Spe­cial teams in spring spot­light

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Bro­hard

fort collins » The finer points are go­ing to be stressed this spring, as Colorado State coach Mike Bobo noted be­fore camp be­gan for his foot­ball team. Not just on of­fense and de­fense, but on spe­cial teams, too.

Par­tic­u­larly on spe­cial teams.

While the Rams’ of­fense and de­fense will work on their sys­tems against each other, the spe­cial teams will spend al­most all of the camp work­ing on the in­di­vid­ual drills that are the back­bone to mak­ing them click.

The unit that will get some at­ten­tion is punt cov­er­age, Bobo said, not­ing that if the fun­da­men­tal work is strong, the plans in place dur­ing the sea­son should nat­u­rally fall into line.

“We started on ( punt cov­er­age Tues­day), and we’ll work that ev­ery day through, but we’re just go­ing to work drills in all the other phases of spe­cial teams and try to im­prove their fun­da­men­tals,” Bobo said. “If their fun­da­men­tals are good, then re­ally any scheme would work.”

Spe­cial- teams coach Jamie Bryant said the goal is to give the play­ers a tool box to carry for­ward. Many of the skills trans­fer over to dif­fer­ent units, and in­stead of a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus for play­ers, they are get­ting a tu­to­rial in all as­pects.

In that re­gard, Kev­inNutt be­lieves the Rams will be well ahead of the game when pre­sea­son camp be­gins in­Au­gust, aswell as af­ter­ward when game planning starts to take place.

The Rams al­ready are some­what ahead, Nutt said, be­cause they have spent a year work­ing un­der Bryant and have a han­dle on his ex­pec­ta­tions of per­for­mance.

“We def­i­nitely have­more of a feel towhat he­wants to do,” Nutt said. “It’s just get­ting bet­ter at it. There’s al­ways room for im­prove­ment. You’ve got to look at it as a time to get bet­ter at what you do. Some­times I’m out there on the perime­ter run­ning or I’m in­side the line block­ing. I know last sea­son I didn’t do a lot of block­ing part, so this year that’s go­ing to be a big fo­cus for me is get­ting bet­ter at the block­ing part of it.”

CSU was solid — but not spec­tac­u­lar — on spe­cial teams in 2016. The Rams fin­ished 10th na­tion­ally in net punt­ing in large part be­cause of star punter Hay­den Hunt, who has grad­u­ated, but ranked 49th in punt- re­turn de­fense ( 6.65 yards al­lowed per re­turn). They were 43rd in kick- re­turn de­fense ( 19.63), 53rd in punt re­turns ( 8.52) and 76th in kick­off re­turns ( 20.31), so the re­turn games have plenty of room for growth.

Bryant, who also feels more com­fort­able now that he has a bet­ter idea of the per­son­nel on the ros­ter and which tasks play­ers are ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing, doesn’t see any ma­jor changes to spe­cial teams.

“I don’t know that we’re go­ing to change a whole lot scheme wise,” he said.

“It’s go­ing to be more a change of how we prac­tice and the em­pha­sis on the fun­da­men­tals and the lit­tle things, so that they can ex­e­cute and have a good chance to suc­ceed.”

Bryant also sees the drills as a way to put to­gether depth. No­body is be­ing left out, and he pointed to al­lMoun­tain West wide re­ceiver Michael Gallup as some­body who is work­ing hard dur­ing the drills.

For some­body who has his eye on play­ing at the next level, Bryant said Gallup un­der­stands that spe­cial teams may be a way to stick in the NFL as a rookie.


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