Source: Special teams coach Eric Russell hired by Washington State

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, left, and tight ends and special teams coach Eric Russell positions players during practice on Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2010 at Haslam Field.

Photo by Saul Young

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, left, and tight ends and special teams coach Eric Russell positions players during practice on Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2010 at Haslam Field.

The appeal of coaching close to where he grew up alongside one of his closest compatriots was apparently too much for Tennessee tight ends/special teams coach Eric Russell to resist.

According to a source with knowledge of the personnel but not authorized to speak publicly, Russell will leave the program and assume a similar position on Mike Leach’s staff at Washington State.

Leach, who was hired as the Cougars’ new coach last week, has yet to announce any hires to his staff, but multiple outlets have reported that he’s set to bring in a number of his former assistants from his time at Texas Tech.

UT spokesman Jimmy Stanton said the university does not comment on athletic department personnel relative to other opportunities.

Before he joined Derek Dooley’s staff at UT in 2010, Russell was Leach’s special teams coordinator at Texas Tech, where he picked up a nomination for the Frank Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach. Russell is also an Idaho native and was a quarterback at Spokane (Wash.) Falls Community College in 1986-87.

Russell was a member of Dooley’s staff at Louisiana Tech from 2007-08. He spent the previous 13 seasons at North Texas.

Under Russell, the Vols had their share of highs and lows on special teams.

Thanks to the emergence of freshman Devrin Young, the Vols made significant statistical improvements on punt returns and kick returns from 2010 to 2011. In both of Russell’s seasons, UT was among the nation’s best at defending kickoffs despite the lack of a kicker who could consistently put the ball in the end zone. Outside committing a comedy of errors on a highlight-reel touchdown return by Arkansas’ Joe Adams, the Vols were also solid at defending punts in 2011.

One year after uninspiring senior seasons from Daniel Lincoln and Chad Cunningham, kicker Michael Palardy and punter Matt Darr both struggled with consistency issues in 2011.

At tight end, Russell helped groom junior Mychal Rivera, who finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards, into a reliable pass-catcher and blocker. Freshman Cameron Clear also showed steady improvement throughout the season.

Russell made $200,000 in 2010 and $250,000 in 2011. Terms of Russell’s contract are unknown, as UT has yet to respond to an open records request made by the News Sentinel in June.

Russell, 43, is the second assistant from Dooley’s 2011 staff to leave the program since the Vols ended the season with a loss at Kentucky. Last week, Dooley replaced wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett’s spot on the staff with former Vol Jay Graham, who was named the team’s new running backs coach Tuesday.

Multiple sources told the News Sentinel last week that quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw will slide over to coach wide receivers while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will take on responsibility for the quarterbacks.

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 140

volsreign writes:

Not particularly heart broken over this one.

bbmon13#478091 writes:

Hey coach Hiestand - wouldn't you like a different opportunity too, kinda start over somewhere new???

Well, give it some thought....

rockytopjeff writes:

Can he take Palardy with him?

HtownVol writes:

This is good news.

Do they want Jim Chaney? Please want him!

FWBVol writes:

From all the rumors that have been floating around about this nobody should be surprised that Russell is following Leach to Washington State.

It will be interesting to see who Dooley hires to replace Russell. It's obvious that there were some problems with the kicking aspect of the kicking game this year. I will give Russell and the coaching staff credit for having good kick coverage schemes for the most part.

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

Happy to see him go, as he did NOTHING for our special teams. I also wish Chaney would go with him!

underthehill writes:

Seems the general feeling is Dooley is gone next year unless he has more success than expected (depends on whose expectations matter) and so why would any assistant not leave if he gets a good offer. I think Wilcox is the best coach on the staff and I do think he will have other offers. On another subject: TN looks to me like they are recruiting too many of the same type players rb's, db's, and athletes ..not enough linemen..This may result in a good recruiting rating based on stars but not on needs..which would not be good for future years...

Volfan4445 writes:

in response to underthehill:

Seems the general feeling is Dooley is gone next year unless he has more success than expected (depends on whose expectations matter) and so why would any assistant not leave if he gets a good offer. I think Wilcox is the best coach on the staff and I do think he will have other offers. On another subject: TN looks to me like they are recruiting too many of the same type players rb's, db's, and athletes ..not enough linemen..This may result in a good recruiting rating based on stars but not on needs..which would not be good for future years...

hes been going after to many recievers imo, and these little scat back guys that are under 6 foot and 185 pounds who proablly wont develop into a every down back like we would like.... That being said we did just land a Tight End the other day probally wont gain enough weight to turn into an offensive lineman, but could get big enough for run support, that being said aboujt the TightEnds Cam Clear could Definetily turn in to an Offensive tackle

rkastens writes:

Our special teams were special, and not in a good way. Some new insight into special teams is not a bad idea at all.

thevoice writes:

Hopefully he'll be replaced by someone with kicking knowledge/experience. This is probably a good move by all parties involved. Just don't take Wilcox and Sirmon.

keepitreal4vols writes:

We had a special teams coach?

briartownvol writes:

Whats Bill Bates doing?

willblitz4bacon writes:

CDD should hire Gunnery Sergeant Hartman ( R. Lee Eremy ) as special teams coach

tombo7 writes:

$250,000 for what? Have they not seen this guys work?

utvolz#637682 writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

We had a special teams coach?

Who knew right?

Olcrow writes:

please all you Chaney bashers don't jump on the bandwagon next year when the cupboard fills up(healthy players and recruits) go cheer for Bama or Florida you'll fit right in...maybe grow a mullet between now and then too.At Perdue Chaney's offense finished top 10 in the nation 6 out of 9 years.he also schooled a successful(leaves Charlie W. out) Florida coach on offensive strategies early in his carrer

BigOrange_supporter writes:

Shane Beamer.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

GOOD NEWS!!

He's one of the coaches that needed to go..Next is Hiestand and Chaney hopefully.

Smokey says we can use some more good news around here..

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to BigOrange_supporter:

Shane Beamer.

Agree!!! Good choice!!

http://www.gamecocksonline.com/sports...

Smokey says irritate Spurrier by stealing another coach from his staff..

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to brown-bag-vol-fan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's a valid point!!

Smokey says if Hiestand is let go, then he would almost be ok with letting Chaney stay..maybe..

frblalack writes:

Our special team's play actually improved this past year excepting the horrendous kicking game.
Regardless as to the next hire, we absolutely need to improve our kicking game. I hope our new coach will be open to all competition...we may have some soccer players who can get the job done. Best case scenario would be Palardy & Darr playing to their potential, but that's more to do with the player's work ethic, attitude, and health. Coach can't kick for them.

I personally hope Coach Dooley recruits some kickers; competition won't hurt and it may just bring out the best from our current players.

Any more Colquitts or Reveiz kicking in high schools?

movol53 writes:

I know that many of you will jump on this but I'm going to say it anyhow. I do not understand the Chaney bashing. I believe he has been severely handicapped in the plays he was able to call because of the numerous injuries throughout the year. Plus he really wanted to mix it up with some running plays but we could not run the ball as everyone knows. We could not throw it for 5 - 6 games and we could not run it down the middle most of the season; so how is this a "fair" assessment of his play calling? Heck, i thought since we can't run up the gut line up in the wishbone (option) and try the outside, maybe a back could get loose every once in a while. This would at least make the defense cover the entire field. I know the Arky special teams coach had them ranked very highly in all special team stats. Go after him.

therev writes:

Derek, Call your dad!

SummittsCourt writes:

One of the worst specials teams in the country loses its coach and we all say...

Bye-bye :)

rab63 writes:

I wonder if anyone at U.T. has considered Palardy's high school coach as a kicking coach? Michael seemed to kick much better before he came here....his whole technique seems different.....you can see when he kicks that he has lost all confidence in himself.

oldster writes:

I would leave a $250,000 a year job for one of half that much if I could avoid having to watch Palardy kick my snapper in the butt with the ball and Darr kick punts straight up in the air. Good luck, Coach Russell, your kicking and punting just got an upgrade as long as you do not have a couple of zombies doing it for you on the left coast.

oldster writes:

in response to bbmon13#478091:

Hey coach Hiestand - wouldn't you like a different opportunity too, kinda start over somewhere new???

Well, give it some thought....

Who would hire him with this past two season's o line on his resume?

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

you folks want to blame the coach on everything---------he can only coach, he cant go out and kick or punt it himself------coaches coach coverages and return blocking------the kickers and punters need to execute and neither of ours did and the blame for that is with the players and not the coach--------if you are highly acclaimed out of highschool you should be able to duplicate that at the higher level and neither did ---place those blames where it should be, not on the coach

VOLsince68 writes:

in response to rockytopjeff:

Can he take Palardy with him?

Best news I've heard this weekend!! Can he take Darr too.....

GO VOLS!!!

westknoxrepub writes:

Heistand needs to go before Cheney.

oldster writes:

in response to underthehill:

Seems the general feeling is Dooley is gone next year unless he has more success than expected (depends on whose expectations matter) and so why would any assistant not leave if he gets a good offer. I think Wilcox is the best coach on the staff and I do think he will have other offers. On another subject: TN looks to me like they are recruiting too many of the same type players rb's, db's, and athletes ..not enough linemen..This may result in a good recruiting rating based on stars but not on needs..which would not be good for future years...

UT is recruiting a lot of defensive lineman. They are not recruiting many o linemen. They already have about 15 on scholarship and, as lousy as they may be, there are limits to how many total scholarships a team can have and you do not want to have 75% of them o linemen.

oldster writes:

in response to rab63:

I wonder if anyone at U.T. has considered Palardy's high school coach as a kicking coach? Michael seemed to kick much better before he came here....his whole technique seems different.....you can see when he kicks that he has lost all confidence in himself.

He is not the only one to have lost confidence in him. I would rather back a mule up to try and kick a field goal than have Palardy out there.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vpls,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I recall on one of the Sports Animal interviews, someone said as far as the kickers were concerned, noone actually worked with them..........they were just off to the side by themselves.

Now, one other point........punt returns. This must be ancient history I admit, but...........
as we know on the kickoffs, there are 2 guys back there to receive the kick.

On punt returns, the fashion statement these days is to have one guy back there on an island by himself. Do any of you remember teams using twin safeties for punt returns? There were advantages. For one thing, if the guy coughed up the ball, there was the other one to hopefully recover it. Then, there was the opportunity to block for the one who did catch it. Finally, the
reverse was run many times with twin safeties.

Just wondering about that aspect of special teams.

orangecountyvols writes:

All that typing and I couldn't even spell Vols correctly. Drop a flag on me !

thevoice writes:

Sounds like the person who was not authorized to speak publicly is in trouble.

thevoice writes:

in response to yabadabadoo1026:

you folks want to blame the coach on everything---------he can only coach, he cant go out and kick or punt it himself------coaches coach coverages and return blocking------the kickers and punters need to execute and neither of ours did and the blame for that is with the players and not the coach--------if you are highly acclaimed out of highschool you should be able to duplicate that at the higher level and neither did ---place those blames where it should be, not on the coach

So if someone has a 4.0 in HS, there's no need to go to college and learn more from instructors at the next level? Or maybe just give the kids the books and not have them go to class? Every player needs a coach to teach him technique. If not, are HS players ready to go straight to the NFL, save the 3 year rule?

VOLS_SEC_RULES writes:

Great News!

thevoice writes:

in response to brown-bag-vol-fan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agree. As many OL this program put in the league, you'd think a retired one would come back and coach.

NorthwestVol writes:

Lots of 'good riddance' type comments. You guys sure the replacement will be better? While it's odd to see a UT coach take a similar position at WSU, he's a local guy returning home. I wish him the best.

I almost have to. Wife and daugther are Cougar alums.

Olcrow writes:

in response to oldster:

UT is recruiting a lot of defensive lineman. They are not recruiting many o linemen. They already have about 15 on scholarship and, as lousy as they may be, there are limits to how many total scholarships a team can have and you do not want to have 75% of them o linemen.

agree,no graduating O lineman and we are at least 2-deep at every position with 3 and a lot of 4 star 300 pound recruits,when Kiffster was here we had 260 pound walk ons,I just hope they turn it around,could it be Hardesty was that great?

VOLS_SEC_RULES writes:

Maybe CDD can throw in an OL coach in with the package!

ColdBlackWind writes:

Come home Dale Jones. We need blood that runs Orange on the Hill. The more of those folks we get, thanks Jay Graham, the more we will see our young players learn what it means to be a VOL.

OrangeDew writes:

in response to ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog:

Agree!!! Good choice!!

http://www.gamecocksonline.com/sports...

Smokey says irritate Spurrier by stealing another coach from his staff..

Is Beamer not at VT with his dad now?

OwensboroVol writes:

Don't know that much about Russell, but the one assistant we cannot afford to lose is Justin Wilcox. He has kept the Tennessee Defense performing very well again big time opponents with no big talent players. He really has got the D to play well and we cannot afford to lose him with talent finally building up on the Defensive side of the ball.

jobrando#216494 writes:

next will be Wilcox to HC job.....the losers will remain

kantanuuv writes:

Regardless of the benefits of being close to home and blah blah blah, this is a self-imposed demotion for Mr. Russell, plain and simple - moving from a high-profile (albeit a laughingstock) SEC program to a PAC-12 bottom-feeder.

Why would a career football coach do such a thing?

The first rat jumps the sinking ship.

ACWLY writes:

Keep JAY Graham and HOPE the rest follow Russell.
(actually I never knew his name before today, not that I didn't care but I was too embarrassed to ask ... horrible special teams, who in their right mind would want our S/T coach, Oh! Mike Leach I understand now!

MGVOL22 writes:

in response to OrangeDew:

Is Beamer not at VT with his dad now?

Correct....Shane is at VT, which is where he has been all season....Also, he is the associate head coach there....

As I notice with this site, most don't know what they are talking about when it comes to sports or the Vols .... Everyone just wants to bash the Vols, Dooley, Martin, etc

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

next will be Wilcox to HC job.....the losers will remain

CJW is a year or two away from being offered a HC job..He has stated multiple times that he is happy at UT and is excited about the new talent coming in..He will finish out his contract and then who knows after that..I'm sure there will be rumors and all that but those shouldn't be taken seriously until info is confirmed...We should know this by now after the deal with Texas last year and then with ASU this year.

Smokey says he will make an excellent HC someday..

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to MGVOL22:

Correct....Shane is at VT, which is where he has been all season....Also, he is the associate head coach there....

As I notice with this site, most don't know what they are talking about when it comes to sports or the Vols .... Everyone just wants to bash the Vols, Dooley, Martin, etc

Hope you aren't referring to me as one of those because I have followed the Vols my whole life.

I just googled Shane Beamer and copied the link to the first article and it came from a USCe website.

Smokey says point is we should go after him no matter where he coaches..

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features