Mike Leach Leaves Washington State After Eight Seasons
After losing both the Apple Cup and the Cheeze-It-Bowl to finish the season, Mike Leach is out. He’s de-committed from his extension to 2024 (do agreements mean anything in college football?) and he’s off to Mississippi State.
Though his 6 and 7 season in 2019 wasn’t perfect, he was still heralded as one of the greatest coaches in Washington State history. He led the Cougars to five straight bowl games and an incredible 11 and 2 season in 2018. But, the bright lights of the SEC stole Leach away. What does his new tenure mean for both him and WSU?
What Leach Brings to Mississippi State
When it comes to Mike Leach, people love him for three reasons: wins, offense, and personality.
In each of his ten seasons with Texas Tech, Mike Leach’s teams had winning records. Additionally, they won five out of nine bowl games. Then, he took his Air Raid offense and winning to WSU.
After a large drought, Mike Leach finally brought back winning seasons to Washington State. In fact, he led the Cougars to four consecutive winning seasons, most notably an 11 and 2 2018 season, capped off with an Alamo Bowl victory. Leach took an aimless program and turned it into a competitive one.
His coaching record of 139-90, including taking over the hapless Cougars, displays his talent.
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Most notably, Mike Leach brings the Air Raid offense with him wherever he goes. His concepts pushed heavy passing offenses and were always near or at the top of the NCAA. His Texas Tech teams led the NCAA in passing five times, while his Washington State Cougars led four times. Astounding.
With his fast-paced offense, he’ll look to utilize the SEC’s level of recruiting talent to his advantage. He’ll have his work cut out for him against SEC opponents, but his offense is sure to bring frustration for defensive coordinators as well.
It’s no surprise that the press adores Mike Leach. Although they don’t always agree with him, they love to cover him. Few coaches bring a level of honesty, oddity and downright boldness in their press conferences. Leach is willing to say anything without thinking twice. Like him or hate him, he’s got a personality we can’t look away from. Now, with the move from Pullman to Starkville, his press coverage will boom.
What Leach Leaves Behind at Washington State
Though Mike Leach takes his Air Raid offense with him, he still leaves behind pieces. Yes, we’ve talked about this offense as the “Mike Leach Air Raid Offense” many times. However, with the obvious exception of Anthony Gordon, many players are already familiar with the offensive scheme. If Pat Chun decided to someone from the Mike Leach coaching tree or a pass-friendly coach, WSU could utilize the personnel already set up for an Air Raid offense.
“I believe coach Leach has left us in great shape,” Chun said. “Based on what he took over and what’s here now, this is not a rebuild anymore at Washington State. We will and need to go find the right person that’s going to add to this program.”WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun
Additionally, Leach brought Washington State out of embarrassment and into relevance. Though his recruiting classes were always at the bottom of the Pac-12, Leach brought winning back to WSU. In eight seasons, he ranks third in wins by a WSU head coach. Additionally, he is the only coach to lead Washington State to five-straight bowl games. That prominence is not without appreciation for Pullman football.
How Washington State can Improve without Mike Leach
While losing Mike Leach is a huge chasm, there are two major areas of growth where Leach lacked: Apple Cups wins and recruiting.
Seven Straight Apple Cup Losses
“They do the same thing year in and year out. So it makes it really easy to game plan when an offense does the same thing every year.”Jimmy Lake
Even with all of his success at Washington State, Mike Leach couldn’t get past the Huskies. They continued to best his teams in the Apple Cup and thwart any Pac-12 title run. Most of that, according to Jimmy Lake’s repeated mentions, is due to the fact that Leach runs the same offense each year. With that understood, it was simple for a top defensive coordinator like Lake to game plan against Washington State.
Now that Leach is gone, Washington State has the chance to upset UW. With new coaching and play-calling, they can give Lake a run for his money. Show him different schemes, run different plays and become unpredictable. Will upsets be easy? Of course not. But, it’s not like Leach has given Washington much of a fight anyway.
Bottom of the Pac-12 Recruiting
One would think that after an 11 and 2 season, recruiting would be excellent. But, in 2019, WSU ranked dead-last in the Pac-12. According to 247sports, WSU’s recruiting under Mike Leach never cracked the top-seven of the Pac-12.
- 2012: 12th in Pac-12, 58th Nationally
- 2013: 10th in Pac-12, 50th Nationally
- 2014: 8th in Pac-12, 53 Nationally
- 2015: 8th in Pac-12, 42nd Nationally
- 2016: 10th in Pac-12, 56th Nationally
- 2017: 9th in Pac-12, 44th Nationally
- 2018: 9th in Pac-12, 46th Nationally,
- 2019: 12th in Pac-12, 66th Nationally
- 2020: 11th in Pac-12, 61st Nationally
Though Leach put the blame on recruiting on Washington State, he’s a large part of that recruiting. Chris Petersen and Jimmy lake have repeatedly been praised for successful recruiting classes. But, that wasn’t something Leach could do. Granted, they were recruiting for the University of Washington in Seattle and not recruiting for Pullman. But still, Leach couldn’t bring Washington State into the upper echelons of Pac-12 recruiting and that is something new administration can improve on.
Mike Leach Judged Without Excuses
Now that Leach is out of the Pac-12, out of Pullman and into the SEC, he has no excuses for his recruiting classes. He can’t hide behind the lack of talent excuse anymore. Currently, Mississippi State’s 2020 class ranks 27th in the nation. If their recruiting tanks, that falls solely on him. He hasn’t proven himself as a quality recruiter so far in his career and he will face harsh judgment in the SEC.
Additionally, Leach is going to get burned at the stake if he loses seven straight to Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss. Chris Petersen and Jimmy Lake out-coached Leach for seven straight Apple Cups. Even with those brutal losses, Washington State was still on his side and extended him until 2024. However, Mississippi State and Egg Bowl losses won’t give him the same leash. He’s going to be judged quickly and with nothing held back. It’s time to see who the real Mike Leach is.
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