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July 26, 2013

Leach entertains at Media Day

LOS ANGELES, Calif. | The always outspoken Mike Leach led his Washington State contingent onto the stage to kick off the 2013 Pac-12 Media Day at Sony Pictures Studio and although short, the coach had some interesting things to say about the upcoming season - and much more.

Opting to forego an opening statement and head straight to answering questions - obviously - Leach set the bar for the rest of the day, beginning with the headliner of media days so far: the new targeting rule.

Echoing his thoughts from earlier in the week on his ESPN campus tour, Leach was immediately asked about his feelings regarding the highly questionable new rule for the upcoming season. Not afraid to voice his honest opinion, Leach continued to share his dismay for, as he calls it, playing football.

"One of the plays that is getting criticized is the [Jadaveon] Clowney hit," Leach said. "Well, the Clowney hit is why they have football.

"That's why football was invented and that's also why it's one of the greatest American games there is. Everything that can be done to prevent head trauma and to protect student athletes needs to be done and it goes along with technology and teaching people to tackle properly."

Leach has been adamant that it's not so much the rule that is going to affect the college football scene, but the way it is implemented with such a fast paced game.

"If somebody is running at you and you're going to button up to take a hit and then it becomes a guessing game of who lowered their head first then we're back at the halo rule where you can sort it out and you can't discern it," Leach said. "I think that's a gigantic issue."

Senior safety Deone Bucannon, was also asked about the targeting rule and mentioned that the rule is going to be tough to abide by but he's going to do everything he can do, with the help of the coaching staff, to abide by the rules. Bucannon has been called for several unnecessary roughness calls for illegal hits in his Washington State career.

Off-topic and Leach tend to fall hand and hand while the media loves to illicit illustrative answers ranging from the go-to pirate question or, in today's case, the always fun, "What are you reading?" question.

Leach is currently in the process of writing a book with a Washington State University professor detailing the life of Geronimo, the prominent leader of the Bedonkohe Apache Indian tribe who fought against the United States and Mexico to prevent their expansion. His answer, which compared books to marriage, was quite amusing, as you would assume.

"Books are funny things," Leach said when asked about, well, books. "They're very satisfying but then there is a point where it gets a little tedious and you get tired of the same stuff over and over.

"Books almost go a little beyond even the confines of marriage. You write a book and that's there forever - there's no divorcing a book."

Five minutes into the Cougars' allotted time slot, the group still had yet to be asked a question regarding the upcoming season until the zombie and corpse question.

Yes, zombies and corpses.

Last season, after a miserable defeat on the road at Utah, Leach referred to some players on his team as "zombies" and "empty corpses," sparking a question regarding how he plans to make sure that those words remain unassociated to his football team in 2013.

"This day and age people ask questions but they don't always want honest answers," Leach, who is never afraid of speaking his mind in the most honest way possible, said regarding his comments from last season. "In the midst of that, if somebody is a 'zombie' or a 'corpse', I'm the head zombie and head corpse."

"Anything with regard to team effort or team coaching, if you don't like the way your players are playing it's about how well you're coaching.

Shifting his attention to the upcoming season, Leach has been very happy with the way the team has progressed during the off season.

"We've had a great off season," Leach said. "It started in January, we worked incredibly hard, and these two specimens I have next to me in Elliot Bosch and Deone Bucannon, that's what I pretend to see when I look in the mirror to shave.

"They're in incredible shape and you couldn't be more excited to see what they can do out there on the field."

Much of what we have heard regarding the quarterback battle the entire spring was reiterated by Leach when asked who the starting quarterback would be on August 31 at Auburn. Halliday and Apodaca, who he said had a really solid spring, will both be vying for the starting spot when camp opens up next Friday, but if the season were to start today, the coach has one ahead of the other.

"If we were to play today, Connor Halliday would be the starting quarterback," Leach said. "He had a really good spring and what I've really been impressed with is how he's emerged as a leader.

"He's put the team on his shoulders and a guy, I think, really likes to bring people together. The most significant role that a quarterback plays is enhancing the skills of the other players around him.

"Each team goes out there with a certain arsenal of weapons and his ability to utilize them most effectively in a sharp, crisp, timely manner is huge in terms of maximizing the offensive effort. I think he's really done a lot of good things and I'm excited to see where he's at because I know he's worked really hard this off season."


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