Mike Leach Recaps Early Signing Day
Published 10:13 am Thursday, December 16, 2021
STARKVILLE – Head coach Mike Leach met with the media on National Signing Day to discuss his recruiting class that is currently ranked No. 13 nationally. Below are the quotes from Leach’s press conference.
Head Coach Mike Leach – Dec. 15, 2021
Q: What are the main positions you want to add to after this Signing Day in December?
ML: I think it’s very relative. We wanted to make an impact on the defensive line, defensive back and offensive line. I felt like we did. There are a couple guys that have signed that we are not announcing today, respecting their wishes for various signing day considerations they have with their teammates. We filled out a lot in our class. We have to continue to improve and sort of attack the task at hand in January. I think we’re off to a good start. I want to thank all our coaches. Our coaches have done a tremendous job at recruiting. In particular in our recruiting office behind the scenes the ones that did a really great job were Dave Emerick, Matt Dudek, Rod Gibson, Brittany Thackery and Andrea Hollis, who really put together great visits for these guys and allowed us and the program to put our best foot forward as they made their consideration for their next stop and college to go to. Also, I thought we targeted our region pretty well. We got 12 out of Mississippi, which was a huge consideration to get as many as we would out of Mississippi. We got two out of Georgia and two out of Texas. One out of Louisiana and maybe some more will come out of Louisiana and Alabama. Pretty balanced so far. Four defensive line, four defensive backs, three linebackers, four offensive line, two receivers – and I expect a few more of those – and a quarterback.
Q: Why was quarterback Braedyn Locke the guy for you? What makes him a good pick for your offense?
ML: Braedyn Locke had a really impressive career first of all. He had a great career, and the ball explodes off his hand. It comes off his hand really quickly, and he puts it on his receivers right now, and they get yards after the catch. It didn’t hurt that he broke the touchdown record in the state of Texas. A lot of touchdowns have been thrown in Texas. He worked with one of my former players who now gives quarterback lessons. It helped that I became familiar with what he was able to do pretty early on.
Q: With Percy Lewis a big guy coming out of junior college, is that someone you see making an immediate impact at left tackle?
ML: I hope so. The junior college guys, you want them to be able to contribute early that is why you went with the JC guy. He certainly has the frame for it, and we want him to attack the weight room and get him in great shape. Just get him acclimated as quickly as we can.
Q: Can you talk about your assistant coaches and support staff, and the job they did to close things out with players like [DeCarlos] Nicholson, Trevion Williams and Percy Lewis?
ML: The biggest thing is persistence. In recruiting, everybody thinks a great recruiter is some car salesman type of guy, but I haven’t found that to be the case. I can think of some of my assistants over the years that were just tremendous recruiters, and they were just persistent guys. They were guys that anybody could relate to and someone you would like to see in the hall every day, talk to every day. Someone you felt like you could trust and had a lot of credibility. I think persistence was the biggest thing. The other thing that our assistants did a good job of is when the players come on a visit here we do a good job at making sure that everybody gets to know the family, like a wide variety of people. Everybody might be a stretch, but they meet a lot of people that they’re going to be involved with in their career and, from a parent’s standpoint, in their son’s career. I think that played huge dividends. An awful lot of people on our staff knew the parents and knew the players. It was tough because it was in such a short period of time, which was a big element too.
Q: With Javae Gilmore, Khalid Moore and Avery Sledge being such athletic linebackers, is [athleticism] something you look for in that position?
ML: You have to be able to move. Part of what we do – and everyone likes the big plugger types of guys. If you can move, we can do so much more with it. The type of defense that Zach [Arnett] runs, a lot of twists, blitzes, movement, that time of thing, you definitely want that to be an aspect of it and long arms too.
Q: You had a couple key players flip in the last month. How much do you think the progress the program made this year impacted some of the later decisions in their recruiting process?
ML: That’s difficult to say. People really sell the program. It was definitely a part of it. We’ve had a lot of growth as a program this year, and I think as they talk to our players and get on campus, they feel and get a sense of that. They’re able to see that too.
Q: I know you probably enjoyed getting back on the road [recruiting] a little bit. What was it like this year being out there and on those in-home visits again?
ML: Fast and furious. You go from the last game to hitting the road. There’s none of this recuperation stuff. The other thing is you have to become more familiar with the guys you’re going to sign, and you have to do it quickly. And you have to do it quicker now than ever. It was a very important part of it. It’s always interesting to meet the family and get a sense of their background. We have several coming in this semester – Jacarius Clayton, Jarnorris Hopson, Percy Lewis, Braedyn Locke and DeCarlos Nicholson are all coming in.
Q: What kind of role does the transfer portal have, and how will you assess it in the coming weeks?
ML: We’ll consider it as a resource. There’s a randomness to the portal. It’s definitely a resource that can’t be ignored. The ultimate success story of the portal is a Makai Polk, who is now the leading receiver in the SEC. The ultimate non-success story is the 3,000 or so that saw greener pastures last year that didn’t find a new pasture.
Q: Why is it so important to recruit players outside the state of Mississippi?
ML: Our biggest emphasis was on recruiting [the state of] Mississippi. That’s specifically what we wanted to do most importantly and then satellite out from there. We wanted more, and great players no matter how far away they are, but the ones with ties here that grew up with the SEC and Mississippi State football, I think that’s the starting point. It was pretty good that way. I do suspect in February that the net will probably be a little broader. I think things will stretch out more – not just for us, but for everybody.
Q: Now that you’ve been through the name, image and likeness process, how much did you see NIL play a role and how did it turn out in this cycle?
ML: A little bit. There was some rhetoric on it, and I think it’s still unfolding. It’s still unfolding as to what impact that will have.
Q: Would you like to take a QB at each cycle, or does it depend on what you need at that moment??
ML: I try to take one each year, yes.
Q: How do you sell Mississippi State to out-of-state prospects and their families that may be unfamiliar with the University?
ML: We try to get them familiar with, first of all, our schemes and how they fit in, whether it’s throwing the ball on offense, or attacking the ball on defense. From there, you try to get acquainted with them the best you can, because there’s a point to where people want to be around people they trust. There’s a place where they get excited seeing the people in the hall, the locker room and on the field. We try to illustrate that the best we can. Then once you get them on campus, be real truthful with them as they come in and put them in a position to verify, see it and gather all the facts once they’re on campus.