Washington State hasn’t missed a beat with Kyle Celli as the No. 1 long snapper this spring

PULLMAN — With the transfer of long snapper Lucas Gravelle, it’s already looking this spring as if last season's backup at Washington State, fourth-year junior Kyle Celli (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) is well-suited to take on a big role on the Cougars' special teams.

Celli has “ramped up his game” through six spring sessions, according to WSU special teams coach Eric Mele. “He’s out here on his own doing some extra work, and it’s exciting to see him put that out on the field.”

“Consistency’s the biggest thing,” added Mele. “That’d be the key word for any of those specialist positions. The most consistent guys are gonna win the jobs . . . Whoever hits their spot the most, whoever is the fastest one at whipping the ball back there and hitting that spot (will be the starter).”

Spring ball isn't to the halfway point, and the Cougars’ staff is notoriously reluctant to project any sort of certainty about an eventual starter at any position, but Celli clearly has the inside track for the starting job from this chair. The only other long snapper currently listed on the Wazzu roster is second-year freshman Jack Haney (6-0, 226) out of Capital Christian High in Granite Bay, California. Matthew Allen, a highly touted preferred walk-on true freshman from Redmond, Oregon, arrives in the fall

Celli’s responsibilities would obviously include snapping on field goal attempts and punts, but also on the unorthodox “rugby punt” that Mele incorporated last year into WSU's special teams arsenal.

On the rugby punt, Celli snaps to junior slot receiver Kyle Sweet (192, 6-0), who then runs to his right for a few yards before either punting (with the punting team’s defenders advanced more than they would be on a traditional play), or simply keeping the ball and running towards the first-down marker. The rugby punt also has the additional advantage of creating an awkward spin on the ball and making it harder for the returner to secure. But none of that happens without the snap, quick and true.

And so far this spring, Celli has looked great on all his snaps (a welcome contrast for WSU from some of the struggles the potential starting centers have had snapping in the shotgun formation in the early going).

Mele said that last year, Celli would sometimes miss on his shorter snaps, causing the ball to come out a little loose.  This spring, however, Mele says that Celli is “hitting the hand of the holder where it’s supposed to be” and that the “timing of it looks great, so that’s a testament to him making sure he corrected a mistake.”

Celli echoed Mele when it comes to the relationship between mentality and consistency.

“The main thing is mindset,” said the Seattle native and . “That’s a big thing for snappers ... you do it so much, you can do it. It’s just kind of like, you gotta believe in yourself.”

As far as Celli’s fit on the team overall, he noted the closeness of the special teams unit.

“I think we’re all pretty tight,” said Celli. “I lived with (senior kicker Erik Powell) for a couple years ... We have a little special bond. It’s pretty nice to have a tight group because everything flows easier. The whole operation of it is just a lot easier.”

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