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Youth Football the Texas Tech Mike Leach Way
Many of you probably watched that incredible Texas Tech-Texas game Saturday evening as I did. The sheer entertainment value of the game alone was worth the time investment, with Michael Crabtree scoring the winning touchdown on a thrilling play with just 1 second left on the clock. Mike Leach is a story unto itself, definitely a man that follows the beat of a different drummer. On the Texas side of the ball, athletes abound and Mack Brown is a true gentleman, a modern statesman of the game.
The Youth Football Lesson in This
As youth football coaches what can we learn from Coach Leach? First, let’s look for a moment at Coach Leach’s background. With the exception of one year of sitting on the bench of his High School football team as a Junior, he never played organized football. He got his bachelor at BYU and then his Law Degree from Pepperdine. At age 25, married, with his second child on the way he decides he wants to be a College Football coach. Yeah right, After stops at College of the Desert, Cal Poly, Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, Finland and Kentucky he is now the head coach of Texas Tech, Not bad for a self-described “Christian with serious obedience issues”. He seems to look at things from a slightly different perspective, maybe even a sort of an “outsider” viewpoint.
He has amassed a 74-37 record at a school Tech Mike Leach
He has amassed a 74-37 record at a school that rarely, no let’s rephrase that, never gets the top tier or even second-tier talent in the state of Texas. Those players are reserved for Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. Those kids go to the big money, big stadium, big traditional schools, not to Texas Tech and it’s a tiny 57.000 seat stadium with a masked pirate Zorro mascot. Just getting to Lubbock is a major undertaking, like something out of one of those “Dead Zone” commercials, the place none of the Big 12 Media crews relish going.
Leach does it with quarterbacks no one else wants, 6-foot kids with offers to just Tech and maybe a mid-major school. He has started a number of quarterbacks for just one season, many being fifth-year seniors like BJ Symons, who passed for 52 touchdowns in his only year as a starter. The following season Symons was replaced by another fifth-year senior, Sonny Cumbie, who passed for 4.742 yards, the sixth-best in NCAA history. This season Cody Hodges a fifth-year senior with four years of bench sitting experience is leading Tech’s quest for its first-ever Big 12 Title and even a shot at the National Championship.
Now, what does this all mean to us youth football coaches? Tech Mike Leach
Mike Leach saw when he came to Texas Tech, that there was no way he would ever be able to match up with Texas, Oklahoma, A&M and the big boys by doing more of what they were doing. He was always going to have to settle for the second and third-tier players. He focused on bringing in fast, smart kids that were maybe a bit undersized or odd-shaped, kids that maybe didn’t look like football players. Certainly, a former bag of bones quarterback Kliff Kingsbury fit that mold. He looked like he would need weights in his shoes to hold him down when the stiff winds of West Texas blew around Lubbock. Listed at 175 pounds, this weight number was about as accurate as of the weight listed on a 45-year-old woman’s driver’s license. Tech running back Taurean Henderson looked more like a skinny Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz with really bad hair than a Big 12 Running Back.
How do you win with talent like this? I’m sure that is what Leach asked himself 10 years ago when he started at Tech,
This is What He Did: Tech Mike Leach
He widened the offensive line splits, so his diminutive quarterbacks would have lanes they could see and throw through as well as to make the edges so far outside that his quarterbacks would have more time against the incredible athleticism many Big 12 Defensive Ends have. Over the course of a game, those long pass rushes tire out these monstrous defensive ends so by the fourth quarter his quarterbacks have all day to throw. The offensive line splits vary dramatically from 3 to 9 feet. This also gave his smaller offensive linemen nice angles for those big defensive linemen aligned in the gaps.
He committed to passing the ball first
He committed to throwing the ball with just a few concepts, All Curl, 4 Verticals, Y-Stick, Shallow, Bubble Screens and Mesh, The laminated play card for his quarterback had just 26 offensive plays on it for the Texas Game. Coach Leach does NOT have a huge play card filled with hundreds of plays and down and distance material, he has a simple piece of nonlaminated paper usually folded up into fourths, like some kind of crumpled up crib sheet, with about 30 plays on it. If a play works he writes an O next to it and runs it again, if it fails he writes an X next to it and doesn’t. In the Texas game, All Curl must have had an O next to it because he threw it least 5 times.
He committed to running those few concepts out of many formations and looks. So while Leach may be called the “Mad Scientist”, his playbook is relatively simple. Those TV pundits have no clue.
Why does it work?
How and why does it work? The precision of his receiver’s routes is second to none. Watch them sometimes, you will not see anything like it anywhere. The timing, the execution in uncanny. There is nothing revolutionary about these football plays, it is the execution that is flawless and revolutionary. The pass protection is equally as flawless, the Tech quarterback has been sacked just twice so far this season.