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Eric Russell dismissed as special teams coach

Mike Leach announced at his Monday press conference that he has dismissed special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Eric Russell. The dismissal comes on the heals of Saturday's 60-59 loss to California in which WSU gave up back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns.

The Cougars also missed a potentially game-winning 19-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining in the game.

The previous week, at Utah, the Cougars gave up another special teams touchdown on a punt return.

"We made a change at special teams and well I think a great deal of coach Russell but we wanted to split the special teams up among the assistants and the way he's most effective is with him running the whole thing," Leach said. "He's a great coach. Yeah, I decided to make a change at special teams."

The Cougars will still have nine assistant coaches on staff because offensive quality control assistant Eric Mele will take over as one of the regular assistants. When asked what Mele's duties will be he said:

"Really a lot of the same administrative stuff he was doing before and he'll head up the special teams but deal it out among the assistants and just kind of keep it organized."

Coach Mele was the subject of a profile earlier this month by

Russell came to WSU from the University of Tennessee in 2012 and the Cougars saw immediate improvement in special teams. Last season the Cougars ranked No. 1 in the conference in kickoff coverage and No. 4 in punt return yardage. The Cougars also blocked three kicks last season, including a critical field goal attempt during the 10-7 upset at USC.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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