Coaches talk about how important special teams is in the course of a football game – from flipping the field, to pinning the opponent inside the 10-yard line, to getting a turnover or scoring on a big play.
Fans may focus on just the kicker, but it's also the coverage and return units that can make or break a big special teams play
"We have had dedicated workouts primarily based towards special teams work. Now, as we get into our normal practice schedule we'll hit two areas of special teams per day," said Head Coach Philip Montgomery.
"Our progress has been really good. Obviously, you start with the fundamentals and then build on it. We were able to get some live special teams work in during our Saturday scrimmage," said Montgomery. "We have film to coach off it now. We need to make sure we get the right people in the right places on special teams."
The kicking positions have solid returners at the three slots – punter Dalton Parks (6-3, 209), placements with Redford Jones (5-10, 175) and kickoffs with Preston Soper (6-0, 205), while Nathan Walker (5-9, 170) is in the mix with Jones and Soper for handling placements and kickoffs.
Parks averaged 41.2 yards per punt in 2015, while placing 19 inside the 20-yard line. Jones scored 109 points with 17 coming on field goals and 58 on PATs. Soper averaged 59.5 yards on 86 kicks last year.
"Our kickers across the board have been good – Redford's been good, Soper's been good, Nate has been really good this fall. Dalton has been good as he always has been. He just needs to continue working and be consistent," said Montgomery.
However, the Hurricane will have to replace four-year starting deep snapper Rey Higuera, as well as finding a holder to take the spot of the graduated Joseph Calcagni.
Sophomore Sam Gottsch (6-2, 190) will handle the holding duties for the Hurricane. "We're still battling it out at the snapper spot," said Montgomery. Three players in the mix for deep snapper duties include junior Jesse Brubaker (6-3, 270), freshman Robert Hill (5-11, 190) and junior Ty Lott (5-11, 223)
Tulsa has to replace Connor Floyd as the punt returner, while returnees Bishop Louie (5-10, 172) and Rowdy Simon (5-8, 203) have returned kickoffs in the past for the Hurricane.
At punt return, it will most likely be Kerwin Thomas (5-10, 170) and Keidrien Wadley (6-1, 185) handling the punts. On kickoff return, a bevy of players, including Thomas and Wadley, the aforementioned Simon and Louie, as well as red-shirt freshman Jarion Anderson (5-9, 179) and true freshman Keenen Johnson (6-1, 190) in the mix.
"I feel like we're in a good spot now with our special team units. When you get to game time, that's when you're really going to find out the answer to some of those questions," said Montgomery.