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Youth Football the Texas Tech Mike Leach Way
Many of you probably watched this awesome Texas-Texas game Saturday night like I did. The entertainment value of the game alone was worth the investment of time Michael Crabtree scored in a thrilling game with just 1 second on the clock. Mike Leach is a story in his own right, definitely a man who follows the beat of a different drummer. There are plenty of athletes on the Texas side of the ball, and Mack Brown is a true gentleman, a modern-day master of the game.
A lesson in youth football in this
As youth football coaches, what can we learn from Coach Leach? First, let’s take a moment to look at Coach Leach’s history. Except for one year sitting on the bench for his high school football team as a junior, he never played organized football. He earned his bachelor’s degree from BYU and then his law degree from Pepperdine. At age 25, married and with a second child on the way, he decides to become a college football coach. Yes, that’s right, after stops at the College of the Desert, Cal Poly, Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, Finland and Kentucky, he’s now the head coach at Texas Tech, Not Bad, a self-described “Christian with serious obedience issues.” He seems to be looking at things from a slightly different perspective, maybe even an “outsider” kind of perspective.
He compiled a 74-37 record at a school that rarely, let’s repeat that, ever lands top-tier or even second-tier talent in the state of Texas. These players are reserved for Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Those kids go to big money, big stadium, big traditional schools, not Texas Tech, and it’s a small 57,000 seat stadium with a Zorro pirate mask mascot. Just getting to Lubbock is a big deal, like something out of one of those “Dead Zone” commercials, a place none of the Big 12 Media staff enjoy going to.
Leach is doing it with quarterbacks no one wants, 6-foot kids with only Tech offers and maybe one high school. He has started a number of quarterbacks over the course of a season, most of them in their fifth year, like BJ Symons, who passed for 52 touchdowns in his one year as a starter. The following season, Simons was replaced by another fifth-year freshman, Sonny Camby, who passed for 4,742 yards, the sixth-best in NCAA history. This season, fifth-year Cody Hodges, who has four years of experience on the bench, is looking for Tech’s first Big 12 title and even a shot at the National Championship.
Now what does all this mean for us youth football coaches?
Mike Leach, when he came to Texas Tech, saw that he could never match Texas, Oklahoma, A&M and the big boys by doing more of what they were doing. He always had to settle for second- and third-rate players. He focused on bringing in quick, smart kids who might be a little short or oddly shaped, kids who might not look like football players. Certainly former bone bag Kliff Kingsbury fit the mold. He seemed to need weight in his shoes to hold him when the strong West Texas winds blew around Lubbock. That weight number, listed at 175 pounds, was about as accurate as the weight listed on the 45-year-old woman’s driver’s license. Tech running back Taurean Henderson looked like a skinny Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz with really bad hair than a Big 12 running back.
How do you win with such talent? I believe Leach asked himself 10 years ago when he started at Tech,
This is what He did:
He expanded the line of scrimmage so his small quarterbacks had lanes they could see and throw to and also made the corners more inside and outside so his quarterbacks would have more time against the incredible athleticism of many of the Big 12 Defensive Ends. During the game, those long passes tire out those tight ends, so in the fourth quarter, his quarterbacks have to throw all day. The offensive line spacing varies significantly from 3 to 9 feet. It also gave his smaller offensive linemen good angles for those big defensive linemen to fit in the gaps.
Committed to passing the ball first, he averaged over 55 throws per game most seasons.
He committed to throwing with just a few concepts, All Curl, 4 Verticals, Y-Stick, Slow, Bubble Screens and Mesh, a laminated playing card for his quarterback totaling 26 offensive plays in the Texas game. Coach Leach doesn’t have a giant game card filled with hundreds of plays and downs and distances, he has a simple piece of unlaminated paper, usually folded into quarters, like a crib sheet, with about 30 plays on it. . If the play works, he writes an O next to it and plays it again, if it fails, he writes an X next to it and no. In the Texas game, the All Curl should have had an O next to it because he threw it at least 5 times.
He undertook to fulfill these several concepts in various forms and appearances. So while Leach can be called a “Mad Scientist,” his playbook is relatively simple. Those TV pundits have nothing.
Why does it work?
How and why does it work? The accuracy of his receiving routes is second to none. Watch them sometimes, you won’t see anything like this anywhere. Time, performance in the unusual. There is nothing revolutionary about these football games, it is the execution that is flawless and revolutionary. The pass defense is just as flawless, Tech’s quarterback has been sacked just twice this season.
The equivalent of youth football
As a youth soccer coach, we have to see what we have to work with and how it compares to our competition. Can we just do what everyone else in the league is doing and expect kids to have success? Should we expect and run the exact same plays and forms of football as our bigger, faster competition? Or should we be creative and do something different? Tech decided to do something different.
Do we need 40-50-60 plays in the playbook? Tech did it on Saturday with 26 football games and Tech practices about 6 days a week. They are masters of several concepts that end up in many forms.
Do we throw in our chips with the lich?
When coaching youth football does that mean you have to commit to throwing the ball 60 times a game and expand your reach to 6-9 feet with your football team? No, not at all. In junior football, we can’t practice 6 days a week almost year-round or cut anyone (most teams), Texas Tech doesn’t have to worry about getting every player to play regardless of the game situation, or a team size of 25 instead of 150 .Your kids can’t widen the divide to 9 feet when you start a future non-athletic PC at one point of attack and a future marching band drummer at another. Such children cannot fill a 2 foot gap, let alone a 6-9 foot gap. Most youth football teams don’t have 2-3 good backup quarterbacks waiting in the wings when a starter is injured or sick. Even your best quarterback, known to people in every QB camp, isn’t going to want to throw to a wide receiver and hit him with pinpoint accuracy on the outside of his side’s shoulder on a 25-yard sideline route like Tech consistently does (defense impossible to do) ). But what we youth football coaches can learn from Leach is to compete, you don’t have the biggest and most athletic team in your league, but you have to stand out. You don’t need to have 60 football plays in your playbook, but what you do need are extra plays that you execute to absolute perfection. That’s why my teams run single wing attacks and why we have a limited number of 100% extra game series that we improve every season.
Tech still has a tough streak with future Oklahoma State, but they’re always fun to watch. Heck, if Tech hadn’t converted on 4th and 6 of their 35 against Nebraska 2 weeks ago in a narrow win, we might not even be having this conversation. But Mike Leach thinks 4th-and-6 is acceptable even from his own 35. When his “no play” failed, Crabtree made a “broken play” 65-yard TD catch that was the difference in the game. Mike Leach is an enigma.
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