July 5, 2006

Texas Tech's Leach nothing if not unconventional



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At this time of year most college football coaches relax by playing 18, but Texas Tech's Mike Leach relaxes by hanging 10.

At least, he tries to.

For those unfamiliar with the term, "hang 10" means to ride with both feet on the nose of a long surfboard.

And for those unfamiliar with Leach, his spending the summer chasing waves in Hawaii and California is par for the course.

"You can be out there with people who can really surf and you just eat it," Leach said. "You're feeling sorry for yourself and the experts just shrug their shoulders and say, 'At least you're in the water.'

"It can be almost pretentious the way (surfing) is described. 'Natural' people like to act like they appreciate life on a higher plane than the rest of us, like we don't understand. But at the risk of sounding like one of those guys, it is interesting to be out there with nature - watching it all come together. And if you time it just right there's the thought you can be involved simultaneously."

Whoa, dude, that's deep. Who knew Leach would be equally comfortable around Jeff Tedford and Jeff Spicoli? He's not tanned, not blond and not even from California.

Dude, he's from Cody, Wyoming.

And although Lubbock offers more than its share of sand (which sometimes comes blowing across the Texas South Plains in brown sheets), there's no sea or surf. There's really not much water.

Nothing suggests Leach should be Texas Tech's Jan and Dean of students, which is exactly why it makes perfect sense.

Leach is a refreshing free-spirit in a profession with too many stuffed shirts. Even before he was riding waves he was bucking trends.

He never played college football. He earned a law degree from Pepperdine University. He scuba dives, roller blades, doesn't like golf and envies junior college football coaches, particularly Mark McElroy at Saddleback Junior College in California.

"Mark McElroy teaches two surfing classes, two volleyball classes and golf," Leach said. "If he could get rid of that golf class he'd have a hell of a deal."

Olin's Quick Hits
Defensive lineman Raymond Henderson, who was dismissed from the team at the University of Tennessee, has transferred to Minnesota. He'll be eligible in 2007. ...

Louis Nzegwu, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound running back/linebacker from Platteville, Wisc., committed to the University of Wisconsin after attending the Badgers' camp. ...

Tom Slade, 54, who quarterbacked Michigan in the 1972 Rose Bowl against Stanford, is in need of a bone marrow transplant in his fight with leukemia. He has been on the national and international bone marrow registries for three months. ...

Houston-area defensive back Troy Woolfolk has announced he'll follow in the footsteps of his father, Butch, and accept a scholarship to Michigan. Butch was a running back for the Wolverines from 1978 to 1981. ...

Running back Erik Haw, who dropped from second to fourth string on the Ohio State depth chart, has been granted his release. Haw has not announced where he intends to transfer. ...

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy admits he's taking a risk in offering a scholarship to 19-year-old linebacker Chris Collins, who two years ago was indicted on a charge of sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl. Collins' case is still pending. ...

The University of Texas plans to give Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds a raise and contract extension, though details have not been released. Dodds, 68, currently makes $490,000 annually on a contract which runs through Aug. 31, 2009. ...

Stan Torgerson, who was the voice of University of Mississippi football and basketball for 17 years, died last week of complications from pneumonia. He was 82. ...

Georgia receiver Sean Bailey, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament during practice for the Sugar Bowl last December, is making remarkable progress and might be available this season. Last year he averaged 22.6 yards per catch. ...

Four players are leaving Oregon: sophomore running back Terrell Jackson, sophomore defensive lineman Thor Pili, redshirt freshman linebacker Tucker Callahan and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Levi Horn. Also, senior linebacker Chris Vincent is moving to running back where he played his first three seasons.
Leach envies McElroy for having easy access to the beach, particularly in the winter when the swells look like the opening of "Hawaii 5-0."

"Four-and-a-half to five-foot waves are big for me," Leach said. "I have so far to go in surfing. I'll plug away at that for awhile and keep myself busy the rest of my life. The part I'm working at and getting better at is recognition and timing."

Recognition and timing ... sounds like the two most critical components in playing quarterback in Leach's unorthodox offense. His linemen take extremely large splits and quarterbacks post extremely gaudy stats.

A Texas Tech quarterback has led the nation in passing in each of Leach's six seasons, and highly recruited Graham Harrell figures to make it seven.

In that span, Tech has been riding a wave of its own, having recorded 48 victories and a bowl appearance each year.

Last season, the Red Raiders hung up nine victories.

Next year, Leach hopes to hang 10. At least.

Three questions with ...
Barry Switzer took over as head coach at Oklahoma in 1973 and did not lose until the ninth game of his third season (a 23-3 defeat to Kansas). In 16 seasons under Switzer the Sooners went 157-29-4 and won three national championships.

Q: Why were you so successful in recruiting, especially in Texas?
Switzer: "I came along in the right era. Oklahoma was recruiting black athletes when no one else was. I was a good recruiter and I could relate. I was young and aggressive and kids could relate to me. A lot of coaches of that era were patriarchs, older and at the end of their careers and had never been around black athletes, so it was difficult for them.

"I was a rookie coach, brash and cocky, selling and marketing. Hell, I was (Brian) Bosworth, and it worked. I was recruiting against coaches that were selling tradition and saying stay in state, but kids don't care about that."

Q: Who's the best recruiter today?
Switzer: "I don't know. But if I'd been coaching at Texas I might still be coaching. Give me that state to recruit to. When Mack (Brown, Texas coach) coached for me in 1984 we talked a lot and he asked me one day, 'What's the best (head coach) job in the country?' I told him Texas. It has wealth, alumni, tradition and at the same time it's there in Texas. LSU is a great school, too. Back when they were doing nothing I thought LSU could be a giant. Oklahoma had about 200 high schools and would only have eight or nine athletes a year."

Q: Could teams still be successful with the Wishbone offense?
Switzer: "No one wants to run it. No one has the discipline, belief, wherewithal and determination to make it happen. I believed in the running game and option and play-action passes. Now, everyone runs the spread offense with four or five receivers, moving people around and getting in the shotgun.

"If you have a quarterback that can attack the perimeter with option plays nobody can slow them down. That's kind of a dinosaur offense. But you could win today if you plugged the right players into the playbook. But there's no disciples of the running game. Mark Clayton (former OU receiver) was a wishbone quarterback in high school. He would have been the one playing quarterback for me."

Trivia
What three Heisman Trophy winners played football in junior college? Answer at the end of the notebook ...

Another Ute turned Gator?
Coach Urban Meyer may have started a trend by leaving Salt Lake City for Gainesville, Fla.

The Tampa Tribune reported that Utah cornerback Ryan Smith plans to transfer to Florida if he earns his sociology degree later this summer.

Smith is taking three summer school classes. If he passes he would transfer to Florida and be immediately eligible because of an NCAA rule that allows graduate students to play without sitting out a year.

A redshirt in 2003, Smith started 12 games for Meyer - then the coach at Utah - in 2004. The Gators could use help in the secondary after Avery Atkins, a likely starter at cornerback, was dismissed from the team last week.

Doubting the Hawkeyes
Iowa junior running back Albert Young, fresh off a 1,334-yard performance as a sophomore, acknowledged he finds motivation in the myriad of preseason football publications that appear this time of year.

Young wasn't offended when an anonymous Big Ten coach rated him behind Minnesota's Laurence Maroney and Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun both of whom have gone on to the NFL. But a prediction that the Hawkeyes would not win the conference championship this season got his attention.

"That means somebody is overlooking us," Young told the Des Moines Register. "Whoever it was had doubts in us as a unit, and we're going out there feeling like we've got something to prove."

An early start
Earlier this week Rivals.com reported that high school kicker Matt Szymanski is considering enrolling at Texas A&M a year ahead of schedule. His leg could provide a big boost for the Aggies in what could be a pivotal season for coach Dennis Franchione.

Some observers feel Franchione's job could be in jeopardy after the Aggies struggled to a disappointing 5-6 record last season, so the Aggies could use as much offensive punch as possible with a favorable schedule looming in 2006.

Szymanski converted 19 of 26 field goal attempts as a junior last season and did not kick off a tee.

Five of his misses were between 45 and 60 yards and he hit a 61-yarder in the state playoffs. Fewer than 20 percent of his kickoffs were returned.

Ole Miss still waiting
Brent Schaeffer, who was named Ole Miss' starting quarterback even though he's not enrolled, won't arrive in Oxford until at least the end of the month.

The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger reported that Schaeffer still must pass six hours of correspondence courses before he's eligible to enroll at Mississippi.

Schaeffer started three games at Tennessee as a freshman in 2004 and then transferred to College of the Sequoias in California. He can still enroll at Ole Miss in time for two-a-day practices in August if he completes his correspondence classes.

Trivia answer
Roger Staubach (New Mexico Military Institute); O.J. Simpson (City College of San Francisco) and Mike Rozier (Coffeyville Community College)

Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com, and he files his national notebook every Wednesday. To send him a question or comment for his Friday Mailbag, email him at olin@rivals.com.




 

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