Mike Leach on the Air Raid, the Tennessee coup and more
Mike Leach's first SEC Media Days appearance didn't disappoint.
Mississippi State's second-year head coach took the podium and told reporters to get straight to questions. He discussed his offense, the transfer portal, and his past interest in the Tennessee job on the main stage. Bulldog linebacker Aaron Brule and receiver Austin Williams then spoke after their head coach.
Here are the highlights of Mississippi State's time in the spotlight in Hoover.
Q. Mike, was there a moment a few years ago when you were at Washington State that you thought you might be the next head coach at Tennessee?
MIKE LEACH: I talked to Tennessee, but that thing never—well, nothing ever got nailed down. Then pretty soon, they had a coup d'etat there. You guys can sort that among yourselves, but that's pretty well-documented.
So, yeah, I didn't end up in the middle of the coup, so lucky for me.
Q. You started off the first year of the program kind of in a tumultuous year, to say the least. How important is it going to be for the program to get back to normal and have fans back in full force at Davis Wade?
MIKE LEACH: I think it's critical. I think it's critical, not just to us and because we want it that way, I think it's important to our fans and everybody else to get in the normal routine, where you kind of elevate and everybody feels enriched by having the opportunity to watch and participate in football in a normal fashion.
Certainly as coaches and players, that's incredibly important to us. Because football, really good football, is a by-product of routine, and when you break up the routine, I think it's difficult.
In our case, of course, it was difficult because of new staff and a very young team. So perhaps even more disruptive. And that's the key to just kind of do the same things over and over again, and just do them better and better each time, and that's kind of what a routine gives you.
So I think that, yeah, I think that it's very important we get back to normal.
Q. Two questions: First, what's Tennessee getting in transfer JaVonta Payton from your school? And then two, Commissioner Sankey had mentioned there are 1,600 players in the transfer portal and 1,100 are still there. What opinions do you have about the transfer portal right now?
MIKE LEACH: Well, as far as the transfer portal goes, I think there's way too many people on there. A lot of people remember when they were 18, and of course see it in other people, and I think too often there's a temptation to cut and run. I don't think that's always the best course, because you learn a lot by persevering and sitting in there and pushing through adversity.
I mean, heck, when I was in college, I thought about leaving or going to another place, all that stuff, throughout college and even law school. I think there's a point to where there's a huge value later on to persevering through adverse situations, and I think college football deliberately creates adversity, because it's a competitive situation, and you're wanting to develop skills to be competitive so that it brings out the best in everybody.
I don't think all those guys are going to find a place to go. I think in the end, they would have been better off where they started rather than not play, but in some cases, another opportunity, a better opportunity, I think that has to be carefully evaluated. I think that sometimes it is necessary to make a move.
I think also, though, it's too easy to transfer right now. I think people used to consider their situation more carefully when they had to sit a year if they transferred laterally.
Q. You've been running your air raid offense for decades, successful and multiple conferences. What's been the key to the longevity of that scheme? And was there a smoking gun last year to y'all's struggles, or was there not enough practice time or personnel didn't fit it maybe as well as you'd have liked?
MIKE LEACH: Well, we just had a short window, and we're a very young team. I think we just have to continue to improve and evolve as a team. I think there's a reason the NFL's adopting so many air raid concepts, and the last however many, probably ten Super Bowls, there's been a super number of air raid concepts in all of them.
Because, in my mind, it's an efficient way to move the football, because you utilize personnel and utilize the space you're provided. So I think it's a good way to do things.
As far as a smoking gun, I think you're always trying to improve. One way to improve, at least in our case—get older. Rather than be one of the youngest teams in the BCS, I think the youngest, get older. But I was very proud of the way they competed and improved as the season went on.