If there is one thing Washington St. Cougars fans should be ready for when it comes to Mike Leach, it's the offense. Washington State's offense has been pretty decent this past season, and now with Leach it figures to be one of the best in the country. The Cougars are already a proficient passing team, and they're likely to keep that profile going.
However, that doesn't mean it's all rum and doubloons for the fine fans in Pullman. There's some scurvy to go along with it.
Leach was pretty good with winning and producing bowl games on a year-by-year basis at Texas Tech. But he also enjoyed significant advantages, like access to the vital Texas recruiting pipeline. Generally after Oklahoma and Texas got their fill of the recruits they wanted, Leach could scour and find hidden gems and other pretty strong talent.
Washington doesn't provides as fertile a base to build on; although Leach will likely be going back to his Texas roots, he'll likely have to try out California and Florida too (like Paul Wulff did), and he'll be way lower in the pecking order in every state at Washington State. Leach's magnetic presence could draw a lot of good talent to Pullman, but it might not be quite as filling as the kingdom he set up in Lubbock.
Additionally, Leach is strong at recruiting offense. Defense was never his strong suit, and it showed with the Red Raiders. That doesn't bode well for the current WSU football defense we see on the field. Despite occasional flashes of strength, the Washington State defense has been abysmal. The Cougars were bottom two in the first two years of the Wulff era, bottom ten in the third, and climbed up to what amounts to (comparatively) a respectable 93rd thanks to the offense finally being able to stay on the field for reasonable periods of time.
Thus it's hard to imagine the Cougars being terribly different from the team we saw on the field this year. Their ceiling will be higher offensively, but the defense needs a lot of help. Washington State might be able to outscore some of their opponents, but certainly not all of them, which will probably hold them back.
Finally, keep in mind that Leach enjoyed a lot of success in his conference, but could never get past Texas or Oklahoma to capture a Big 12 title. Standing in Leach's way will be Oregon and possibly cross-state rivals Washington (well, okay, if Nick Holt is still coaching the Husky defense, they'll probably be standing still while they get gashed for 700 yards and 60 points), and of course the dominant powerhouse USC. The Texas/Oklahoma duo was probably more formidable, but the Pac-12 is pretty multipolar. Every team has a good chance to knock you off.
Regardless, Washington State is back on equal footing in the Pac-12 discussion for conference titles, and that's probably all Bill Moos was hoping from this hire in the first place. Brian Floyd of CougCenter probably said it best.
Hiring Leach was a big dog move. Shelling out $2.25 million a year for Leach and another $1.8 million for his assistants was a big dog move. Doing so right here and right now was a big dog move.
WSU could only follow its own vicious cycle for so long. The Cougars saw success on the field in the early 2000s and before, but never fully capitalized on it. WSU was still the down-home athletic department that did more with less. We made every dollar go miles, and fans prided themselves on it. Embrace that mentality long enough and it defines you. It's a small-time school of thought.
Think big, be big, aim for the stars.
Indeed. Ahoy Washington State. We're ready for the Pirate to anchor down in the Pacific.