Thursday, January 27, 2011
Leach a fun, imperfect fit at Oklahoma State
By David Ubben
Mike Leach would like to get back into coaching. Oklahoma State needs an offensive coordinator.
A variation of Leach's Air Raid -- courtesy of Leach protégé Dana Holgorsen, who moved on to a future head gig at West Virginia -- helped the Cowboys climb near the top of the nation's leaders in total and scoring offense.
Naturally, Leach's name has been a constant throughout the search for the Cowboys' new coordinator, one that's picked up speed since Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon and All-Big 12 first-team quarterback Brandon Weeden announced they'd return to Stillwater in 2011.
Bringing in football's favorite pirate would be perfect for both parties in 2011. A trio of pending lawsuits made finding a new head coaching job a difficult task for Leach, and a year away from the game has made it easier for administrative types to forget his accomplishments at Texas Tech.
Putting up eye-popping numbers again in 2011 would be an unavoidable reminder, and Oklahoma State has the pieces to do it. All five offensive linemen return. Weeden and Blackmon should be Weeden and Blackmon again. Michael Harrison and Josh Cooper are solid complimentary pieces in the passing game. Joseph Randle is the lightning to Jeremy Smith's thunder in the running game, with incoming freshman Herschel Sims likely to earn at least a few touches. Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson are two more solid options in the passing game, and 2009's top receiver, Hubert Anyiam, should be healthy after battling an ankle injury throughout 2010.
Putting Leach in the driver's seat of that offense would be must-see/write about TV, slapping Oklahoma State on college football's front pages through the spring and fall, perhaps regardless of the team's win-loss record. There's definite value in that for both sides.
There's no downside to a year in Stillwater for Leach.
But for the Cowboys, they'll still be playing offense (and football) beyond 2011. Weeden and Blackmon's return has a chance to be big for the program long after next year, but hiring Leach would offset some of those positives.
The presence of both returning stars makes Gundy's job vacancy considerably more attractive than if both had split for the NFL. A stint in Stillwater would likely be a one-year affair for Leach, a la Holgorsen, putting Oklahoma State right back where it started in 2012.
Except this time, it would be searching for an offensive coordinator up to the task of breaking in a new quarterback likely without his top receiver, trying to fire off passes behind an offensive line that will be breaking in four new starters for the 2012 season.
Oklahoma State doesn't need its new coordinator to take a blood oath at staying in Stillwater for at least five years, but it needs someone who is committed to the job for more than just one season.
Leach would be fun, and provide maybe one of the most memorable years in Cowboys history, but he's not the right long-term pick. Hiring him means hurting the program long-term for a chance at something special in 2011 that could come anyway, considering the talent already in place, with the right hire.
For now, the best move for the Cowboys is to let his ship sail on by.