Mike Leach says his team is "immature" and that they haven't handled their success from last season very well. Says it's time to cut out the "kumbaya crap" and get tough

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For Washington State’s football players, life is about to change dramatically, head coach Mike Leach promised ominously Monday afternoon.

“The thing that’s disappointing is that we’re having to re-learn way too many lessons we should have learned last year,” Leach said. “We have to hammer these guys. We’ve developed to be a team that, if you want to be nice to them, and all this ‘kumbaya’ crap, it doesn’t work.

“Their lives are gonna change as they know it and it’s gonna change as they know it for the rest of the season.”

A fired up Leach spent most of his weekly press conference in the lead up to this weekend’s Idaho game listing the ways he thought his players had failed to perform in their 31-28 defeat to Boise State over the weekend. He also likened the atmosphere around the team to that of a junior college softball game.

“That’s what we are. A J.C. softball team – it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s ‘the team that wins is the one that has the most fun’,” Leach said. “Crap like that. All this stuff that has contaminated America where they give every little kid a trophy and don’t keep score in Little League anymore.”

The 0-2 Cougars began the process of moving on from Boise State on Sunday night, when, in an unusual move, they practiced in full pads as Leach tried to send a message that he wants his players to embrace contact and get tougher.

He called out his inside receivers, saying that with the exception of John Thompson, the others all got “kicked around” by Boise State linebacker Tanner Vallejo, who had 14 tackles, including a team-high 10 solo stops, in the Broncos’ win.

“We have to raise the bar on three of our inside receivers I can think of,” Leach said. “If they miss a block in practice, it’s all of a sudden going to get painful.”

The head coach also wasn’t all that satisfied with the team’s effort from their Sunday night practice, terming it “average” and saying, “It needs to get better. And if it doesn’t get better next Sunday, we’ll be in full pads and we’ll elevate the contact.”

Going forward, the Cougars’ coaches have been instructed to get a lot tougher on the players too.

“I just think we have a very immature team. I don’t think we handle success well. I think mentally we overindulged whatever success we considered we had last year,” Leach said.

So what exactly is wrong with the Cougs? What has the head coach seen that implies toughness is lacking?

Leach gamely rattled off a laundry list.

“I’ve got receivers running routes that don’t resemble anything we teach, we don’t tuck the ball and go straight upfield, we do all these stupid moves. We run out of bounds more than any team in the country. We’re the easiest team in the country to tackle. Defensively we don’t run our feet on contact, we don’t on offense either. We don’t like to run and hit, and this is a game for running and hitting. We don’t care to do that and we’ve got all this ‘I’ll do it in a game’ type of crap,” Leach said. “That whole ‘feel good’ thing has got to be purged. Our team does not have the ability to play hard when there’s any level of comfort.”

How does Leach plan to make his players less comfortable to cultivate the toughness he thinks is lacking?

“The bottom line is, you’ll see more plays repeated, you’ll see significantly louder verbal instruction, I think you might see a lineup shuffle and I think you might see some post-practice extra drills if what we needed is unsatisfactory,” Leach said. “I think you’ll see more coaches talking and less players talking, and I think you’ll see less input accepted (from) players in meetings because they’ve proven that we coaches have misjudged their ability to assess and take responsibility for what’s going on.

“So you’re gonna take back the responsibility. We never should have relinquished it in the first place, and that’s our fault.”