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Bronco Spring Ball Battles: Special Teams

From the physical act of successfully kicking field goals, to the all-important return game, to the unique, specialized ability to pin teams back with the punter, special teams are an often-overlooked but massively important part of a football team’ s success. It’s called “hidden yardage,” to borrow a phrase from coach-speak.

Come this fall, Boise State will have new faces in most special teams positions, most importantly at kicker and punter.

Gone are field goal specialist Dan Goodale, golden-legged punter Sean Wale and long snapper Matthew Cota, and the kick returner spot is very much up for grabs. The Broncos will build and develop the guys they have replacing them as coaches want more production all around.

Joel Velazquez a redshirt freshman from Mission Viejo, Calif., looks to be the man to kick field goals. Haden Hoggarth from Seabreeze, Fla., had committed to Boise State as a walk-on late last fall and has an impressive pedigree, and although his name is not listed on the roster, his twitter account indicates he is indeed on campus and attending classes. Velazquez has a booming leg and excelled at multiple sports in high school. He’s far more than just a kicker, but rather a tremendous athlete with a lot of potential that could make him the man to beat.


At the punter position, redshirt sophomore Brandon Heicklen (Tarzana, Calif.) steps in. He was named the No. 4 junior college punter at Kohl's Western Showcase Kicking Camp, and the No. 1 junior college punter by Kornblue Kicking. He should step in and make an immediate impact for the team.


Sophomore Nicolai Pittman (Boise, Idaho) is a possibility to take over the long snapping duties, but redshirt senior wide receiver Brock Barr was the man snapping late in the 2016 season. Coaches may have those two battle it out for the starting spot. It’s never a bad thing to have multiple long snappers.


In the return game, senior Cedrick Wilson Jr. and junior Akilian Butler have spent time in that role, and they do so again. But incoming freshmen Jermani Brown and Damon Cole excelled at returning kicks in high school and have speed to burn. It will be an interesting competition this fall to see to whom coaches give the nod as Boise State hopes to increase its production in that category after last season’s disappointing performance.


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