Big 12: Eric Russell

McNeill, Riley sent packing in Texas Tech coaching change

January, 14, 2010
The coaches who were most directly responsible for helping direct Texas Tech to the Red Raiders' victory over Michigan State in the Valero Alamo Bowl won't be a part of Tommy Tuberville's new staff.

Interim coach/defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill and inside receivers coach Lincoln Riley were among six coaches who were let go by Tuberville.

McNeill worked as the interim coach after Mike Leach was fired the week before the game. And Riley served as the Red Raiders' offensive coordinator, juggling the quarterback switch where Steven Sheffield was inserted in place of Taylor Potts in the middle of the fourth quarter to direct the comeback victory.

Other coaches from Leach's staff who won't be retained include running backs coach Clay McGuire, safeties coach Carlos Mainord, cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell and special teams coordinator Eric Russell.

Among former members of Leach's staff who survived the coaching switch included offensive line coach Matt Moore, defensive ends coach Charlie Sadler and Sonny Cumbie, who is a graduate assistant for the offense. Wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons also will be retained in some capacity with Tuberville's staff.

McNeill directed the transformation of the Red Raiders' defense over the last 2 1/2 seasons. The Red Raiders finished 2009 ranked fourth nationally in sacks, but only 94th in turnover margin.

Alabama associate head coach/linebacker coach James Willis appears to have the inside track on becoming Tuberville's new defensive coordinator. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Willis has been Lubbock the last two days with his family attempting to get settled in the area.

New Tech coach Russell surprised to be pursued by Red Raiders

March, 11, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Eric Russell was stunned last week when Mike Leach called his house wanting to talk about him joining his staff.

Russell hadn't heard about a vacancy on Leach's staff created when Seth Littrell recently left to join Mike Stoops' staff at Arizona.

"I didn't know anybody on the staff. I didn't even know there was a job open,'' Russell told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "I guess Coach Leach had some research and special teams rankings nationally in whatever system they used, and Louisiana Tech came out on top. I had a phone call at my house, and my wife answered the phone. I thought it was someone from Louisiana Tech and she said, no, Texas Tech.''

Russell had worked the last two seasons at Louisiana Tech after coaching at North Texas from 1994 to 2006. And after an interview earlier this week, Russell was hired as the Red Raiders' new special teams coach.

Leach said that analysis by his staff indicated that 8-5 Louisiana Tech had the best special teams in the nation last season. The Bulldogs ranked in the top 25 in punt coverage, kickoff coverage, kickoff returns and punt returns. Additionally, Louisiana Tech scored five special-teams touchdowns last season -- a kickoff return, two punt returns, a blocked field goal and a blocked punt.  

"We studied all the teams and figured out, who had the best special teams in America last year? Louisiana Tech did,'' Leach told the Avalanche-Journal. "So we asked, who coaches their special teams? Is this a lucky year for him, or was he always good? At Louisiana Tech, he was. And he totally ruled at special teams at North Texas.''

Clay McGuire, who coached Texas Tech's special teams last season will move into Littrell's old job coaching running backs to make room for Russell.

It means the Red Raiders have a complete coaching staff as they prepare for the March 25 opening of spring practice.