STARKVILLE • If anyone is capable of understanding the way Mike Leach’s mind works, it might be Dave Emerick.
Emerick’s relationship with Leach dates back decades to their time together at Kentucky in 1997-98, when Leach was the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator and Emerick was a student working in the recruiting department.
Emerick later spent six years on Leach’s staff at Texas Tech rising from unit coordinator to director of player personnel and finally to chief of staff. For the past eight years, Emerick was Leach’s chief of staff at Washington State – and was his first hire when he took the Mississippi State head coaching job.
“We just have such a level of trust and I’ve known him for such a long time that I know what he would want in most situations that I’m able to make things easier on him,” Emerick said.
Although Emerick’s new title at MSU is senior associate athletics director for football, his roles on Leach’s staff remain intact. Emerick’s top responsibility is to oversee the Bulldogs’ recruiting efforts and he also serves as the football program’s liaison for academics, compliance, media relations and the Bulldog Club.
“He is a vital member of our staff,” Leach said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that is invaluable to our program.”
As Emerick assisted Leach in assembling his coaching staff in January, he was also leading the way in recruiting. In a matter of weeks, Emerick helped the Bulldogs maintain 21 of the 22 players that previously signed in December and also added four new players in February.
“It was a lot less hectic than it could have been,” Emerick said. “Coach (Joe) Moorhead and his staff did a great job assembling their signing class. They’d really put a quality signing class together and our biggest priority was making contact with those kids and coach Leach going out to see them. Then we put the finishing touches on the class.”
Normally, MSU would be hosting junior days and other unofficial visits to campus during spring practices. But this year the Bulldogs have had to adapt their recruiting strategy due to the coronavirus pandemic and campus being closed.
“We definitely have more time to devote to recruiting during the course of the day,” Emerick said. “That goes two ways though because it’s more time for us but also for other schools as well. Recruits are getting bombarded by schools that can text all day and get them on the phone all day. We’ve been persistent with forming and maintaining relationships with a lot of these kids.
“The hard part is us being a new staff and the kids haven’t come and met us yet and they haven’t been on campus. This time of year we’d have so many prospects on campus and not being able to have that is obviously tough. Our coaches also haven’t been able to go out (on the road) throughout the state and the area and obviously that’s a big change for us.”
The efforts of Emerick as well as other on staff have paid off with a pair of commitments during the pandemic. Four-star quarterback Sawyer Robertson and defensive end Thomas Davis have both committed to the Bulldogs during the past month.
Emerick has been pleased with the overall reaction recruits have had since Leach was announced as State’s new coach. In many cases, Leach’s reputation for winning and offensive production preceded him.
“I think there’s a high level of excitement just with the success that he’s had over his career,” Emerick said. “He’s been the Big 12 Coach of the Year, Pac-12 Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year and had so many award winners and record setters. Him being a different personality too, people draw to that. Offensive guys are naturally going to be drawn toward him but the excitement about coach (Zach) Arnett and our defensive staff has been good as well.”