Mike Leach made a huge statement toward his “leaders” to step up or step off in his press conference Monday, and this was a call-out of extreme proportion, seemingly trying to light a fire under his team. After saying that there are several players on the team that possess “empty corpses”, he called out the seniors specifically for not taking the reigns and “embracing adversity”. He made the point that the team has to “change the way we think” and also said that they haven’t got the support or leadership from the senior class that they need, so the coaching staff has turned to developing the young talent coming up on the team. This has created an issue with cohesiveness because of the lack of playing time together, so they are still growing up in that respect.
There is one senior that has impressed the coach, Gino Simone. Leach says that Gino has been one to get too wound up and try to outperform his role, but overall has shown up with a great attitude and work ethic day in and day out. He also touched on Connor Halliday’s similar issues, saying that they stem from trying to do too much and putting too much on his shoulders. However Halliday appears to be the starter for now and for the foreseeable future, unless injury or another horrible performance get in the way. Apparently the thought process is to move forward with the younger players, rather than try and salvage the season with the idea that it’s a win now scenario. In this particular case Jeff Tuel’s not the problem as in the case of other upperclassmen, but rather Connor has shown initiative and needs the reps going forward. Coach called Jeff the best team player he’s ever been around and said that he would be very comfortable if he was ‘the’ quarterback, so there’s a mutual respect it seems.
To put all of this into perspective, here’s a blurb from the Leach PC:
We’re a better team than we play (like). When as a team, collectively, we believe we are a better team, we will play better. There’s way too much salesmanship going into ‘oh but really you are a good team, yes you are’. That’s a bunch of crap! At some point, a guy’s gotta get out there and say ‘I’ve worked hard at this and it means something to me and I’m going to prevail over my opposition’. Rather than all these little boosts and dust offs and pats on the back and everybody feels good. We’re crazy on that thing. We’re more concerned about relationships and people being happy than performance. Until we put performance in front of all that, it’s gonna take a while. We can make the decision and do it today or we can drag our feet. But right now, our players, coaches and everybody that it’s meaningful to, we need to get those other guys on board. Either that or get them out of here.
Pretty straight forward, Leach is adamant that his team has practiced well and made a lot of progress through the season, but there is a serious issue with negativity, complacency and disbelief in the locker room. The thought that the Cougars possess the ability to be a pretty good team is still highly running among the coaching staff and a good group of players. Of course, that’s going to hinge on the team’s ability to be more mentally tough in the second half, especially the seniors.