Kache Palacio's strip was weeks in the making

KACHE PALACIO's strip on a kickoff return at Arizona was weeks in the making. What's really interesting is that Palacio wouldn't have even been in position to force that fumble had not Washington State special teams coach Eric Mele made an adjustment to his kickoff return defense before the game.

In a season where special teams miscues (including kickoff returns) have been, to put it mildly, trying for Cougar fans, it was nice to see a special teams kickoff success story play out this past Saturday.

WSU's base kickoff formation, left to right, looks like this:

Mele moved Palacio two spots on the left side for the Arizona game, changing up his responsibilities in moving to the L3 from his old L5 spot.

Why the move?

"I wanted a playmaker on the front side of where we were kicking," said Mele.

Everyone saw the end result: Palacio promptly forced a fumble recovered by Nate DeRider, giving WSU possession at the Arizona 23-yard line. The Cougs scored a few plays later to open up a 14-point advantage and in so doing, proved Mele's faith in Palacio at the L3 spot was well deserved.

"It definitely paid off -- if you go back and look at it, he tackled the ball," said Mele.

The big question schools always wrestle with when it comes to playing starters on special teams is to what degree you play 'em - you don't want to load the plate too full so that the position play suffers.

But there's also been another issue, a growing trend in college football over the last 10-15 years, and it was keenly felt at WSU.  For years, the Cougs ran into challenges with starters and veterans simply lacking the desire to play special teams. No, that should have never been the case, no doubt about it. But it was.

Fortunately for Wazzu, there is evidence of a significant mindset change in 2015. No, full benefits haven't come close to being realized on special teams, not yet, no doubt about that either. But Palacio is a fifth-year senior and a starter at the Rush spot -- and he is a textbook example of what a coach wants to see when it comes to special teams desire. Underclassmen learn from veterans, and it can only mean good things in moving ahead.

Indeed, to say Palacio likes playing on special teams is like saying water is wet.

"Palacio loves special teams," said Mele.

How so? Well, it could even be argued that Palacio, well known as one of the biggest characters on the 2015 Cougs, might love special teams too much.

"He's always coming into my office and drawing up trick plays -- and they always include himself," Mele said.

Washington State hosts Stanford on Saturday, Halloween night, at 7:30 p.m. To order tickets, CLICK HERE

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