Mike Leach is bringing the Air Raid offense to the SEC West. Leach was introduced today as the new head football coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Leach had success as a head coach at Texas Tech (2000-2009) and Washington State (2012-2019).
As the head man at Texas Tech, his Red Raider teams led the NCAA in passing five times and the Big 12 in passing four times. This was accomplished with the likes of Kliff Kingsbury, Sonny Cumbie, Cody Hodge, and Graham Harrell at the quarterback position.
In his eight years at Washington State, the Cougars led the NCAA in passing four times. He coached players like Gardner Minshew and Luke Falk at quarterback.
At both of those schools, Leach won National Coach of the Year honors.
Learning the “Air Raid” Offense
The Air Raid offense is basically an updated version of the “old BYU offense.” Leach learned the offense as an assistant coach under Hal Mumme at Valdosta State.
He also coached two years under Mumme at Kentucky. Kentucky set SEC passing records with Tim Couch as quarterback. But those records were surpassed this year by LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.
Leach will run a fast-paced offense, focused on passing the ball all around the field. He lines up five wide receivers, running crossing routes, post routes, and the running backs check and release, looking for the blitz, and then they will release into the flats and become another pass-catcher.
And, the receivers will run those crossing routes as close as they can without touching each other. It will force the defenders to go around them, disrupting the pass coverage.
How The SEC West Has Changed
As Leach comes into the SEC West, this makes the division the most passing-efficient and offensively- explosive division in college football.
Because that division already has Nick Saban and the now pass-happy Alabama Crimson Tide. Ed Orgeron and the prolific LSU offense (designed by Joe Brady), is playing for the National Championship against Clemson on Monday night.
Quarterback guru Jimbo Fisher has Texas A&M headed in the right direction and will have QB Kellen Mond returning next year. Gus Malzahn (with Chad Morris as OC) will have the Auburn Tigers ready to play behind QB Bo Nix.
And, with Lane Kiffin as the head man at Ole Miss, he has John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral to work with at quarterback.
Engaging and Entertaining
Leach was humorous and highly entertaining during his 45-minute press conference. Leach rang the cowbell, referenced legendary Mississippi State Baseball Coach Ron Polk, and answered the media’s questions with wit and humor.
His storytelling drew applause and laughter from the crowd in attendance. SEC Media Days this summer should be a hoot once Leach takes the podium.
Experience Lost and Returning Starters
Based on the current roster, Leach inherits a team that returns experience at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and linebacker. But, Leach could also raid the transfer portal for talent.
QB Garret Schrader returns for his sophomore season after throwing for 1170 yards and 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Schrader also rushed for 587 yards and 6 touchdowns.
RB Lee Witherspoon returns at running back. Wide receiver Osirus Mitchell returns for his senior season. He led the team in receiving with 29 catches for 430 yards and six touchdowns.
Linebacker Erroll Thompson returns. He led the team in tackles with 84.
And, the entire secondary, minus Cameron Dantzler, will return next season.
The Bulldogs lost QB Tommy Stevens to graduation, and RB Kylin Hill and Dantzler have declared for the 2020 NFL draft.
Leach agreed to a 5-year $20 million contract which includes $4.7 million for his assistant coaches.
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