Mike Leach’s antics over the years have made him one of the most beloved figures in college football.
Despite all his quirks, Leach is very much a creature of habit the same as most people. And this time of year Leach has grown accustomed to preparing his team in spring football practices and was looking forward to his first as Mississippi State’s new head coach.
But instead of beginning spring drills with the Bulldogs on March 21, Leach and his wife Sharon have been secluded at their home in Key West, Florida, due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
“We definitely need practice and we definitely need some teaching time going into camp,” Leach said in an interview with the Daily Journal on Friday. “With that said, this (pandemic) is the top priority for the safety of everybody so we’ve got to work through that and do (practice) when the time comes. (Practice) is a concern but it’s a secondary concern.”
The Southeastern Conference suspended all athletic activities through April 15 but is expected to start allowing coaches to conduct virtual film reviews and “chalk talk”s with players for up to two hours per week starting on Monday.
In the event that spring practices are canceled altogether, Leach hopes the NCAA will give teams additional time for walk-through practices and meetings in much the same way NFL teams practice during the summer with organized team activities.
During his introductory press conference in January, Leach said he believed he would be able to install his offensive system quickly this spring: “We’ve always been able to install it fast. I don’t think it will be perfect within a week, but I think it will be fairly sharp within two weeks.”
As much as spring practices were to be focused on installing new schemes on both sides of the ball, it was also about relationship-building between the players and new coaches alike.
“It’s a big deal because we were in the early stages of that,” Leach said. “The further that you can get down on that path, the more important it is. Right now, we’re kind of on hold for that. Nearly all of our guys are off campus.”
Tyson Brown and the new MSU strength and conditioning staff were making headway towards establishing a foundation for hard work and discipline within the program when team activities ended earlier this month.
“When we come back, we need to jump-start that portion as quickly as we can,” Leach said. “There will be a balance of that and any practice time that we potentially get.”
Although Leach has been confined in one of the most beautiful communities in the country, he admits it is surreal to bike down the streets of Key West and see empty hotels and deserted beaches during one of the town’s busiest times.
But Leach has tried to make the best of the situation until things can get back to normal around the world.
“I’ve tried to utilize the time well – read, connect with family, eat better and get a little exercise,” Leach said. “I haven’t done some heavy exercising, but I have tried to organize my meals so that I can eat nutritious stuff so I can cheat and get in shape that way. I’m just waiting it out, but it’s time for reflection and reinforcement.”