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Reports: As many as four Washington State assistants set to join Mike Leach at Mississippi State

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 13, 2020

After spending two years mentoring the outside receivers at Washington State, Steve Spurrier Jr. is reportedly returning to a familiar part of the country and the SEC to join Mike Leach at Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs haven’t formally announced any of Leach’s new assistant coaches, but Steve Spurrier Sr. told Chris Fetters of 247Sports his son would be moving to Starkville as the MSU coach builds his staff. While it’s expected Spurrier Jr. will be coaching wide receivers in some capacity, it isn’t clear if he’ll hold the same position he did in Pullman.

At least three other WSU assistant coaches appear to be joining Leach in the SEC.

A Spokesman-Review source confirmed that longtime assistant Eric Mele, the team’s running backs coach the last two years, is headed to Mississippi State, and WSU outside linebacker signee Moon Ashby apparently informed 247Sports recruiting expert Brandon Huffman that “Rush” linebackers/special teams coach Matt Brock was also heading to Starkville.

It’s likely Leach will bring a few more WSU staff members with him. Strength and conditioning coach Tyson Brown started following Twitter accounts associated with Mississippi State and the coach’s longtime Chief of Staff, Dave Emerick, is expected to join Leach and MSU in a similar role.

During his two seasons at WSU, Spurrier Jr. coached a group that was as productive as any in the Pac-12 Conference. The Cougars’ “X” and “Z” receivers contributed 426 receptions, 5,145 yards and 48 touchdowns during Spurrier Jr’s time and WSU led the Pac-12 in scoring offense both years, with quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Anthony Gordon.

In 2019, senior “Z” receivers Easop Winston Jr. and Dezmon Patmon respectively finished sixth and 10th in the conference with 970 and 762 yards, and Winston Jr’s 11 touchdowns tied for second in the league. In 2018, the Cougars’ two leaders in receiving yards both came from the outside positions, with Patmon totaling 816 and Tay Martin chipping in 685, while Martin and Winston Jr. shared the team lead with eight touchdowns apiece.

A move down south brings Spurrier Jr. closer to his sons Gavin and Luke, who respectively play football and run track at Duke, and to his daughter Emmaline, a cheerleader at Florida. Spurrier Jr’s father, a Hall of Fame coach who spent time at Duke, Florida and South Carolina, still resides in Gainesville, Florida.

In more than a few ways, the Cougars will be rebuilding at the outside receiver positions next season. Winston Jr. and Patmon, who split reps this season, leave two vacancies at the “Z” position. On the other side, the Cougars return three “X” receivers in Martin, Rodrick Fisher and Calvin Jackson Jr. Other returning outside receivers include redshirt freshman Donovan Ollie and redshirt sophomore Brandon Gray.

Mele held a variety of roles in his five seasons at WSU, but most notably coached the team’s running backs when Jim Mastro left for Oregon. The tandem of James Williams and Max Borghi combined for 145 receptions – most among FBS running back groups – and 28 total touchdowns for the 11-win Cougars. Williams led all RBs with 83 catches, while Borghi set the program record for TDs by a freshman with 12. As WSU’s primary back this season, Borghi rushed for 817 yards and 11 TDs while catching 86 balls for 897 yards.

Prior to coaching the RBs, Mele was the Cougars’ special teams coach and mentored Erik Powell through a standout senior season in 2017. The former Wingate University assistant also was important in WSU’s recruiting efforts and was the point man for Hawaiian quarterback signee Jayden de Laura.

Brock just finished his second season coaching the team’s “Rush” linebackers and special teams. Under Brock’s guidance, kicker Blake Mazza had arguably the best season in school history, making 20 of 21 field goals en route to a runner-up finish for the Lou Groza Award. Punter Oscar Draguicevich III was one of the Pac-12’s best in 2018, being named all-league honorable mention after finishing second in punting average, at 45.7 yards per game.

After a successful stint at Nevada, where Miller helped turn Austin Corbett into an NFL Draft pick, the O-line coach oversaw Andre Dillard’s senior season in Pullman, before the left tackle was taken 22nd overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. Right tackle Abraham Lucas was named a freshman All-American last season by The Athletic and was rated the top pass-blocking offensive lineman in the country by Pro Football Focus as a sophomore.

Under Miller’s watch, WSU’s offensive line gave up just 33 sacks despite the team’s quarterbacks attempting 1,387 passes – just one for every 42 dropbacks.

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