No input shortage for Leach on special teams

WASHINGTON STATE'S special teams, largely anemic over the last seven years, will at the very least get an infusion of new ideas with Mike Leach's staff. Eric Russell, who is coming in from Tennessee, is considered something of a special teams guru. But get this: Five of the other known new WSU assistants also have coached special teams and a sixth is a former All-Big 12 punt returner.

Jim Mastro, a running backs coach at UCLA this past season and at Nevada for 11 seasons before that, was the special teams coach at San Jose State in 1995.

Clay McGuire, a former Leach player and coach at Texas Tech, comes to WSU from East Carolina, where he served as special teams coordinator and running backs coach.

Paul Volero was the special teams coordinator at Central Michigan in 2009, and previously he worked as the special teams quality control coach at West Virginia under Rich Rodriquez.

Dennis Simmons, who spent 10 seasons with Leach at Texas Tech in a variety of roles, most recently coaching outside receivers, got his college coaching start at his alma mater, BYU, with special teams in 1997.

Mike Smith, meanwhile, spent his one and only year in college coaching as a graduate assistant at Hawaii helping out Chris Tormey with special teams and linebackers in 2010. Mastro, by the way, was also a Tormey assistant. He worked under Chris when Tormey was the head coach at Idaho and Nevada.

Eric Morris, who only graduated from Texas Tech in 2009, hasn't had enough time in his carrer yet to coach special teams (he was a graduate assistant working with receivers this past season at Houston). But as a Red Raider player, he was a standout receiver and an all-conference punt returner as well.

IT'S RUSSELL, HOWEVER, WHO figures to be WSU's main mind on special teams. This former all-conference quarterback at Spokane Falls Community College, has built a career around special teams.

His worked as Leach's special teams coordinator at Texas Tech in 2009 earned him a nomination for the Frank Broyles Award honoring the nation's top assistant coaches. Before that, he built the No. 1-ranked special teams unit in the nation at Louisiana Tech as measured by net punting, punt returns, kickoff return defense and kickoff returns.

Prior to that, in five seasons as the special teams coordinator at North Texas, his units blocked 14 punts. At Tennessee this past season, the Vols struggled a bit in all facets, but ranked 11-best in the nation in kickoff return yards allowed.


  • Leach, who holds a law degree from Pepperdine, appears to have an affinity for similarly well-educated coaches. Four of his known assistants hold master's degrees: McGuire (Texas Tech); Volero (West Virginia); Simmons (BYU); and recruiting coordinator/chief of staff David Emerick (Texas Tech).

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