Just call it Special Teams by Committee.
The University of Arkansas coaching staff was prepared to use three different kickers in its season opener and has plans to do so again on Saturday when the Razorbacks (1-0) host Louisiana-Monroe (0-0) in Little Rock.
Senior Alex Tejada kicked off, true freshmen Zach Hocker handled the extra points and would have kicked field goals early in the game and Dylan Breeding would have punted – something the Razorbacks did not have to do during the the entire 44-3 rout.
"I think at this point we are not going to rock the boat," Arkansas special teams coordinator John L. Smith said. "We are going to just do it by committee right now. We like the confidence, we like the competition level they are competing at so we are not going to disrupt things."
Hocker was true on all six of PATs and Tejada had four touchbacks in seven kickoffs, with two others that were covered inside the 10.
Breeding just stood on the sideline as Arkansas either scored touchdowns or had one of their three turnovers. There was no need to show off his improved leg.
"I think each guy right now has a place that is just right for them," Smith said. "We'll wait and see how that goes from here on out. I don't project anything different – Breeding is going to punt, Hocker is going to kick PATs and field goals and then Tejada is going to kick off."
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino got a recommendation from Smith to spread the wealth.
"Coach and I sit down and I talked and said here's field goal 1, here's kickoff 1 and let's see what we can get," Smith said. "It worked and it was pretty good for the first day."
Breeding, a walk-on who punted for the Razorbacks last season, held off Hocker, who was brought in to take his job – or at least makes his performance level go through competition.
A change in the way Breeding receives the snap has improved his quickness in getting off the kick and his stronger leg has improved his distance and hang time.
"It was a deal where I am having to get the ball out of my hands by throwing it, it takes too much time," Smith said. "If I have my hand here, it is hard to drop the ball. It stays on my hand. If I have my hand here it stops."
The Razorbacks could have kicked a field goal later in the fourth quarter when at the 31.
"Coach Petrino got on my case about not telling him to kick one at the end," Smith said. "He said, ‘Why didn't you tell me that we didn't kick one?' You don't want to run up the score, but it would have been good to have kicked one."
While Hocker has won that job, Tejada would have actually kicked that field goal because the two had switched roles by that time.
The UA staff didn't want Tejada to have to kick off an eighth time so Hocker and he would have switched roles late.
"We had made a change at that point and if there would have been anymore kickoffs it would have been Hocker and Tejada was going to go to the front on field goals."
Tejada flourished in his new role as simply the kickoff role.
"What a game changer," Smith said. "We talk to our guys all the time on special teams about being game changers. There were two on our kickoff game that really changed the outcome of the game.
"And with Tejada, you don't really just how big it is to kick the ball in the end zone and not letting anybody bring it out," Smith said.
He only had three touchbacks the entire season in 2009.
"I think again it is his strength work and flexibility work and I think his focus is better," Smith said. "And we changed a little bit on what we are asking him to do. Line it up and kick it. We are not doing it as much directional as we have. We are just letting him kick the ball."
There certainly was one downer about special teams in the first game and that was the loss of senior Seth Armbrust to a knee injury.
Armbrust was on every special team.
"That was huge," Smith said. "Seth is on all of our special teams and was our special team leader all of last year.
"He is a guy that comes in my office every day and watches film," Smith said. "He is kind of the captain over there so that is a huge loss. The positive thing is that we can get him back next year. He's a great guy to have around."
It's going to take a few people to fill his many roles.
"It is not just one guy at all of his spots," Smith said. "Very few guys do what Seth did. He plays every one."
Special Teams By Committee
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