WSU continued springs drills Thursday, working out in helmets and shoulder pads for two and a half hours on Rogers Field.
Eric Russell returned to the Pacific Northwest when he joined Mike Leach's staff as assistant head coach, special teams coordinator at Washington State University prior to the 2012 season.
Last season the Cougars' special teams saw improvement across the board as WSU improved in three of four categories over 2011. The Cougars Kicker Andrew Furney earned second-team All-Pac-12 Conference honors while freshman Teondray Caldwell was third in the conference in kickoff return average at 25.0 per game.
Russell, who previously worked on Leach's staff at Texas Tech, had spent the previous two years as tight ends/special teams coach at Tennessee.
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley welcomed a familiar face when he named Eric Russell to his assistant coaching staff. Russell coached two seasons under Dooley at Louisiana Tech before moving to the Texas Tech staff.
In 2011 the Volunteers ranked in the upper half of the Southeast Conference in three of four special teams categories, ranking fourth in kickoff returns and sixth in both punt returns and kickoff coverage.
During his first season in Knoxville, Russell sparked improvement in UT's special teams units. The kickoff return teams averaged 21.5 yards while allowing only 19.0 yards per return. The Vols also successfully pulled off two fake punts for first downs and a kickoff reverse that sent true freshman Da'Rick Rogers on a 78-yard runback.
The 44-year-old Russell has a reputation as one of the top special teams coaches in the country and was special teams coordinator at Texas Tech in 2009 under Leach. For his efforts, Russell was a nominee for the 2009 Frank Broyles Awards honoring the nation's top assistant coaches.
The St. Maries, Idaho native arrived in Lubbock after two highly successful seasons in the same position at Louisiana Tech under Derek Dooley. In 2008, he helped make the Bulldogs the No. 1-ranked special teams unit in the entire nation in the accumulation of net punting, punt returns, kickoff return defense and kickoff returns. Tech scored five times on special teams in 2008, and during Russell's two seasons the Bulldogs scored via the punt return, kickoff return, blocked field goal return and blocked punt return.
Prior to Texas Tech, Russell spent 13 seasons at North Texas, including five as the special teams coordinator. During his tenure at North Texas, Russell helped lead the program to four consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles and four consecutive appearances in the New Orleans Bowl from 2001-04.
During his tenure, North Texas blocked 14 punts, including seven during the 2003 season. Prior to joining the North Texas staff in 1994, Russell served as a graduate assistant at New Mexico in 1993 and at Idaho in 1991.
An all-state quarterback at St. Marie's High School, Russell was named the Idaho Offensive Player of the Year as a senior before earning all-conference honors at Spokane (Wash.) Falls Community College in 1986-87. He earned his bachelor's degree in public relations from Idaho in 1991.
Russell is married to the former Shannon Cook of Tyler, Texas, and the couple has a son, Hayden, and a daughter, Hadleigh.
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