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Thursday, May 15, 2014
Q&A: WSU offensive analyst Harrell

By Kyle Bonagura

In April, Washington State coach Mike Leach hired Graham Harrell, a three-year starting quarterback for him at Texas Tech, to serve in a role as an offensive analyst within the program. During his college career, Harrell threw for 15,793 yards in Leach's offense, a total that was No. 2 all-time in Division I when his career ended in 2008. Harrell went undrafted, but landed in the Canadian Football League for a year, then spent three more seasons with the Green Bay Packers before he was cut by the New York Jets last September. A football lifer, coaching was the obvious next step.

The Pac-12 blog caught up with Harrell to learn more about his reunion with Leach. Here are the highlights from that conversation:

First off, how did you know you wanted to get into coaching and how did this come about?

Graham Harrell: I’m from a coaching family. My granddad was a high school coach, and my dad’s a high school coach. Actually, my whole family, my brothers are high school coaches in Texas now, too. Coaching is always something that I’ve wanted to do. I was blessed and able to play for a while, but Coach Leach is someone I’ve always stayed in contact with ever since I left Tech. This offseason I was just home training, working out every day and Coach Leach called, like I said, I’ve been keeping up with him and some of the other guys that also coached at Tech. They said, ‘Hey, you should come up during spring ball for a little bit.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that.’ And ended up coming up here for three, four days, hung out with the staff, watched some film and Leach said, 'If you see something we should do differently and you think can help, point it out.' Mentioned a couple things to him and then, before I left, he took me aside and asked if they had a position opening, would I be interested. I said, 'yeah,' and about a month later he called and said they had a position and would I be interested? I said 'Let me ask my wife.' Then I said, 'yeah,' and a couple days later, they flew me up there.

What are your responsibilities?

Graham Harrell
The last time Mike Leach and Graham Harrell worked together, Harrell threw for more than 15,000 yards in an illustrious career at Texas Tech.
Harrell: Ever-changing; it’s just whatever coach needs and whatever I can do to help the team. With spring ball over and the coaches out on the road recruiting, right now I’m kind of watching film and watching all the cut-ups from this spring and seeing where we can do things better, or where we did things really well. Trying to analyze what we did this spring and see where we can improve. I’ll watch practice, see what quarterbacks are doing. If I see something I think I can help, I tell [Leach] and if he signs off on it, then he passes the information on. If he doesn’t, he tells you it’s a bad idea. It’s just kind of the way it works.

Harrell is not an official coach, so he not allowed to give direct input to the players. For a more comprehensive breakdown his role, check out this story from CougCenter. 

Is coaching what you'll continue to pursue, or is there a still a hope you can continuing playing?

Harrell: It all kind of happened pretty quick. I’ve stayed in shape. I’ve continued to train all year, and one thing when I was talking to [Leach], he said, 'If you get a call, you probably need to go. You don’t get to play forever.' So that was one thing he said. Having the chance to be back with Coach Leach and the staff, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Coach Leach is someone I’ve always enjoyed being around when I played for him and even since then. When I played, we became really close. We got along well, meshed well. I was around him all the time. I knew that at some point when I got into coaching, he was a guy I would want to get in with.

How much as the offense changed since you played in it, if at all? 

Harrell: Not hardly at all. When I was at Tech, it would frustrate me. Sometimes I would have an idea and I would think it would be good, tell it to [Leach] and he’d say, 'That’s not what we do.’ All right, there you have it. After being gone, playing elsewhere and seeing other things, I respect him more and more. That’s what makes his offense so good, it’s that he has an identity. He has what he believes in and he says, ‘We’re going to be so good at it that it doesn’t matter if the other team knows what we do or not. We’re just going to out-execute them.' I think that’s as a very good approach. I think the problem with too many teams is that that don’t say, 'This is who we are.’ Because they haven’t changed a whole lot it makes it really easy to jump right back into it.

How are you enjoying Pullman?

Harrell: Enjoying it. It’s a lot prettier area than I realized, being from Texas. I haven’t really been up here and and didn’t know what to expect. Being in Green Bay, it’s kind of north, so that’s what I thought it would be like, and it’s a lot prettier than Green Bay. Really impressed with the area. It’s a small town, but it does have a cool feel. Having a college like this in it makes it have a few more things that you would see in just another small town.