• TheDMonline.com Staff Member?
  • Log In
Share |

Former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach interested in Ole Miss job

Photo Courtesy: The Daily Toreador

As soon as the Ole Miss head coaching position became open this past Monday, former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach’s name was quickly linked with the job, among other former and current head coaches and coordinators.

Currently an announcer and analyst for CBS Sports, Leach boasts 23 years of coaching experience, including an 84-43 record in 10 seasons as the Texas Tech head coach. He brought his patented “Air Raid” offense to Lubbock, and the Red Raiders never had a losing season, reached 10 straight bowl games and shared the Big 12 South Title in 2008.

When asked about the Ole Miss job, he said it would be a job that “anybody would be interested in.”

“It’s got a tradition, a good recruiting base and play in a great conference,” Leach said. “I think it’s a great place. With that being said, it’s about the administrators deciding what they’re looking for and what their goals are. It’s got to be the right fit in the right place.”

CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman holds a unique position when discussing Leach and his possible candidacy at Ole Miss. Feldman co-wrote “Swing Your Sword,” which centers on Leach’s coaching career at Texas Tech. Feldman also wrote “Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting,” which centers on recruiting at Ole Miss under head coach Ed Orgeron.

From this perspective, Feldman said he could see Leach fitting in at Ole Miss, but on the field, it would take some time to turnaround the football program.

“Everywhere he’s been, that offense has been prolific,” he said. “I think Ole Miss fans remember when Eli Manning was there, (Texas Tech’s) quarterback actually beat Eli and that guy never played in the NFL. I don’t think anyone can look at what his track record is and question how good of a football coach he is. At Texas Tech, it’s not an easy place to beat Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska, and he was able to do that.

“I think the challenge for him, if he were to get the Ole Miss job, is you look at what they have offensively and you’re not sure if they have a quarterback you want to see throw the ball more than 15 times a game on that roster. I think that will take a little bit of time.”

As Feldman alluded to, Leach and his offense have been successful beyond Lubbock, where the Red Raiders ranked in the top 11 of passing offense every season and top six of total offense in Leach’s last eight seasons. Two seasons out of coaching, each of the nation’s top seven passing offense have connections to Leach and his offense, whether it’s head coach, the offensive coordinator or the other offensive coaches and players on the team.

“The most important thing is you want to utilize all the resources,” Leach said. “You want to attack the whole field, which is basically sideline-to-sideline and 30-35 yards down the field. You want to utilize all the skill positions. Each skill position should contribute to the offense. You want to get the ball in their hands. That’s really important.

“You see team after team that only utilizes two guys or only affects a small portion of the field. The No. 1 resource you have is space, and it’s built to spread the field for guys to touch the ball. The important thing is to use everybody.”

Before Texas Tech, Leach was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, where he took quarterback Josh Heupel and the Sooners from 101st in total offense and scoring offense to 11th in total offense and eighth in scoring offense.

However, it was in the Southeastern Conference where Leach, who did not play college football, got his start in Division I football as the offensive coordinator under head coach Hal Mumme at Kentucky.

Despite an unimpressive 12-11 record in two seasons, the Wildcats finished in the top three of passing offense, total offense and scoring offense both seasons, including first in all three categories in 1998, when the Wildcats played in the Outback Bowl. Even with two of the nation’s best defenses, Alabama and LSU, Leach believes his offense would be successful in the SEC.

“The Green Bay Packers just got done winning a Super Bowl with an offense that’s similar,” he said. “The Green Bay Packers could beat anybody in the Southeastern Conference. I think you can move the ball in the Southeastern Conference.

“It’s funny. Alabama and LSU are hot right now. Florida won their National Championships by spreading it out, and Auburn won theirs by spreading it out. And when we were at Kentucky, we led the conference in offense. The notion that it wouldn’t work in the Southeastern Conference is ridiculous, especially now that it works in the NFL.”

Not surprisingly with his high-powered offense, Leach has sparked interest throughout the Ole Miss fan base.

While by no means a frontrunner, Leach is among a laundry list of potential head coaching candidates at Ole Miss, including Southern Miss Head Coach Larry Fedora, Arkansas State Head Coach Hugh Freeze, Houston Head Coach Kevin Sumlin, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and former Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriguez. Described by Feldman as a “man of the people,” there are reasons why fans are so high on Leach.

“I think it’s a couple of things,” Feldman said. “I think, for starters, Ole Miss fans know he was at Texas Tech. He wasn’t at Texas or Texas A&M, and (Texas Tech) had some top 10 teams. They never had a losing season. And they consistently put out an exciting product.

“I think the other thing is he’s a curiosity. He says what he thinks. He’s not one of these guys that are PC or anything. He will give you an opinion on things. That’s pretty rare, especially with football coaches. I think people appreciate somebody who’s not very cookie-cutter these days. I know he knows some people who have some influence in Oxford and at Ole Miss that I think will intrigue him. I think that the reputation of what Oxford is like will definitely intrigue him. Being in the SEC would be a challenge, I think, but he would be tempted by it.”

As for other options for Leach, he is believed to be a potential head coach candidate at Tulane and Arizona. Feldman also mentioned UCLA, Washington State and Arizona State as other possible jobs that may come open, as well as waiting to see what happens at Kansas and NC State.

Leach was also mentioned for the Maryland job this past offseason before Randy Edsall was hired away from Connecticut. Whether its Ole Miss or another possible job, Leach said he misses “everybody working and pulling together” and the university setting. Feldman went on talk about the impact Leach would have on a football program.

“Some of these schools, I think, they would like to get the publicity hit that they would get,” he said. “Because for all un-PC stuff that Leach may sound like and people may say he has baggage, he will sell tickets and he will make the program definitely more nationally relevant. I think there’s something that can be said for that.”

In any event, it will be interesting to watch as the winds of change swirl throughout college football with more and possibly bigger jobs opening while a  five-person search committee continues its effort to find the new Ole Miss head coach.

“It’s just curious as to how quickly Ole Miss would want to move and, also, what else is available to (Leach),” Feldman said.

“I think he will get back into coaching, but I think he wants to go somewhere where he feels like they are definitely committed to winning, but also to do a lot of other things with the program, in that regard. I think there would be a good chance if he and Archie do meet. I think there would be an interesting fit there. We’ll see.”