensive effort is going to be. The ability -- it doesn't matter if you run the option or throw the ball, the quarterback that distributes the ball and makes the decision at that point on what to do when, those are the best ones.
Also, I think some level of presence about it are going to pull guys together and accelerate the work ethic in the off-season and during practice on the field and I think Jeff does a tremendous job of that.
Q. Coach, I heard that you went bear hunting with Mike Polowski a few weeks ago, so you're getting an introduction of how Pullman is different, can you give us an idea on how Lubbock and Pullman are different?
COACH LEACH: Mike is a great guy, former Cal quarterback, anybody of you that can go bear hunting with him ought to. I don't think it changes as much as people think. Both places had a unique, special identity. I think you want to bring out the positive points of that. The thing that Washington State has that's truly unique, there is a lot of places out there talking about being college towns that really aren't the truest sense of the word and Washington State clearly is.
The exciting things that I remember from college is all of my experiences with my fellow students, some positive, some negative, but exciting nevertheless and I remember those to this day. Pullman allows you to have that opportunity and experience and with our athletic director, he has a proven body of work at Montana and other places where he has had a level of success.
One thing nowadays is just the direction of the university and I think that's huge at Washington State and one thing that is similar to Lubbock is there is a lot of people that have been to Los Angeles, for example, so they have a visual, at least initially.
There are a lot of people that hadn't been to Lubbock, Texas and there are a lot of people that haven't been to Pullman, Washington, and once they get there they love the place. They see the electricity and the atmosphere that exists there and that you have a specific identity that's special. So I think the key is getting them there and really I tell everybody they need to come to wait for all the same reasons that I did.
Q. Travis and Jeff, in listening to the players with new coaches earlier, did you feel like there needed to be a change at Washington State from the Paul Wolfe era and if so, what was that?
JEFF TUEL: Obviously I think a lot of people felt that the way, but Coach Wolf was doing a great job of recruiting, the program was at such a low when I came in as a freshman and he started working hard. I think Coach Leach would tip his hat to that. What this coaching staff has done with this program is, I think, safe to say something that the old coaching staff would never have done.
The level of confidence that they bring to this program and the level of excitement that they bring to the university is tremendous.
TRAVIS LONG: Sounded good.
Q. Coach, I know that the fan base up there at Washington State is, you know, it's not a fan base used to national championships, things like that, but yet there seems to be a lot of high built around this season. Are you feeling like you have to scale that back a little bit and say, "Hang on. Give me a couple of years." Or what are your thoughts on that?
COACH LEACH: I think you do the best you can and worry about stuff from one day to the next. I worry about developing our skills. You worry about what we can control. We can control our ability to improve, we can control how hard we work. We can control how hard we focus. I worry about that. That's all I can really control.
Expectations? Nobody expects more out of us than we do out of ourselves. I think with coaches and players it's more meaningful for us to do the best we can and manifest our actions the best we can.
If you do well, everybody is excited. I don't know that anybody -- it's possible for anybody to be more excited than coaches and players. If somebody is disappointed about something, maybe there is some article or some fan thinks they're disappointed because something didn't work out right, well they're out of their mind if they think it's evenly remotely close to the disappointment that exists with a coach and a player. So understanding that, I ignore that and worry about, you know, me doing the best I can as a coach, my players doing the best they can as players.
Q. Coach, you have coached a lot of receivers like Welker and Crabtree, how would you compare the core you have now to them.
COACH LEACH: I think when you talk about that, Marquess [Wilson] is explosive, he has long range, he can get to balls. When you say there is no way, that ball is overthrown, he'll get to it. And for a tall, angular guy he likes going in traffic. It reminds me if you watch it on film it looks like a pinball machine, this guy working his way through the obstacles and stuff like that.
So that's fun. I think the focus and work ethic that both Michael Crabtree and Wes Welker had was great and the work ethic this guy is showing is exciting.
Q. Coach, you were at BYU as a student. What can you maybe impart to quarterbacks, present and future, from your experience and also from your experience at Texas Tech?
COACH LEACH: Offensively we draw a lot from BYU and I think, you know, the challenge in football is packaging plays, not finding them. Everybody has good plays. If we passed around sheets of paper to this room, and there are some exceptions in here, I'm sure, but if we passed around pieces of paper in this room and said everybody draw the best play you've ever seen or something you think is a great play, I guarantee you there are some plays that are going to be good plays, indisputably, there is no question about that.
But the thing is as you select plays and stuff like that, package 'em up, how you attack the whole field. I know BYU was a good example for us, years ago, starting at Iowa Wesleyn. BYU was a big influence on that. And as far as quarterbacks go, a team is not just a quarterback, it has a number of resources on it. The better you can do at utilizing all those resources I think is key. And then a lot of the thoughts and philosophies we have borrowed from BYU, back
went through there.
Q. Talk about the transition going from Coach Wolf to learning to swing the sword with Coach Leach.
TRAVIS LONG: Easy transition, the coaches came in and explained their philosophies. As players we latched on to that because we want to be successful this year and we know we need their help and support to get that.
JEFF TUEL: He made it easy. Made it known that, listen, you're here to play football and that's it. If you aren't committed to that, then you can leave and he made an example out of a few guys and opened some people's eyes and said, "He's not messing around here," and we need to do get our stuff together and get with the program and it was easy to do.
Q. Jeff, what was it like kind of going through the offense for the first time and is it like a dream, being able to get readied to start this season with a wide-open offense like you have now?
JEFF TUEL: Yeah, it was actually surprisingly easy to get a grasp on the offense and learning the playbook is just the hard part. It's learning what to do with the football and when in Coach Leach's eyes, and you want to get the ball off as quick as possible and that's been my biggest learning curve and building my relationship with my receivers and getting on the same page with them.
It's obviously exciting and I know the past history the quarterbacks have had in his system and I don't want to put too much pressure or thought into it. I'm not going into the season saying I'm going to throw for 5,000 yards because I've got to do a lot of stuff in order for that to happen. I've got work to do and I have to get to know this offense better and continue to work to make that happen.
I don't put too much thought or pressure on myself with regard to that.
Q. Coach, what coach in the conference would make the best hunt and fishing partner for you to go on a trip with?
COACH LEACH: Good question. Let's think about that carefully because we don't want to get this one wrong. Rich Rodriguez has spent a lot of time in West Virginia so potential rub-off there. I'm not as familiar with -- let's see, I have it down to a playoff, Rich, and Kyle Whittingham is definitely a good one, Colorado, I'm not so sure what his hunting skills are.
I'm going to give the nod to Kyle. He's sandwiched between a bunch of mountains, surrounded by them, and he's been there for a while and he's a tenacious guy. So I think that if you were to go hunting in Utah, Kyle would be the key guy to have around.
Q. We have a fan question from Twitter and Facebook. Which military leaders or generals would you compare Jeff and Travis to?
COACH LEACH: Jeff and Travis, let me think about this. I'm more of a Civil War guy of the wars, if I were to select wars. Let me think here. You know, I would have to say that Jeff would be a little more like Stonewall Jackson, gets ahold of the play, attacks from different angles. The cavalry is over here, no, we're here, he's not afraid to split the force and attack from different angles.
Travis is more of a Ulysses S. Grant guy. He's in the trenches and if requires bombarding for a month, he's fully prepared to do it, he's going to guard the river, going to bombarded them till they bust providing he keeps his pads low and we're going to focus on that, right? And just, according the bombardment will be shorter and just bash, bash, but quieter guy. So, you know, just kind of steady. Quiet, steady persistence, I guess that's how I would split it up.
Q. Travis, what do you expect to improve the team defensively and what new schemes or influences, or something from General Grant might help as far as getting a better defense this year?
TRAVIS LONG: We want to force our turnovers this year. Bring in pressure and just work hard to force turnovers. That is something that will help our defense.
Q. Jeff, what's the biggest difference between you as a quarterback from a year ago to right now, sitting up there?
JEFF TUEL: You know I would just say my confidence level in myself. After not playing a lot last year I learned continuously. I feel like I can learn something from any given situation and things happen for a reason.
So although last year I wasn't able to play, I still took a lot out of it, I'm a confident, smarter player and I feel like I'm more prepared for this year, feel a lot more confident going into this year.
Q. Coach, earlier today Todd Graham came in today and he said when he immersed himself in film he was surprised how under rated the Conference was and I thought this was a guy at ground zero that had these feelings. Are those inter conference games the best way to make a case about how good football is out here?
COACH LEACH: I've never really thought the Pac-12 has anything to prove. That whole argument is ridiculously self-serving. If you're an SEC person, you know, they're going to beat the drum on the SEC, when I was in the Big 12, everybody thought the Big 12 was the best conference. Big 10 does the same thing, the ACC will have a couple of teams on top and then -- well, the Big East would but that argument didn't get quite the credibility until -- then of course they defected to the ACC.
But I think it's a hollow thing, wherever you are at you deal like you're the best conference, you go out and play, do your job and if you win your conference then they're going to tee it up in bowl games or in the playoffs. Now, we have four teams that will be in the playoffs, and that reveals itself there, you know, to a point.
Now, bowl games are a unique thing. You get a lot of cross conference but you get teams that have sat on the shelf for a month, month and a half. College football is really the only sport where something of significance is played a month and a half away from the regular season. I think that creates an artificial quality to it in some fashion, and it can manifest itself in a variety of ways.
I don't care. If we're the Pac-12 -- I don't care what the other conferences think. I think exposure is always important so if you have a good product that the fans can share in and get excited about, I think the Pac-12 Network will do that. Quite frankly there is not really any level that I care what the other conferences think.
I worry about the task at hand, which is being the best we can, playing the best we can against whoever the opponent is that week, you know?
Q. Coach, you had an extremely successful graduation rate at Texas Tech. Will you use the same tactics and instill the same thing here at Washington State?
COACH LEACH: There is no question about it, At Texas Tech for several years we had the highest graduation rate of any public institution and any team in the top-25 and we took pride in that and started from having one of the lowest.
When I got there we were on academic probation. But academics you can compete in, too, and you spend a lot of your time working with your players to be competitive people. Then the other thing, the difference between being at a university for four or five years and leaving with a degree or without a degree, that degree is not that huge. You're there anyway.
I think with encouragement, I think with proper tutors, properly teaching and occasionally proper pressure, a lot of it is the consciousness of keeping track of it and making it something that the group takes pride in, then I think graduation rates go up. I think that once you get a class or two that believes that way, it's when you get juniors and seniors that believe in having high graduation rate, GPA that all of the sudden it becomes a little more risky for freshman and sophomores to risk classes and tutor appointments because they want to be viewed as well as their older teammates go. When that becomes part of the core belief of the team then the efforts to accomplish that duplicate themselves.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.