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Minnesota Golden Gopher Coaching Candidate Profile - Mike Leach

Leach_2_mediumLet's kick off the profiles with Mike Leach. A super popular candidate within Gopher Nation is the exiled former Texas Tech coach who ended the Glen Mason Era. The question is rarely will he succeed here, it is more about would he even get hired by this administration.

Playing and Coaching Career

  • no playing career
  • 1987 - Cal-Poly Assistant
  • 1988 - College of the Desert Assistant
  • 1989 - Pori Bears (Swedish football)
  • 1989-91 - Iowa Wesleyan (OC)
  • 1992-96 - Valdosta State (OC)
  • 1997-98 - Kentucky - OC
  • 1999 - Oklahoma (OC)
  • 2000-09 - Texas Tech

What stands out about Mike Leech is that he is one of just five coaches who did not play college football. That means he does not have the benefit of playing at a high profile school which leads to a graduate assistant role and can jump start a career in college coaching. He graduated from BYU and then worked his way up from the very bottom of the coaching ranks all the way to a Big 12 head coaching job winning Big12 Coach of the Year in 2008.

Why He Fits

He is a very (VERY) smart, offensive minded football coach. He often wins by out-scheming and out-coaching his opponent with his Air Raid Offense that puts up a lot of yards and a lot of points. Gopher fans remember all-to-well how potent a Leach led offense can be. While I'm not necessarily a huge fan of a wide open passing attack, Leach has proven to be very effective with it at the highest levels.

When looking back at his tenure at Texas Tech he took a program that had won on average just over 6 wins per year in the 10 years prior to Leach taking over and he turned them into a program that averaged 8.5 wins per year in his 10 years on the job. Offensively over those 10 seasons they averaged 37 ppg and 482 yards per game both ranked in the top three in the Big Twelve every season but his first. It is a unique system that scores often and quickly. Time of possession doesn't mean much in this offense it is all about points. Defensively they never ranked at the top of the Big 12 but on average they outscored their opponent by nearly 12 ppg over his career at TT.

The offensive stats and the wins is all you really need to know about his resume and is reason enough to at the very least consider him for the Gopher job. The accepted philosophy of football at all levels is you have to be able to run the ball and stop the run to win. Mike Leach turned that around and was successful with the philosophy that he can pass the ball at will and he'll do his best to slow down your passing game while you try to run the ball. He has big time name recognition that would at least get him into recruit's living rooms. He's proven he can win and that is all that matters.

Lastly he makes a great fit because he's available and could hit the ground running in early December. The opportunity to have two full months of recruiting is a rarity for brand new coaches. Of the available coaches who are currently unemployed he is easily the best candidate.

Why He May Not Fit

He has no ties to Minnesota, the Big Ten or even the Midwest. Not to mention his personality and unorthodox approach to football may not fit in well with the University's administration. Other than the opportunity to coach again at a BCS school there is really nothing compelling about Minnesota for Mike Leech (I assume) so there really is no guarantee that he has any desire to take this job. He has to understand that this would be a much tougher job than Texas Tech considering he would not have the recruiting base he had in Texas.

Secondly, but probably most important, is how his Texas Tech tenure ended. The allegations of mistreating a player with a concussion (who just happened to be the son of an ESPN analyst) was too much for the Texas Tech administration. Would the usually timid Minnesota administration be willing to overlook those past transgressions and hire Leech? History would suggest that they do not have the stomach for someone even remotely controversial. Typically the U's administration is much more comfortable with mediocrity than taking a risk at possibly being a big time program.

Many Gopher fans are split on Leech. Nearly all would agree that he is able to win and he is an offensive mastermind. So the split really comes on whether or not he'd work in Minnesota. Half of the people you talk to say he's a genius and would win anywhere, get him here now. The rest would either tell you that he'll never get hired here so why bother or that he'd struggle a bit more here without the Texas recruiting base.

TDG Approval

Experience - A
Proven Winner - A
Minn/B10 Ties - D-
Recruiting - B-

Mike Leach is a football smarty-pants. He knows schemes, wide receiver route trees and how to run and offense that puts the defense in compromising situations. He can produce system quarterbacks that put up a lot of yards and offenses that put up a lot of points. He had one incredible season in 2008 that was sandwiched by a few very good seasons.

It will be harder to win at Minnesota than it was at Texas Tech. Largely because he won't have that recruiting base in his back yard. Clearly he has some Texas connections and some recruiting equity built up down there that he is capable of getting players to the next level. But even while leading a successful program within the boarders of arguably the most fertile recruiting ground in the country he didn't put together any recruiting classes that were guru ranked all that high. In the eight years of recruiting rankings I can find his highest class was #25 in 2006, virtually all the rest of his recruiting classes ranked in the mid to upper 40s. That isn't all that impressive considering he resided within the friendly recruiting borders of Texas. I fully recognize that recruiting rankings don't mean nearly as much as the coach's ability to put kids in position to succeed. But even the pool of kids who are under the radar that Leach can identify as potential sleepers is just so much smaller here. The margin for error would be slimmer.

I can see the lure of Leach and I believe at the very least he'd be more successful here than the previous seven or eight coaches. Personally I'm not a huge fan of going with the air raid offense but I can see the appeal. I'd get on board with the Leach hire 100% because it at least shows me that the U was serious about getting somebody in here to win. My guess is that there will be enough boosters who want a guy like Leach that he'll be contacted through back channels to gauge his interest, but he'll be too controversial to actually get an interview. Maybe I'm wrong (this is all total guesswork) but the current administration has never shown they would take a risk like this. So I'd be excited about the hire but I don't believe it is worth the time to get too excited about it.