Mississippi State finally stepped off the coaching carousel on Thursday, naming Washington State head coach Mike Leach as the university’s 33rd head football coach.
— Mississippi State Football (@HailStateFB) January 9, 2020
Leach has been long one of college football’s most interesting characters and offensive innovators, racking up a 139-90 record at Texas Tech and Washington State, sending his teams to a combined 15 bowls and 6 top 25 finishes. One of the creators of the Air Raid offense, Leach’s teams are known for their prolific passing attacks. Washington State led the nation in passing offense a season ago, averaging 433 yards in the air.
Leach will be an interesting choice for Mississippi State, a team that has had a reputation for decades as a power running offense. This represents a paradigm shift from those philosophies, and raises an interesting question. Mississippi State was one of the worst passing teams in the SEC in 2019, and all three quarterbacks on campus were recruited to run either Dan Mullen’s or Joe Moorhead’s scheme which leaned on the quarterback run. Recruiting will be key for Leach, as he’ll have to find the kind of players that fit into his system.
Leach replaces Joe Moorhead, who was fired after only two seasons amid rumors of player discipline becoming an issue. John Cohen said in the press conference following that decision that his search was “going to have to start with discipline. It’s going to have to start with having a hard edge.” Mississippi State was plagued by off the field issues this season, including the suspension of eight players for academic violations, and the altercation between quarterback Garrett Shrader and linebacker Willie Gay that led to the former’s injury and subsequent absence from MSU’s season finale in the Music City Bowl.
Known for his sharp wit and willingness to discuss almost any topic, Leach will bring an incredible amount of national attention to Starkville. The question now must be answered, can he bring wins? Leach has been successful at every stop, but he’ll need to reshape the MSU program into his own image, a process that might not be an immediate one.