There’s no question Mike Leach knows how to win. But can the new Washington State coach win in Pullman?
Leach enters his second season as Cougars’ head coach, after inheriting a program that hasn’t won a conference title since 2002. The Cougars haven’t even climbed above .500 since 2003, the last of three straight 10-win seasons.
Despite experiencing the first losing season of his 11-year-career — with an offense ranked 94th in the nation with 359.5 YPG — there’s reason for fans to be optimistic in Pullman.
The biggest question is whether Leach is able to recruit the necessary players to the downtrodden program to fit into his fabled Air Raid Offense, of which he is a co-architect.
Leach used his first full recruiting season to lure four-star recruit Tyler Bruggman out of Phoenix over schools such as Arkansas, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue and Vanderbilt.
While Bruggman learns the ropes of college life, Leach will rely on senior quarterback Connor Halliday to guide a young offense that started three freshmen wide receivers by the end of last season.
Leach’s resume is well-padded, including George Munger and Woody Hayes national coach of the year awards. His offenses have put up big numbers and wins at Kentucky and Texas Tech.
Wins should eventually follow as Leach feeds his own players into his system, but they may not be enough to annually compete against Pac-12 North powerhouses Oregon and Stanford.
But wins such as the Apple Cup victory over cross-state rival Washington in the 2012 season finale will go a long way toward tenured success in Pullman.
FOURTH DOWN: Mike Leach might be his own worst enemy at times. After being ousted from Texas Tech over an abuse scandal, new allegations of mistreating and harshly punishing his players arose last season at Wazoo. Leach was later exonerated in both cases, but the stigma is one that will always linger throughout his career.