January 20, 2010
Mike Leach's attorney informed a Lubbock judge Wednesday that the erstwhile Texas Tech coach "cannot get a job" since being controversially ousted by Tech last month, but the Leach coaching tree is spreading its branches nonetheless. Louisiana Tech has reportedly hired Leach protegé Sonny Dykes to replace Tennessee-bound Derek Dooley as its head coach, thereby committing the Bulldog offense to airing it out for the foreseeable future, come hell or high water. (And this being Northern Louisiana, you know their standards for both are unusually high.)
Dykes comes from a three-year stint as offensive coordinator at Arizona, but his formative years as a coach were spent under Leach's wing when both were on Hal Mumme's staff at Kentucky in the late nineties and later in seven years at Texas Tech (where Dykes' dad, Spike, preceded Leach). Like Leach, the younger Dykes is the rare football coach who didn't play football in college -- he was a Red Raider baseball player -- and sometimes he even looks like Leach from the right angle. When Sonny took the "Air Raid" philosophy to Tucson as offensive coordinator in 2007, it immediately improved the Wildcats' dismal scoring average by more than 10 points per game, a leap they sustained over the last two seasons despite major personnel turnover last year (as well as an extreme reliance on the bubble screen). Dykes' offenses haven't put the ball in the air quite as often as Leach's, but 'Zona led the Pac-10 in pass attempts two of Dykes' three years there, and (more importantly) has evolved into a reliable bowl team after a decade of uninterrupted futility.
It's also interesting to see Louisiana Tech's attempt to recapture the high-flying philosophy that defined its best teams of the modern era, the Tim Rattay-to-Troy Edwards outfits that threatened every passing record on the books and put together one of the best three-year runs in school history from 1997-99 -- including an upset over eventual SEC champ Alabama in '99. Since Rattay's graduation, the Bulldogs have been a nondescript, ground-based team under Dooley and his predecessor, Jack Bicknell, and descended into obscurity even by WAC standards. If he can make things even slightly interesting in Ruston again without employing a shed, Dykes looks like another legacy hire on his way to bigger things down the line.