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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is a busy man these days. The Red Raiders are in the middle of spring practice. Trying to replace record-breaking players like Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell has made for an eventful few weeks for the Texas Tech coach.
Some might be surprised that Leach is even in Lubbock after his contract impasse with the school that was settled at the last minute. But direct negotiations between Leach and Tech chancellor Kent Hance resulted in a new deal that appears to have Tech's coach entrenched in the High Plains for the foreseeable future.
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|The idea of rebuilding is nothing new to Mike Leach.|
We caught up with Leach earlier this week while he was attending his son's baseball game. Between pings of aluminum bats and cheers from surrounding parents, Leach detailed some thoughts about his team's work, quarterback Taylor Potts' development, his increased notoriety after an appearance on "60 Minutes" earlier this year and his take on the Somali pirate controversy.
How has practice looked so far for your team this spring?
Mike Leach: I think it's been good. We've got a bunch of guys who are working hard. We've had some good tempo and strong work so far. I've been pleased.
What have been your initial perceptions of Taylor Potts at quarterback?
ML: He's been pretty steady. He had one bad day and one bad period. The rest have been pretty good. He's bigger than the quarterbacks we've had and has a stronger arm than most. And like a lot of them in the past, he had several years to learn and play behind some good people.
Taylor has watched what they have done. And I think the fact that he's been behind Graham, but still didn't waste any reps as a backup. A lot of times as you are sitting and waiting their chance, guys will waste their opportunities to learn. Taylor didn't do that.
With the loss of key players like Harrell, Crabtree and Shannon Woods, is your offense going to change much this season?
ML: I don't think it will change a bunch. But what ends up is that different players and receivers will get more of a chance to emerge and play. Crabtree got so many catches, but now different players and receivers will do well. We'll have a different group of backs who do different things. But I don't think it will change that much.
How much are the Red Raiders going to miss Michael Crabtree?
ML: We've had a couple of guys in Jacoby Franks and Alex Torres who have really played so far. Last season, the second-line guy behind Crabtree was Franks and he's a year better now. I think Torres is a little better this year than last year. It means we are a little deeper than we were. Obviously, neither one is at the Crabtree level yet, but the second-level is stronger than it was last year.
After starting last season 10-0, your team finished the season with a couple of disappointing losses, including the Cotton Bowl defeat to Mississippi. Did that loss stay with you guys a little longer because of the success earlier in the season?
ML: Our guys don't think of things that way. We don't have a team that slacks in a bowl game or lingered after we lost it. We felt like we had a chance to play a little bit better, but certainly by working incredibly hard, we've got a chance to get another cohesive unit again together.
Your program received unprecedented national exposure late last season after the 10-0 start and your appearance several weeks later on "60 Minutes." Are you finding people recognize you more in unusual places after that appearance?
ML: Actually, that's been the case for awhile. I kind of see that as being a positive for recruiting. The funniest thing is that now when I walk through the streets of New York, people came up to me and said they really don't watch football but said they really enjoyed the piece on "60 Minutes." I was trying to stay out of the way when they were filming up here.
You had a pretty tenuous contract negotiation with the school after the season back in February. Did you ever have any doubts that you would be back this spring as Tech's head coach?
ML: I was convinced that I would be back here. In the shortest period of time, we have been the winningest staff at Tech. If we can win some games this season, we can be the winningest staff in school history. Our coaches and players have served Tech well. If it was up to me, it was obvious we would be back.
You've developed some innovative coaching methods to get your teaching points across. With wide receiver Edward Britton, who had fallen behind in his schoolwork, you had him study at a desk at the 50-yard line of Jones AT&T Stadium on a cold winter day with snow blowing around him. How did you come up with that, and did it get your point about studies across to him?
ML: I think he seems to have improved and the guys say he's functioning right. I guess we'll see. Honestly, the idea came from (Tech wide receivers coach) Dennis Simmons, who said his mom did something to him when he was a kid, except it was on a basketball court. I guess Eddie didn't have the best of luck that day. It was about 27 degrees and snowing all around him.
A lot of people are talking about this being a rebuilding year for a team after Harrell and Crabtree left the program. Is that a fair assessment of the job in front of you?
ML: To be honest, it's nothing new. This will be our 10th year here and conservatively, we've done it about seven times before. And I think our team will be better than people think we are.
Everybody has said the challenge for us will be rebuilding -- all about rebuilding. All that is an excuse. You have to try to have the best team you can and play the best when you get the opportunity. There's no rebuilding. Everybody loses something all the time. To worry about it is a waste of time.
You had a chance to watch some movies after the season. Did anything really stick out to you?
ML: The last move I saw was "Adventureland," I didn't think much of it. It was a little contrived. I don't mind the high school/teenage/John Hughes-style of movie, but that was just a bunch of gloomy boring people. There was nothing spectacular about it.
The Somali pirates have had some struggles in recent days. What's your take on
what has happened in that part of the world?
ML: I've got to believe their own will take care of some of those guys pretty quick. I don't know if they have a couple of loose cannons [as leaders] or what. It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. Heck, we are already down in that part of the world and a little bit irritable as it is. You would have thought they would have recognized that.
Me personally, I'd rather give the Navy Seals a weekend and just let them have their fun. Plus, it could be a valuable training exercise for them.
One last question. For your son's baseball team, is Sonic or Dairy Queen your choice for postgame treats?
ML: These fields in Lubbock are some of the best in the nation. And they all have these cinder block buildings where you can take them for their stuff after the game and never leave the park. It's all kind of one-stop shopping.