Russell's State of the Union on special teams

FALL CAMP at Washington State will see a whole lot of personnel questions answered on special teams. Among those who will battle it out at punter, there's a name you might not have heard yet.

Jordan Dascalo his senior year (2012) in high school averaged 46 yards per punt and connected on 12 field goals at Taft High in Woodland, Calif. He's walking on at Washington State and will compete in fall camp with Wes Concepcion and Jon Weilbacher out of Crespi, Calif., who has placekicking and field goal kicking experience.

The punter position is one Russell said the Cougs simply must get more production from than they did in 2013.

"Jordan Dascalo, pretty excited about him. Strong leg, powerful kicks, pretty good athlete. And you've still got Wes who has punted in a couple games and has experience," said WSU special teams coach Eric Russell.

At kicker, Erik Powell and Quentin Breshears look to be the primary options, though Weilbacher and Dascalo will likely to at least get a few kicks in too.

"I thought Erik Powell had a really good spring, showed a lot of promise. Hasn't done it in front of people yet. But I love his makeup, work ethic and things of that nature, so we'll see," said Russell.

The new rules allowing limited offseason coaching don't help special teams much -- you can't work with a football so a coach can't do a lot with kickers, snappers or punters. Players can grab a football and work on their own anytime they like, Russell just can't be present for that. That will of course change once fall camp gets underway.

"We're waiting for guys to separate themselves and say hey, I'm your starting kick returner, I'm your starting punt returner," said Russell.

At punt returner, a group of three is vying to replace Leon Brooks, along with a fourth darkhorse candidate.

"With River Cracraft back there, you know he's going to catch it," said Russell. "And then there's Jamal Morrow, Rickey Galvin. Those are probably the three guys we worked most this spring. River was probably the most steady guy we had back there. "Marcellus Pippins showed an ability to make people miss and do some things back there. But he's got to develop his mental focus and know just how important that role is, had some ball security issues."

Russell said the Cougs "steadily progressed" this spring on special teams. But he wants more in fall camp.

"We need to find an edge. I don't know if we did that in the spring," said Russell. "...But for the most part we got our base stuff in the spring and worked it... I thought we did a good job in the spring, didn't have any protection issues or anything like that."

Russell said the Cougs had "good, consistent" play at the gunner position. The frontrunners there headed into fall camp are Theron West, Rickey Galvin, Kristoff Williams and Daquawn Brown.

"We'll probably punt more days to make sure we're solid up there…but we'll probably try to be as fairly equal as we can with the return game as well. You face so many different punt schemes these days," said Russell.

The Cougs were second in the Pac-12 last year in kickoff coverage.

"You'd like to think kickoff-wise we'd be solid, we have nine of the 11 guys back, the core coverage guys back," said Russell.

But that's one of the few spots where WSU returns a lot of players.

"We've got a fairly young crew still, and some guys maybe that don't quite understand the role of special teams. They can look at the value Travis Long brought to special teams and now has an opportunity with the Eagles, Deone Bucannon started on punts, kickoffs, field goals block and was productive in those roles and approached it just like he did defensive play," said Russell.

The Cougs also have long snapper Alex Den Bleyker back, but this will be his last go-around in a Cougar uniform.

"Alex will be a senior, so we need someone to push him," said Russell.

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