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Mike Leach doesn't like to dance, but wants Marcellus Pippins to feel the rhythm

"When they see me dancing, it gets them juiced," Marcellus Pippins said of his teammates. "It keeps them loose. It puts a smile on everyone's face instead of just being uptight." Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

Washington State coach Mike Leach might have a lot of unique interests -- history, pirates, long walks -- but he certainly doesn't have any interest in dancing.

In middle school, during the dancing sections of P.E., he got kicked out of class. In high school, during school dances, he was not the guy shaking a leg and making an impression on the dance floor with the ladies.

"I don't dance," Leach says. "I walk in place if I'm forced out there. ... I respect people who can dance great. I don't look like Elaine on Seinfeld, but all I'm going to do is tread water in place and make it go away."

But in the last few years, Leach has developed an added appreciation for dance.

Specifically, when Washington State cornerback Marcellus Pippins dances.

"It gets his energy going," Leach said. "As good of a dancer as he is, I think he ought to dance more. ... He dances and all of a sudden the juice is flowing and you can't stop him."

Pippins is rarely seen standing still. Whether he's on the sidelines or on the field between plays, he's moving in some way. Leach refers to Pippins' dance genre as "wiggling," but Pippins says it's just Bay Area dancing.

"It's just something that I do to get ready for a game," he said. "When I'm dancing, it means I'm hype and ready to make a play."

And thanks to Pippins' dancing and his ability to be ready to make those plays, the Washington State secondary has made major strides in the last few seasons.

In 2014, the Cougars gave up 33 passing touchdowns (third-worst among Pac-12 teams) and 58 completions of 20-plus yards (worst among Pac-12 teams).

Leach brought in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch to overhaul the unit after that season and in just two years Washington State has shown impressive progress, especially in the secondary where Grinch works as the defensive back coach.

Last season, the Cougs gave up just 20 passing touchdowns (sixth in the Pac-12) and 41 completions of 20-plus yards (eighth in the Pac-12). The unit looked more cohesive than it has during the Leach era and the Cougars landed safety Shalom Luani on the All-Pac-12 first team.

A big part of that progress was getting the right guys in the rights spots and Pippins was one of those. Over the last two seasons Pippins has started 22 games for the Cougars, totaling 68 tackles, 16 passes defended, five interceptions and at least a few hundred hours of dancing.

But now Pippins will step into a new role within the secondary. With the exit of Luani -- the Cougs only 2016 defensive back starter who doesn't return -- the Washington DBs will turn more toward Pippins.

And it's not only for his lockdown corner play, but also for leadership. And to Pippins, that means more dancing.

"The team knows I'm ready to play when I'm dancing," Pippins said. "When they see me dancing, it gets them juiced. It keeps them loose. It puts a smile on everyone's face instead of just being uptight. Then, they can just play football instead of thinking too much."

He says that his younger teammates appreciate the fact that he keeps his mind and body loose with his Bay Area dance moves, and that in turn, they're able to stay loose too. And the looser the group plays -- which Pippins said has been something the unit has focused on over the past two seasons -- the more productive it can be.

And it's not just his teammates who feel Pippins' energy when he's dancing.

Leach says it infects him, too.

"On the sidelines, Marcellus makes me feel good," Leach said. "It's his energy. Marcellus has energy and I feel that energy."

So, with him stepping into a bigger role and a defense that's looking to take another step forward in 2017, it's safe to say that the Pippins' dance moves aren't going anywhere. And Leach, Grinch and the rest of the defensive backs are probably pretty thrilled about that.

"He better keep dancing," Leach said. "I'm in favor of that."