Special Teams Need To Stay Special

One thing that Brian Kelly has pushed since coming to campus is having solid special teams play. Mike Elston is the man in charge of making sure all the special units are ready for any little thing that could come up and help the Bearcats win a game.

For Mike Elston the biggest question he's answered since the end of last season is how he can replace a Two-time All-American like Kevin Huber. Coach Elston didn't look for an easy way out.

"Replacing Kevin Huber is going to be a tough task. When you have a kid who did so well for two years and brought such positive production to the punt team and also the field position it is going to be hard to replace. Jake Rogers has been doing a great job just as Pat O'Donnell and Mike Cooke. All three guys have shown they can learn the packages we have in our punt and they can do multiple kicks. Do they have the consistence that Kevin had? No but they each are very talented kickers."

One area that saw another change when Huber left was the holder, how hard was it to find someone capable of handling the chore?

"Once Kevin Huber left we really didn't want to have a punter be the holder because you just don't have the threat of a fake. So with Zach as the starter and Tony as the backup we're always going to have that threat of a fake which is what we always want."

One thing Bearcat fans have learned is special teams can have a great impact in the outcome of a hard fought contest. How much impact does Coach Elston feel special teams play has during the course of a game?

"It's so hard to know that, but I feel there's been an impact in every game. There have been impacts when we've won with a block kick or a great return and when we've lost by having a kicked blocked of missing on a kick coverage. So it can go both ways. I can't think of a game where we didn't have an impact from special teams over the years."

And one thing you learn during watching a practice is the players take pride in being part of special teams.

"Our kids take tremendous pride and they've bought in. Coach Kelly sells it and the rest of the staff sells it and we've got guys lined up wanting to play it. They see on Sunday after the game what that group has done for the team and they want to be a part of that."

As for return men Coach Elston knows he's got more that just one option.

"We've got Mardy Gilyard, but we also have Isaiah Pead and D.J. Woods who did some work there last year. But we've got a lot of flexibility with guys like Marcus Barnett, Darrin Williams and Reuben Johnson who was a running back in high school and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. So if Mardy is fatigued after a drive and we have to go with one of the young guys we feel really good with a guy like him in the game."

As with all special teams there are guys who don't get the glory of carrying the football. Who have been the unsung heroes of the Bearcats special teams?

"We'll we've got a couple of guys like Collin McCafferty who just sacrifices his entire body into a wedge or double team. Charley Howard is always the first guy down the field on kick off being disruptive making the play or forcing the play back to someone else. O.J. Woodard plays on all of our special teams with great speed and is an effort player. These guys don't play a lot of offense or defense but if they went down we'd have a serious dent in our special teams."


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