If Mike Leach’s program is, indeed, a ship, the biggest pirate this side of One-Eyed Willie just jumped ship and the mutiny might not even be close to over.

On Wednesday during the weekly SEC coaches’ teleconference, the Mississippi State coach acknowledged that he had heard that Kylin Hill, the preseason All-SEC running back, has opted out of the season and will prepare for the NFL. This comes on the heels that 3 other players — Tyrell Shavers, Jamari Stewart and Tre Lawson — are transferring.

Leach, as usual, put it bluntly that this shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was hired to run the program his way and, if players do not fit into his view of the system, he doesn’t mind them leaving.

Yet Hill’s situation is a mystery. It might be the fact that the running back, who missed the last game with an injury, doesn’t want to risk any more damage to his body. He didn’t have much to prove to scouts, rushing for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019 and then, in just 2 games this season when healthy, showed his versatility with 23 catches for 237 yards and a score.

Maybe he saw the writing on the wall. It’s no secret that a running back in Leach’s system isn’t going to get many carries. The 2 full games that Hill played saw him run it a combined 14 times.

The strangest part of this ordeal is that Leach said he hasn’t spoken to Hill about it. If that is the case, what was their relationship like to begin with? Hill, remember, said during the offseason that he was looking forward to playing in Leach’s system.

What changed? It should be noted that when Leach announced that he was leaving Washington State for the Bulldogs, one of the happiest players on Twitter was none other than Cougars running back Max Borghi.

Leach is famous for his relationship with his quarterbacks but it seems that sometimes that closeness can turn off other position groups. Quarterbacks are almost his entire focus and his approach has worked, turning walk-ons and graduate transfers into stars.

For all the love Leach received when he arrived in Starkville and then after the LSU game, that is now growing into complaints and negativity about whether Leach is the right fit or can win in the SEC.

Let me just tell Mississippi State fans this out of respect: Leach doesn’t care what you say. He was hired by John Cohen to build the program the way he wanted and if that means a mass exodus of players during the first year, so be it. Those players have that right and justifiably so. You do not want to be at a place where you aren’t wanted. Leach knows there might be more departures and he seems fine with it.

Yet losing Hill is a big knock on his short tenure. The ship’s core is buckling a bit in Starkville under Leach’s captaincy and possibly only he knows how it is going to remain upright.