Texas Tech benefited the last two football seasons by the additions of Will Smith, Bruce Jones and Sadale Foster from Riverside (Calif.) City College.
The Riverside connection remains even with the departures of those three 2013 seniors.
On Thursday, Tech announced the hiring of former Colorado Buffaloes and NFL wide receiver Darrin Chiaverini to be special teams coordinator. Chiaverini spent the last four seasons at Riverside City College. His units recorded 21 blocked kicks during the 2010-11 seasons and had the top punt returner in the California juco ranks in 2011 and 2012.
Smith, the Red Raiders’ leading tackler this season, said he got excited and immediately sent a congratulatory text to Chiaverini, with whom he stays in regular contact.
“He’s a real fiery guy,” the Red Raiders’ linebacker said. “He’ll blend very well with the staff. He’s young just like they are. He was real fun. You can talk to him about anything.”
Chiaverini, 36, fills the spot left vacant when co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie left last month for a job at TCU.
Chiaverini will be the first Red Raiders assistant to handle only special teams since Eric Russell in 2009. Trey Haverty carried the dual roles of safeties coach and special teams coordinator during the 2013 season.
“I am very excited about adding Darrin Chiaverini to our staff,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “His experience as an elite collegiate and NFL player will be a tremendous asset to this program. Darrin fits in well with our staff and is a great recruiter. I am looking forward to him bringing passion and enthusiasm to our team.”
During Chiaverini’s four years at Riverside, RCC won three bowl games and had three 10-win seasons. Chiaverini served as associate head coach in charge of recruiting and special teams.
Smith said Chiaverini “played a big role” in recruiting him and Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey from Northwood University in Michigan to Riverside. Both were Associated Press first-team All-Big 12 selections this season.
Asked the secret to Chiaverini’s success with special teams, Smith said, “Just how he breaks everything down. He explains it to where everybody understands it. Guys want to sell out for him and do anything for him.
“I still talk to him today. Anything he asks me to do, I go to battle for him.”
Tech signed Smith, a linebacker, Foster, an all-purpose player, and Jones, a cornerback, out of the Riverside program two years ago, and all turned into key players for the Red Raiders.
Chiaverini was a high-school star at Corona, Calif., and played at Colorado from 1995-98. A fifth-round draft pick in 1999, he played two years for the Cleveland Browns and a season apiece with the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons.
After spending 2004-06 with the Arena League Austin Wranglers, he started coaching at Mt. San Antonio College in 2007-08 and was assistant special teams coach at UCLA in 2009.
Chiaverini is married with two children. He also appeared in the Adam Sandler film “The Longest Yard” in 2005.
Follow Don on Twitter