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Tracking the Mike Leach rumors: Is he Tennessee’s next coach?

The pirate might be headed to the south.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Aren’t you excited to hear even more Tennessee coaching search rumors? Well, I hope so! Over the course of the last few days, Mike Gundy has turned it down, and the school went after Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and NC State’s Dave Doeren.

Although recently fired Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin was rumored to be an emerging candidate Thursday, by the end of the day, the Volunteers had reportedly shifted to Washington State’s Mike Leach, per many reports.

However, Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman reported Friday morning:

Word is the meeting with Leach and Tennessee AD John Currie lasted a few hours and went "very well," SI has learned. And I’m told there would be genuine interest in the Vols job from the Wazzu head man.

However this whole deal is complicated by the dynamic swirling around within UT’s leadership. We’ve heard from multiple sources there is a lot of in-fighting, finger-pointing and back-stabbing taking place amongst Tennessee brass. As SI reported earlier this week, there is a growing faction at Tennessee pushing to get Currie removed.

Former Vols head coach Phil Fulmer is said to be one of those battling with Currie and that could muck up the process to reel in Leach.

Leach’s name was first mentioned for the Tennessee job last Saturday.

Yes, given all that’s happened between now and then, that seems like a while ago, so you may have forgotten! said Saturday Mike Leach was in play for the Vols.

[T]he buzz in the profession the past 24 hours has been that Mike Leach seems to have a very good shot at being offered the position.

The expectation from those we’ve spoken with is that Leach would accept the position if offered.

FootballScoop went on to report that defensive coordinator Alex Grinch would be tapped by the Cougars to replace Leach if the offensive guru does move on. It was Grinch’s defense that fueled the Cougars’ hot start this season.

His marauding defense is a big reason why the Cougars are 6-0. He’s been described to SB Nation as an elite defensive mind with the personality to do well as a head coach.

He is currently in his sixth season at Washington State.

Although the Cougs haven’t been seriously in the hunt for any major bowls or CFP bids, what he’s done in Pullman is impressive. Led by his Air Raid offense, over the last three seasons, Wazzu has seen eight- and nine-win seasons, along with a 9-3 2017 with a bowl bid upcoming. As Bill Connelly pointed out in his WSU preview for 2017, Leach’s teams are characterized by some key things:

But it’s going to win.

-It’s going to feature a relentlessly efficient, almost completely pass-dependent offense. It might not produce big plays, but it’s going to stress defenses horizontally. It’ll still be unique, even in the age of the spread offense.

-It’s going to feature an aggressive run defense. That’s not quite the same as an excellent defense — Wazzu’s D ranked 44th in Rushing S&P+ last year — but like the offense, the Cougs’ defense is figuring out ways to dictate what you have to do to win. You might do them well, but that’s secondary.

-Of late, it’s going to feature bad special teams. In three years of Special Teams S&P+ data, Wazzu has ranked 120th, 105th, and 122nd. Be it a poor emphasis on special teams, not enough practice time, the wrong personnel, etc., this has cost WSU one or two points per game.

Leach had success in the Big 12 and Pac-12 by sticking to his script, so why wouldn’t that translate to the SEC?

Not to mention his quirkiness would be a breath of fresh air in the conference.

Remember how great Steve Spurrier’s quotes were? Think of Leach as being like that, but way weirder and less Southern than the HBC. He’s always been known to be a bit out there, and unfortunately some East Coasters may not get as much exposure to Leach-isms as they should. This season he’s had some incredible one-liners, like his anecdote about goths:

And he gave some brutally honest wedding advice last week that was pure gold.

Tennessee isn’t the only SEC school considering Leach.

It seems that Leach has at least some backing for the Arkansas job as well.

Leach has been having some fun with the rumors too, going off of his recent Twitter likes.

Our friends in Vegas like Leach’s chances at the job as well.

Both at Texas Tech and Washington State, Leach has proved that he can win in unconventional places. That’s the sort of thing you have to be able to do to make it work in a place like Tennessee or Arkansas, which don’t have natural bases of talent. He was also an offensive coordinator for two seasons at Kentucky. Leach would absolutely win the press conference. He’d probably win quite a few games as well.