Coach Pannunzio Talks Special Teams

Special teams coach Joe Pannunzio talked about the competition at kicker, punter, and the return game after Sunday's practice at Green Tree. He had some interesting insight on what it takes to be successful on special teams, how he's going to determine the winners at each position, and how an NCAA rule change will affect college football this season.

Joe Pannunzio spoke about the kickers and how there is no set time frame for choosing a starter.

"We got three guys that I think are talented and we're going to find out which one is the best fit right now," Pannunzio said. "Special teams are different from offense in defense in that it probably takes a little while to find out who your main guys are, but all three of those guys are competing for the job right now."

Pannunzio also spoke about the return game and how he's working with a nice mix of veterans and new talent.

"The kickoff return guys right now…the one thing we did is bring in some real athletes that bring some return capabilities," Pannunzio said. "We have four or five guys we're looking at back there. We have Coop (Graig Cooper), Ryan Hill did it last year, Bruce Johnson, then you have DeMarcus Van Dyke who is a new guy that's come in, Lee Chambers is a new guy, and even Richard Gordon. That shows you that we're going to all steps to find out who might be able to will do that for us and make a difference."

The returners will be relied on more this year than in years past because the NCAA recently created a rule that would place the ball on the 30 yard line for kickoffs. Last year, the ball was on the 35. The extra five yards figures to create more return opportunities.

"You know, the one rule change that no one has talked about this year is moving kicks to the 30 yard line, so you're going to have a lot more kicks that are returned and we're going to have to cover more too, so that'll be a big part of college football this year."

"It's really important," he said. "You know, before, more than half our kicks were non-returnable, so I think you're going to see about 70 or 80 percent of those kicks are going to become returnable."

On the kicking front, Coach Pannunzio commented on Francesco Zampogna now that he has seen a full week of practice. He also touched upon what it takes to be a good kicker.

"Francesco Zampogna is a guy who got a 6th year, he's a left footed kicker and he's done a great job," Pannunzio said. "He's one of those guys who's a good story. He came in here and he didn't get an opportunity but now he's in the middle of the race."

When asked if Zampogna may be rusty from not being on the team during the summer, Pannunzio replied: "Doesn't look like it, it really doesn't like it. But you know kicking is like, you get in a game and it's a little like A-Rod at times. A-Rod is in a mode right now we're he's hitting home runs, but one day he could maybe go into a little slump. Kicking is like that, so we have to find a guy who's kicking and who is on."

Pannunzio has a difficult tasks. While the kicking game was shaky during the spring, it has allegedly been solid during the fall, so much so that whereas some assumed Pannunzio may have had to pick the lesser of two evils to start during the spring, he may find himself picking between three much improved and legitimate contenders this fall.

"All three of them (Daren Daly, Matt Bosher, and Zampogna) have big legs," he said. "The last few days we've hit field goals of over 50 yards and we haven't really missed any, but the key is consistency. If you're a field goal kicker in the NFL and you go 22-24, but you miss two game winners, you're not a very good kicker. But if you make those two, then you're worth millions and millions of dollars. It's kind of one of those all or nothing positions."

Lastly, Pannunzio addressed the possibility of having the same person punt and kick.

"That could be, we're going to do whatever is best for our football team. Coach Shannon's done a tremendous job of creating a team atmosphere and telling everyone that they're going to bring whatever they have to the table and just helping in any way shape or form and just doing what we need to do to help us win."


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