How Much Should A 12 Year Old Boy 150 Pounds Youth Football the Texas Tech Mike Leach Way

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Youth Football the Texas Tech Mike Leach Way

Many of you probably watched that amazing Texas Tech-Texas game on Saturday night like I did. The entertainment value of the game alone was worth the time invested, with Michael Crabtree scoring the game-winning touchdown in a thrilling game with just 1 second left. Mike Leach is a story in himself, definitely a man who follows the beats of another drummer. There are a lot of athletes on the Texas side of the ball, and Mack Brown is a true gentleman, a modern statesman of the game.

Youth soccer lesson in this one

As youth soccer coaches, what can we learn from coach Leach? First, let’s take a moment to look at Coach Leach’s background. With the exception of one year sitting on the bench for his high school football team as a junior, he never played organized football. He graduated from BYU and then received his law degree from Pepperdine. At 25, married, with his second child on the way, he decides he wants to be a college football coach. Yep, right, after stops at College of the Desert, Cal Poly, Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, Finland and Kentucky, he’s now the head coach at Texas Tech, not bad for a self-described “Christian with serious obedience issues.” He seems to be looking at things from a slightly different perspective, perhaps even from an “outsider’s” point of view.

He posted a 74-37 record at a school that rarely, let’s not rephrase that, ever lands top or even No. 2 talent in the state of Texas. Those players are reserved for Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Those kids go to big money, big stadium, big schools with tradition, not Texas Tech, which is a small 57,000 seat stadium with a Zorro masked pirate mascot. Just getting to Lubbock is a huge undertaking, like something out of one of those “Dead Zone” commercials, a place none of the Big 12 Media crews like to go.

Leach does it with quarterbacks no one else wants, 6-foot kids with only Tech and maybe high school offers. He started a number of quarterbacks in just one season, many of whom were fifth-year seniors like BJ Symons, who passed for 52 touchdowns in his only year as a starter. The next season, Symons was replaced by another fifth-year senior, Sonny Cumbie, who passed for 4,742 yards, the sixth-best in NCAA history. This season, Cody Hodges, a fifth-year senior with four years of bench experience, leads Tech’s quest for its first Big 12 title and even a shot at a national championship.

What does all this mean for us youth football coaches?

The Leach formula

Mike Leach saw when he came to Texas Tech that there was no way he could ever match Texas, Oklahoma, A&M and the big boys by doing more than what they were doing. He always had to settle for second and third tier players. He focused on bringing in quick, smart kids who might be a little smaller or oddly shaped, kids who might not look like football players. Certainly former bone bag quarterback Kliff Kingsbury fit that mold. He looked like he was going to need weights in his shoes to hold him up as the strong west Texas winds blew around Lubbock. Listed at 175 pounds, this weight number was about as accurate as the weight listed on a 45-year-old woman’s driver’s license. Tech running back Taurean Henderson looked more like a skinny Munchkin from The Wizard of Oz with really bad hair than a Big 12 Running Back.

How do you win with this kind of talent? I’m sure that’s what Leach wondered 10 years ago when he started at Tech,

Here’s what he did:

He widened the offensive line splits so that his undersized quarterbacks would have lanes to see and penetrate, as well as the edges so far outside that his quarterbacks would have more time against the incredible athleticism of many Big 12 Defensive Ends. During the game, those long passes wear down these monstrous defenses, so by the fourth quarter, his quarterbacks have all day to throw. Offensive line splits vary dramatically from 3 to 9 feet. This also gave his smaller offensive players nice angles for those big defensive linemen lined up in the gaps.

He committed to passing the ball first and averaged over 55 throws per game most seasons.

He committed to throwing the ball with just a few concepts, All Curl, 4 Verticals, Y-Stick, Shallow, Bubble Screens and Mesh. The laminated playing card for his quarterback only had 26 offensive plays for the Texas game. Coach Leach does NOT have a huge playing card filled with hundreds of plays and down-and-out material, he has a simple piece of unlaminated paper usually folded into quarters, like some sort of crumpled crib sheet, with about 30 plays on it. If the play works, he writes an O next to it and runs it again, if it doesn’t, he writes an X next to it and no . In the Texas game, All Curl had to have an O by his side because he threw it at least 5 times.

He devoted himself to launching those few concepts from many formations and looks. So while Leach may be called a “Mad Scientist,” his playbook is relatively simple. Those TV pundits have no idea.

Why does it work?

How and why does it work? His receiver route accuracy is second to none. Watch them sometimes, you won’t see anything like it anywhere. The timing, the execution is amazing. There is nothing revolutionary about these football performances, the execution is flawless and revolutionary. The pass protection is just as impeccable, with the Tech quarterback only being sacked twice this season.

The equivalent of youth football

As a youth football coach, we have to look at what we have to work with and how it compares to our competition. Can we afford to run what everyone else in the league is running and expect kids to have success? Should we run the exact same football plays and formations as our bigger and faster competition and expect to compete? Or do we have to be creative and start something different? Tech decided to start something different.

Do we need 40-50-60 plays in our notebook? Tech did it on Saturday with 26 football games, and Tech has the opportunity to practice 6 days a week almost year round. They are masters of several concepts that do not have multiple formations.

Do we throw in the chips with Leach?

When you coach youth football, does that mean you should commit to throwing the ball 60 times a game and widen your gap to 6-9 feet with your football team? Not at all. In youth football, we can’t practice 6 days a week almost year round or eliminate anyone (most teams), Texas Tech doesn’t have to worry about getting all players into the game regardless of the circumstances of the game or team sizes of 25 instead of 150. Your kids won’t be able to widen the split to 9 feet when you start an unathletic future computer geek at one offensive line spot and a future marching tuba player at the other. Such children cannot fill a 2 foot gap, let alone a 6-9 foot gap. Most youth football teams won’t have 2-3 good, well-trained backups waiting in the wings when a starter is injured or sick. Even your best quarterback who attends every QB camp known to man isn’t going to throw it wide and hit it with pinpoint accuracy to the outside tip of his lateral shoulder on a 25-yard run route like Tech consistently does (impossible to defend). But what we youth soccer 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 be different. You don’t need to have 60 football games in your book, but what you do need are complementary plays that you execute to absolute perfection. That’s why my teams run a single wing offense and why we have a limited number of 100% complementary series that we refine each season.

Tech still has a tough matchup with Oklahoma State, but they’re always fun to watch. Heck if Tech hadn’t converted on 4th and 6 from 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 even his drop of 35. When his “no play” failed, Crabtree delivered a “broken play” with a 65-yard TD catch that made the difference in the game. Mike Leach is an enigma.

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