Mike Leach held his first press conference of the "season" with fall camp just about 24 hours away. It was tame and business like, perhaps a sign of the work that lies ahead. Leach, as he always does, drove the conversation in the direction he wanted, often steering things towards football, his thoughts on game-planning and practice.
To open the press conference, Leach was asked about Raymond Ford. He said he could not comment on reports about Ford joining the team, which probably means that paperwork hasn't been signed and nothing is official. On Tuesday, reports emerged indicating Ford was heading to Pullman and would join the team for this season. However, financial aid papers and getting things squared away take time.
Fall camp, and the whole season really, will be about fundamentals and evaluating what he's got.
"You earn your job every day," Leach said. "The starting lineup is going to be based on performance, not how many years you play, how old you are or how many stars you had as a freshman. I didn't know anything about those stars when I recruited them, so that doesn't have an impact now that they're here."
Depth was a concern Leach kept coming back to, saying "Our first-level guys I feel pretty good about. By the same token, you want to get guys reps, get guys established and comfortable with what they're doing."
He added, "We need depth pretty much everywhere. There's always gonna be spots for depth, unless somebody overtakes a position in the starting lineup. That doors certainly open based on how they perform."
Game-planning won't begin in earnest until about a week before the BYU game. The rest of the time will be spent honing skills, working on fundamentals and figuring out what the depth chart will look like. The coaching staff will following a similar schedule for most of the season, so it's not as though BYU is getting months of attention.
"I don't think you sit and game plan three months for one game, then six days for the rest," Leach said while explaining how he prepares.
Leach got a bit philosophical when asked about what it's like dismissing players from the team. He said it's "never fun" and added that it forces him to take a look in the mirror and see what he could've done different. It's a last resort, and the feeling of failure coaches have when a player is let go forces some self-examination.
"You'd like to save everybody. That's why you're in coaching. You invest all time and effort to improve guys and make them the best you can," Leach said. "On a certain level, you feel a sense of failure as a coach. It becomes difficult because you see talent walk out the door.
"If you run into a situation, it's like if you have a problem with somebody's behavior. The first thing is can I change it? If you can't can you tolerate it? If you can't tolerate it, you have to get rid of them. It's just part of the deal. A lot of times, it's focus on this guy, focus on that guy. You've got to think about the other 120."
He did say he felt good about where the front seven is right now, even after the dismissals.
The quarterback competition, if we can even call it that, will probably only last a week. Leach said they want to get a look at guys and evaluate them, then start paring things down so the No. 1 will get about two-thirds of the reps and the No. 2 will get about one-third.
Leach did come to the realization that they'll have a lot of pass skeletons going, as well.
"You want to evaluate what you have -- and we'll have two pass skels going on every day. Then we'll have some freshmen work afterwards -- I guess we'll have three pass skels every day ... that's a lot of pass skels."
As far as freshmen go, if they crack the two-deep, they're not going to be redshirted. Otherwise, they'll probably sit the year, Leach said.
Overall, Leach seemed pretty upbeat about everything. He was excited about his coaching staff -- calling it the best he's ever had -- and the players, as well. He said he's "proud to be a part of the legacy Washington State has," but that "I'm not the savior of anything. I've got a great coaching staff and some great players to work with."
It was all business, but Leach was effusive in his praise of the coaching staff and players while also noting that the team needed depth. There were no great proclamations or guarantees of a conference championship, bowls or anything of the sort. Just a broad view of the task at hand as fall camp gets set to begin.
-- Leach does not know if HBO will be shooting a documentary in Pullman, saying he hasn't heard anything more but he'd be open to it.