Mike Leach is essentially killing two birds with one stone, bringing on his former special teams coach at Texas Tech and a man with deep ties to Eastern Washington and Idaho. Eric Russell will reportedly join Leach's staff after resigning as the Tennessee special teams and tight ends coach this past week.
Russell has a reputation as one of the top special teams coaches in the country. Players who earned all-conference special teams honors are littered throughout his career, and many of the units he coached ranked among the top in the nation -- be it kick and punt coverage or in the return game. In 2009, while at Texas Tech, Russell was nominated for the Frank Broyles Award for the nation's top assistant, as well.
So how did Russell get here? It's a path that began in Idaho, before winding through Spokane and Texas, among other places. Russell graduated from St. Maries in Idaho, played a bit of quarterback at Spokane Falls and graduated from the University of Idaho, where he worked as a graduate assistant for a year. He spent 13 years at North Texas, followed by two at Louisiana Tech, where he coached under Derek Dooley, and a stint at Texas Tech, under Leach, before being hired at Tennessee.
Which brings us back to Washington State, where Russell will set up shop and reportedly coach the special teams. It's an area of need for the Cougars, something painfully obvious to anyone who watched last season. The blocked punt on the Cougars' first series in the Apple Cup was a swift kick in the nuts, and the kickoff woes were well-documented throughout the year. In Russell, the Cougars pickup a man who knows his special teams, and who traces his roots back to the area.
It's also fun to note that Washington State managed to hire away a coach from Tennessee, and a successful coach at that. Russell's relationship with Leach clearly helped and his hire would seem to indicate a significant investment in special teams play.
Above all else, though, I'm just excited to call the Washington State special team's scheme "Russellmania." It can be our own version of Beamer Ball, or something of the sorts.