When it comes to preparing players for the next level, Mike Leach couldn’t be more different than Nick Saban (or Kirby Smart, for that matter) in his sales pitch to recruits.
JM: As a collegiate coaching staff, how do you balance winning games with developing players for the next level?
ML: I pay no attention whatsoever to developing them for the next level. That’s somebody else’s job. Why would I care? We coach them the best that we can. We worry about putting them in the best positions they can be put in here at our school to accomplish the things that we need to accomplish. I do think it goes hand in hand though. I think if they’re in a good place and they get the proper coaching, then the better their chances are at the next level. We’re not gonna sit here and monkey around and worry about the next level. There’s no point in me sitting around trying to guess what they want at the next level. That would be a bunch of foolishness.
A lot of that can be chalked up to perspective, of course. Unlike Leach, Saban has coached in the NFL, and thus likely has a better feel for what the pros look for. That gives him a different message to sell recruits.
And that’s a second difference. Leach, up in Wazzou, doesn’t have the rich vein of talent that Saban has to tap into in assembling a recruiting class. Rather than accumulating gobs of talent with which to bludgeon opponents, Leach has to go out and find kids who best fit his system, however many stars they may have.
Ironically, there is one sales pitch Leach does have at his disposal, and it may indeed be another reason why he can be so dismissive of being a production factory for the NFL.
JM: I’m curious to get your overall thoughts on the NFL’s shift towards incorporating more spread principles on offense.
ML: It seems like they’re more conscious of how it could benefit their offense nowadays. I’ve been doing it since the beginning. Everywhere I’ve been, we’ve always spread it out. I guess we’re credited by a lot of people for kind of starting that. It’s reached the NFL level now. It’s just a more efficient way of playing football. It’s about attacking all the space available to you. I think it’s a very efficient approach.
No, he doesn’t have any rings to show for it, but there’s little doubt that the Air Raid has been one of the most influential offensive schemes to come down the turnpike in the last two decades. Maybe that’s what gives Leach the confidence to say, “I think if they’re in a good place and they get the proper coaching, then the better their chances are at the next level.”