Leach Formally Hires New Coaching Staff
Washington State University Head Football Coach Mike Leach announced Friday he has completed his coaching staff, reuniting with several coaches and players who have worked with or played for him in past years.
New to the Cougar staff will be Dave Emerick (chief of staff), Mike Breske (defensive coordinator/defensive backs), Jeff Choate (linebackers), Jim Mastro (running backs), Clay McGuire (offensive line), Eric Morris (inside receivers), Eric Russell (assistant head coach/special teams coordinator), Joe Salave’a (defensive line), Dennis Simmons (outside receivers), Paul Volero (outside linebackers) and Antonio Huffman (director of football operations).
“This group of assistant coaches is hard working and one that I have a high level of comfort with,” said Leach. “Each one has had success at a high level and brings a tremendous passion to Washington State. Having worked with many of them previously the communication element is already in place, they understand my vision and this will be a staff that works well together.”
Emerick reunites with Leach following a two-year stint as the assistant director, operations and director of on-campus recruiting at the Arizona. Prior to Arizona he spent six seasons at Texas Tech, the final two as chief of staff and assistant athletics director on Leach’s staff. A 2002 graduate of Kentucky, Emerick has also served as a scouting intern with the Houston Texans (2002) and was the recruiting and football operations intern at Kentucky (1997-2001).
Breske is a 30-year coaching veteran who has spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator/safeties coach at the University of Montana. It was his second stint in Missoula, serving in the same role from under Joe Glenn (2000-03). Breske spent the 2009 campaign as defensive coordinator at North Dakota State following six years (2003-08) at Wyoming as the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. He has been the defensive coordinator for Northern Colorado (1987-99), Wayne State (1983-87) and the secondary coach at Yankton College (1982-83). A 1981 graduate of South Dakota State, he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at Northern Iowa (1981).
Choate has spent the past six seasons at Boise State where he coached special teams and nickel backs (2010-11), linebackers (2009) and running backs (2006-08). He joined Boise State after spending one season as Eastern Illinois’ special teams coach as the Panthers finished the 2005 season first in the Ohio Valley Conference. Prior to that Choate spent two years as the special teams coach at Utah State, also working with the defensive line and safeties before becoming the special teams coach. A 1993 graduate of Montana Western, Choate coached high school football for eight seasons prior to Utah State.
Mastro, a veteran in the collegiate coaching ranks for more than two decades, joined Leach’s staff after spending the 2011 campaign as tight ends and F-backs coach at UCLA. He spent the previous 11 seasons at Nevada (2000-10), building one of the top running attacks in the nation as he had five 1,000-yard running backs in his final four seasons. Mastro was on the staff at Idaho (1998-99), San Jose State (1995) and at his alma mater, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1989-94). A running back at Cal Poly in 1987, a member of the coaching staff that season was Leach, who began his coaching career that year working with the offensive line.
McGuire arrives in Pullman having spent the past two years as running backs coach and special teams coordinator on Ruffin McNeill’s staff at East Carolina. Prior to East Carolina, McGuire enjoyed a total of nine bowl appearances as a player and staff member at his alma mater, Texas Tech. A 2004 Texas Tech graduate, where he played H-back for Leach, McGuire was a video intern (2006), offensive graduate assistant (2007), special teams coordinator (2008) and running backs coach (2009) on the Red Raider staff.
Morris is reunited with Mike Leach, who he played for from 2005-08. He has spent the past two seasons as an offensive graduate assistant at Houston, which led the nation in passing, total offense and scoring in 2011. In 2009 Morris played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders after a Texas Tech career that saw him earn All-Big 12 Second Team as a punt returner by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 2007 Academic All-Big 12 Team accolades and a degree in communication studies.
Russell, a native of St. Maries, Idaho, arrives at Washington State after spending the last two seasons at Tennessee, where he was the special teams/tight ends coach. Prior to that he spent one season as special teams coordinator on Leach’s staff at Texas Tech (2009) following two years (2007-08) in a similar position at Louisiana Tech. Russell served 13 seasons (1994-2006) at North Texas, including five as special teams coach, helping lead the program to four consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles. He began his career as a graduate assistant at New Mexico (1993) and Idaho (1991), where he earned a degree in public relations.
Salave’a is in his fourth year of collegiate coaching following a nine-year NFL career. He spent the 2011 campaign as the defensive line coach at his alma mater, Arizona, following two seasons in a similar capacity at San Jose State. At SJSU he mentored tackle Jarron Gilbert, the NCAA leader in tackles for loss and the Chicago Bears’ first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. A native of Leone, American Samoa, Salave’a was drafted in the fourth round by the Tennessee Titans in 1998 where he spent five seasons, one split year with the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers (2003) and his final three years with the Washington Redskins (2004-06).
Simmons returns to a familiar role on Leach’s staff as the outside receivers coach after spending the previous two seasons (2010-11) in a similar position at East Carolina. Prior to ECU he spent 10 seasons (2000-09) as part of Leach’s staff at Texas Tech, the last two as outside receivers coach where he mentored Michael Crabtree, the 2008 Biletnikoff Award winner and No. 10 overall draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2009. He was also Leach’s chief of staff and assistant athletic director/quality control while at Texas Tech. A graduate of BYU, Simmons has also coached running back at Cornell and spent one season at his alma mater working with the offensive line and special teams.
Volero last coached collegiately during the 2009 season when he was the defensive ends/special teams coach at Central Michigan. The past two years Volero has been the defensive coordinator at Key West High School in Key West, Fla. He arrived at Central Michigan as the defensive line coach in 2007, a position he held for two seasons before adding special teams in 2009. Volero spent the 2004-06 seasons as the special teams quality control coach and academic graduate assistant at West Virginia. He began his coaching career in 1996 at Glenville State by coaching the defensive line, spent 1997-2002 coaching high school in Florida before returning to the collegiate ranks in 2003 at South Florida as the assistant strength coach while working with the defensive line.
Huffman arrives in Pullman following two seasons at East Carolina, where he served in a similar role on Ruffin McNeill’s staff. Prior to ECU, he served as director of player personnel for two seasons at his alma mater Texas Tech, where he was the chief liaison officer between the football program and the athletics department’s NCAA compliance division. A 2006 graduate with a degree in human development, Huffman was a three-year starting defensive back for the Red Raiders, earning Defensive MVP honors at the 2006 Insight Bowl, his final collegiate contest. He is currently working on completing a master’s degree in sociology.