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Archive for Saturday, November 1, 2008

Commentary: Brown, Leach have opposite styles

November 1, 2008

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One off-hand question this week illustrated the differences in coaching style and personality between Texas' Mack Brown and Mike Leach of Texas Tech.

Just before his weekly news conference, Brown was asked if he had a backup long snapper to avoid a meltdown like that of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the New York Giants. Brown immediately identified Alex Zumberge. The Longhorns had already used Zumberge in several lopsided victories this season to get him experience should he be needed, Brown said.

Out in West Texas, Leach made news by plucking a contest-winning kicker out of the stands and using him for extra points.

The distinction could not be clearer going into tonight's Showdown on the South Plains between the unbeaten Big 12 South teams.

On one side is Brown, the football CEO who plans for every contingency.

On the other side is Leach, the maverick who gives the impression he's making it up as he goes along, like fictional pirate Captain Jack Sparrow. Outside the box? Sometimes Leach's play-calling and interests seem like they come from outside the solar system, though he has had enviable success.

Asked to name a pirate, most college coaches couldn't go beyond Captain Morgan. Leach can probably tell you how many ships buccaneer Black Bart captured.

In their own way, each expressed respect for the other's approach.

"I like Mike," Brown said. "He thinks that the real advantage for him in coaching is that he's unpredictable. The rest of us, we kind of grew up in this stuff. We grew up in this stuff, and he didn't."

No, Leach was a budding lawyer intrigued by the offensive side of football. So he borrowed stuff from LaVell Edwards and Bill Walsh and Hal Mumme.

Maybe that's why Leach doesn't blink about fourth-down gambles deep in his own territory.

"Coach Leach is coach Leach," Texas quarterback Colt McCoy said. "And there is nobody else like him."

Brown lost five straight games to arch-rival Oklahoma, endured the Coach February taunts, won a national title and now has the longest tenure in the Big 12. He is not going anywhere soon.

"One thing I've always admired about Mack, especially, (is) the off-the-field stuff," Leach said. "Whether it's the organization of, oh, anything, from meetings to administration to speaking at fund raising events, he's always got a real specific plan.

"He's really sharp on that stuff. Yes, just the most obscure thing. Why is this sofa sitting here? Well, it's sitting here because of this, and if you put it there, it's like that."

Brown hasn't been afraid to make moves. After watching an underwhelming defense for two years, he paid $425,000 to get Will Muschamp, maybe the hottest coordinator going.

At the same time, he's stayed with offensive coordinator Greg Davis despite criticism.

Brown noticed the gambles are down this season in Lubbock (Tech has gone for it on fourth down a mere 14 times), and the Red Raiders have built a respectable running game and a deep defense. Brown even suggested that Leach might be turning - gasp - conventional.

"When they run the zone read, you know things have changed in the eight years we've coached against him," Brown said.

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