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Friday, August 12, 2011

Open competition: KU football special teams spots (mostly) up for grabs

Kansas University special teams players are, Back row, from left: long snappers Justin Carnes and Tanner Gibas; front row, from left, punter Victor McBride, and kickers Alex Mueller and Ron Doherty.

Kansas University special teams players are, Back row, from left: long snappers Justin Carnes and Tanner Gibas; front row, from left, punter Victor McBride, and kickers Alex Mueller and Ron Doherty.

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Which KU football player has stood out the most at practice?

We asked Kansas football players which of their teammates had especially impressed them at practice.

So far, Aaron Stamn isn’t playing favorites.

The Kansas University special teams coach has yet to publicly declare a starter for kicker, punter, punt returner or long snapper.

He’s hoping to have those positions decided in the next two weeks.

“It is nice for me as a special teams coordinator to see all these new young guys out there,” Stamn said. “We red-shirted a lot of them too, and they are coming out right away and want to get onto the field.”

The only position with a clear No. 1 is kick returner, as junior D.J. Beshears is back after posting 25.6 yards per return last season. That average ranked second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.

“I plan on returning kicks as well as punts. I’m looking to improve on that,” Beshears said. “I know for a couple weeks, I was up there at the top of the conference in returns. I hope to get back up there.”

The 5-foot-9 Beshears showed big-play ability in 2010, returning a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown against New Mexico State.

His 922 kickoff return yards were the most ever by a Jayhawk in a single season.

“He just runs with passion, and D.J. does not like getting tackled,” Stamn said. “Sometimes he dishes it out more than the other guy tries to hand it to him. As a returner, that’s great.”

Beshears should be joined in the two-returner set by junior Bradley McDougald, who averaged 19.1 yards on his 14 kickoff returns last season.

Freshman running back Brandon Bourbon will get a look at kickoff returner as well.

The other positions are a little more complicated.

At punter, sophomore Ron Doherty was the leader at the end of the spring drills, but Stamn indicated that the position was still open with red-shirt freshman Victor McBride competing.

Also, don’t be surprised if the Jayhawks change their punt setup after having three punts blocked out of a spread punt formation last year.

“We’re still messing around with it. We’ll see what we end up doing,” Stamn said. “We’re going to do what’s best for our football team, so we could end up doing that (spread formation). We could end up doing something else.”

At kicker, Doherty is competing with Alex Mueller — a true freshman that was ranked the fifth-best kicker in his class by Rivals.com.

“Ronnie has a very strong leg and a great, hard work ethic, and he’s very consistent,” Stamn said. “Alex gets the ball up really fast, really high. So what that prevents is, that prevents people from getting through the middle on a field goal rush from being able to block the ball easily. And he’s also very consistent with what he does.”

Both players also are competing for kickoff duties. Doherty had three touchbacks in 21 kickoffs last season.

The long-snapper job is open as well, with incumbent sophomore Justin Carnes battling against freshman Tanner Gibas.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Gibas was ranked the third-best long snapper in the nation by long-snapping instructor Chris Rubio.

“He can zing it, which is why he came here,” Stamn said of Gibas. “He has a good attitude. He goes out there and runs well, has a good work ethic and pays attention. So he has fit right in.”

Stamn also said he’s seen improvement in Carnes, who played in all 12 of KU’s games last year.

At punt returner, Stamn said the Jayhawks will experiment with a few young guys, including freshmen Tony Pierson, JaCorey Shepherd and Marquis Jackson.

Comments

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 1 month ago

how the special teams coach kept his job after last year amazes me!

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Andy Tweedy 3 years, 1 month ago

On this one topic, I tend to agree with you. The special teams were just a disaster last year.

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Chris Bailey 3 years, 1 month ago

Also, don’t be surprised if the Jayhawks change their punt setup after having three punts blocked out of a spread punt formation last year.

Really is this something that's up for debate?? This is a no-brainer! We should have dumped this before we even started with it! Spreading the field out with a punt is just a bad idea! Get rid of it! It looks stupid and makes us look like a high school team! Do you see this in the pros? Heck no! Why? Because it doesn't work!

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texashawk10 3 years, 1 month ago

Set another kickoff return yards record this year DJ...oh wait, that's a stat where you don't want to set a record for total yards in a season. At least the coach recognizes that the spread formation for punt block doesn't work, although probably a few weeks too late. Pack em' in tight and make the rushers have to go around the outside to block punts, it takes longer to do that than running straight up the gut. Hopefully whoever wins the field goal kicking job has better range and accuracy than Brandstetter did. Does anybody remember that Brandstetter missed 2 FG's in the NDSU game last year which would've won the game for KU had he made those. It would still be embarrassing to not score a TD on an FCS team, but at least KU would've won the game.

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justanotherfan 3 years, 1 month ago

We brought in a long snapper specifically to remedy the punt block issues. As others have said, the most important thing for a long snapper is zip. The ball has to get there quickly on a line. It can't be arching back. Last year, our snaps had a lot of arc to them, which gives those inside guys the extra half step they need to fight through the block, or the outside guys another half a beat to close off the corner.

Same thing on FGs. Even if they aren't blocked, you don't want a lot of guys in your kicker or holder's space when they are trying to do their thing. Even an extra tenth of a second or two makes sure the holder gets the laces turned and the ball set correctly, and lets the kicker get into his motion smoothly, without having to wait.

Ideally, the play is snap, set, kick - all in one continuous motion. Last year we were snap, pause, set, kick. That pause gave us issues, whether it was a holder issue on FGs, or a long snapper issue on FGs and punts. Either way, now that we have competition there, this should improve.

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SEsco10 3 years, 1 month ago

Tony Pierson, JaCorey Shepherd and Marquis Jackson

Can't wait to see these guys on the field as true freshmen.

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flouis11 3 years, 1 month ago

'Tony Pierson' should be changed to 'Anthony Pierson.'

Stamn should be cut a little slack for last year. The long snapping last year an abomination,it took way too long to get to the punter. . (That is why Gibas was brought in, he snaps the ball like lightening.) Then you throw in the slow punting style of Rojas and you create the perfect storm for punts to be blocked. The three man protect was the only option left available to him and unfortunately it wasn't great.

You will see great improvement this year in all areas of special teams.

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Matt Tait 3 years, 1 month ago

When I met Pierson a few weeks ago I asked him what he preferred to be called and he said Tony. Anthony has a sweet ring to it, but it's his name so we'll go with what he wants.

Still transitioning a little but we'll get there...

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Chris Bailey 3 years, 1 month ago

Matt,

Have you seen Ben Heeney play? If so will he make it in any games at LB? What about my boy Josh Smith? Is he the second fullback? If so do you see him making it on the field?

Thanks Man!

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jhawkrulz 3 years, 1 month ago

I've been staying up for the past four nights, wondering who would start at punter.

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hawk316 3 years, 1 month ago

Far from being a boring afterthought, a really good punter is actually a terrific weapon. I hope at least one of these guys fills the bill.

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rwhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

I wonder if any of these guys have eyeballs? (Hint: Find some shade for your bright sunny blue sky day pictures). And why is the kicker (Mueller) given the camera the "I'm bad" look? Please somebody be a friend and let the boy know it doesn't actually help his street cred.

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number1jayhawker 3 years, 1 month ago

He's not the only one that is not smiling. As a matter of fact, McBride is the only one smiling out of the 5 guys.

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Dirk Medema 3 years, 1 month ago

All the young speed itching to get on the field should go a long ways to helping the ST. I am definitly hoping we don't need our starting S on kick-offs.

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stevemize 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sue I can be all that proud of a player having "most total yards" in the kickoff return category. That pretty much just means we were giving up a boatload of scores, followed by a kickoff. On the other hand, average per return is something to be excited about.

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Kirk 3 years, 1 month ago

They look special all right

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nuleafjhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

He's making fun of people who spell " you're " as " your ". Ha ha - sorry, I don't usually play grammar police, but it seemed appropriate to make fun of someone who was making fun of someone. No malice.

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