I really try hard not to drink the preseason Kool-Aid, but when Kirby pushes a cold glass of tasty beverage into my hand, it’s hard to resist sometimes.
Here’s what he had to say about special teams at yesterday’s post-practice presser (say that three times in a row, fast).
In terms of special teams coverage units, what are you looking for to shore up those areas this year?
‘’Number one, is a great kick because the best way to shore up your areas of coverage is to kick the ball where it’s supposed to be, how high it’s supposed to be with what hang time it’s supposed to be done with. We’ve improved first and foremost in that area. Rodrigo (Blankenship) did a great job of kicking off in Saturday’s scrimmage. He had some of the best hang times we’ve had. David (Marvin) did as well, but Rod had a little better hang time. Punting, Cam (Nizialek) got great placement and hang time. But, the number one thing, coverages have fast, big guys. We’ve got a lot of starters playing on our punt team. We’re still assembling the kickoff team. The goal is to have guys buy in and realize the importance of it. It’s not a down off. So we have a lot of competition. That’s the biggest difference I noticed from last year. There’s a lot of guys fighting for spots on special teams because they know that if they don’t get those spots, they might not make that travel roster. So we’re looking for fast guys that make good decisions.’’
How many of the true freshmen do you think might make these units?
‘’I don’t know an amount. I mean, Swift was showing up. Mark Webb was showing up. Walter Grant is showing up. Several guys…Nate McBride is showing up. There are a lot of guys that are showing up. They’re all in the mix, and I think after Saturday’s scrimmage we’ll know more of the 2-deep on the special teams. And there’s some real good competition. But that’s where those guys are going to make their waves early.’’
Seriously, what’s not to like there? He knows what he wants, mechanically speaking. He’s aware that the talent level on the coverage units has to improve. And it sounds like he’s found the lever to motivate guys to want to participate. I don’t know about you, but that checks all my boxes.
If there’s one area that can improve rapidly based on recent recruiting success, it’s special teams. Sure, there are always going to be a few super subs who make their marks there, but generally speaking, it’s just like any other area in that greater athleticism likely leads to better results. Lord knows after last season, they could sure stand for some improvement there.