Maryland fans have a lot of questions about Mike Leach, and rightfully so. Who better to ask those questions to than SBN's awesome Texas Tech blog, Double T Nation? Seth from DTN was kind enough to answer a few questions on what to expect from Capt. Leach in College Park (if he really is on the way down, which seems a foregone conclusion), touching on everything from defense to recruiting to his...eccentric personality.
Read on for an insider's view on Leach.
1. Almost everyone knows about Leach's system and the big numbers it invariably puts up. Unfortunately, Maryland runs almost the exact opposite scheme, a pro-style offense, so the learning curve is expected to be steep. How long did it take the system to take root at TTU and how were the Red Raiders in the meantime?
The last thing that I'd be worried about is the offense. I think there's the perception that the offense is incredibly difficult, but when Leach arrived at Texas Tech, he implemented his system and he never looked back. It's going to take some time, but I have no doubt that offensive success will happen sooner rather than later.
I'm sure there will be some issues with personnel, having enough receivers, and things like that, but the most important thing as far as Leach is concerned is if Maryland has a cerebral quarterback that is capable of making quick decisions. It doesn't matter if the quarterback has a strong arm or can throw a 15 yard out, it's about quick decisions. And I should also clarify, that Leach has utilized tight ends before, he's not afraid of using two running backs, but for the most part, every offensive snap is going to be out of the shot-gun formation. Get used to it.
[Ed's note: After reading this, I'm very confident Maryland has the personnel to run the Air Raid from Day One. Tons of talented WRs going about six-deep? Check. Tight ends and running backs? Check. "Cerebral quarterback"? Mega-check. Expect lots of yards.]
2. We've heard some horror stories about Leach's recruiting, most notably his distaste for it, and that combined with his recent press troubles is scary. Then again, he was going up against Texas, Oklahoma, and the other powerhouses of the Big 12 and his system doesn't really require top-notch athletes. Was his recruiting ever a problem at TTU, or did you guys just kind of learn to stop worrying about it?
It was slowly but surely improving the longer he was at Texas Tech. Yes, those rumors are out there about Leach not recruiting and it's tough for me to say what's true and what's not true. What we do know, is that Texas Tech has always struggled to recruit against Texas and Oklahoma, but if I had to guess, recruiting wasn't Leach's favorite part of the game. Leach always said that he did more with less talent at Texas Tech and there's no doubt that this is true. I don't know, but I don't believe that Leach is going to be a dogged recruiter, that he'll leave it up to his assistants to do the heavy lifting as far as recruiting is concerned.
3. Did Leach have any involvement defensively? Did he just find Ruffin McNeil and let him have free reign on the other side of the ball?
When McNeill was named as the defensive coordinator, the relatively big story that came out at that time was that there had previously been no hitting during practice. When McNeill assumed the defensive coordinator spot I think McNeill let Leach know that the team needed to be more physical in practice. This of course falls right in line with how Hal Mumme ran practices, which is not necessarily by hitting or tackling, but by repetition. Obviously, there's the thought that by repetition, a defense can know where they need to be, while alternatively, the other argument is that the defense has to practice tackling.
Once the team finally started to practice tackling, the defense did improve and I'm pretty sure that McNeill was given full authority over the defense. I'm sure that Leach would make global decisions that would affect the defense, but I think the defense was mostly left to the defensive coordinator.
[Ed's note: No idea how he's going to take to Don Brown. Hopefully he stays around.]
4. It's impossible to get through something like this and not ask about Leach's eccentricities, particularly what went down last year with the Jameses. On top of that, it seems a lot of the players turned on him in the beginning of last year. How is Leach personality-wise? Did he ever alienate the fans or the players at-large?
I think his eccentricities are a little over-blown, but when you have a profession of coaches who have very little personality, the one that does have personality sticks out like a sore thumb. I think Leach is fascinated by history, like a lot of people, likes to read a lot, and is a highly intelligent person. His weather forecast and dating tips are humorous, but I think at some point, people wanted ask him questions or do things that were a little different. Again, I think a big part of this is that coaches really don't have much of a personality.
As far as some of the players turning on Leach, I suppose that's probably true, but I don't know for sure. Just like any other situation, there were 100 players on that team and you can't expect a coach to have every player like the coach. That's just not the way that personalities work. I don't think he alienates fans, although I should prepare Maryland fans that he did like to look at other jobs at the end of the year. Some Texas Tech fans will tell you that he was driven to look because of his poor relationship with the administration while others will tell you that his agent constantly shopped him. I'm sure the truth is a little bit of both.
And as far as his termination, there's so much that I could tell you and I just don't have enough time. The long and short of it is that there's a lot of misconceptions about what Leach did or didn't do. The best thing I can do is to tell you to read the Double-T Nation archives from December of last year (http://www.doubletnation.com/stories/archive/2009#12) and the first part of 2010 (http://www.doubletnation.com/posts/archive#1). What I will say is don't believe everything you read from the national media, that the truth is in the affidavits, you just have to read them, and there are still Red Raider fans that are upset at his termination. It's been a year and a lot of people have not let go, or just don't want to let go. There's a lot of loyalty there.
5. Most of this has been about Leach's potential negatives, and that's because everyone really knows his upside. But you guys had him for a solid decade and know him better than anyone. Any parting statements on what Maryland should expect with Captain Leach at the helm?
Expect an entertaining brand of football. It may not always be pretty, but it's always going to be entertaining. Like a lot of coaches that take a year off, I'd imagine that he's been thinking about how to be a better football coach. And I think Maryland will get an outstanding head coach. He was always entertaining to cover as a blogger. I do think that his current lawsuits are a bit of a deterrent (Generally, he's currently suing Texas Tech for wrongful termination and he's also suing ESPN and Spaeth Communications for defamation.) for universities, but he's a known product that wins even though the talent may not be up to his conference foes.
Thanks a ton to Seth, and make sure to head over to DTN and check out all the Leach news from the archives over there. It's probably the best way to get a handle on him.