Q&A With Special Teams Coach Reed Stringer

Mississippi State's football team will be an experienced team going into the 2008 season. And two of the most experienced members of the squad will be special teams members Adam Carlson, the starting kicker, and Blake McAdams, the starting punter. Mississippi State special teams coach Reed Stringer talks those two players and other key members of the special teams squad.

You have a couple of seniors, kicker Adam Carlson and punter Blake McAdams, who are going to be key members of the 2008 squad.
"Adam really had a good year for us last season, making some clutch kicks for us. He ended up being 10 of 13. Of the three misses, one was a 51-yarder at Tulane, one was a bobbled snap that he never really had a chance to kick and the third one was one that he should have made. In my mind, he was about 90% with the kicks that he definitely should make. And he only missed one extra point the entire year."

[Adam made his last seven field goal attempts last season and 9 of his last 10.-Gene]

"He also did a really good job on kickoffs of putting the ball in different places like we asked him to. That allowed us to do different things on kickoffs last year so that we were able to throw other teams returns off. And he's got a strong enough leg that he would average putting the ball on the five-yard line to the goal line.

"He was very instrumental in us winning some of those close games thanks to him minimizing returns from the other teams, causing them to have to drive the length of the field. And with the way our defense was playing at the end of the year, I felt like, if we didn't give up field position, we would be in every game that we played.

"He's become a very reliable kicker. It's obvious that Adam has a lot more confidence in his ability and in himself. And I think he will have a big year for us this coming season."

Blake McAdams.
"I believe he averaged 39.5 yards per punt last year. And I expect him to get that up to about 43 to 45 yards this coming season.

"Blake does a very good job of putting the ball in places to minimize returns, and sometimes that sacrifices distance. But, in my opinion, if there are no returns for touchdowns, punts or kickoffs, we will be in every ballgame. And we didn't give up any touchdowns on special teams last year. That was big for us.

"We did have one punt that was blocked that led to a touchdown. But that was the one negative on special teams.

"We also had some positives. I considered the play at Kentucky a block punt even though he pulled it down and ran with it. We also blocked a field goal that changed the UAB game. We had a punt return for a touchdown against Ole Miss. I believe the punt that Blake made against Auburn that completely changed the field position in the fourth quarter directly led to us getting the ball on an interception and then scoring. Also, Blake's punting against Alabama minimized who I felt was the top punt returner in the SEC to zero yards, which allowed us to win that close game. So, we made some plays in the kicking game that directly led to points that helped us win games.

"Adam and Blake aren't real flashy guys, but they work hard and are very dependable. I completely trust both of them. And I expect both to have the best years they've ever had next season."

Who will be their backups?
"(Redshirt) Eric Richards will be the backup kicker and punter. I am very excited about him. He is a big kid, about 6-5, with a strong leg. He was about 240 pounds at one time, but is now down to about 220. He's fully healed from the foot injury that he had during last year's two-a-days.

"He could possibly be a kickoff guy for us if his leg gets a little stronger. He's a little inconsistent punting right now, but when he hits it good, it's 45 yards with a lot of hang time. We've got to speed up the process of him getting the ball off."

What would have to happen for Eric to be next year's kickoff guy?
"As of right now, Adam has earned the right to do that because we were either 3rd or 4th in kickoff coverage in the SEC last year. That is a big improvement from being 11th the year before.

"But while Adam did a really good job for us last year, if Eric can consistently put the ball 3 to 5 yards into the end zone, then we will definitely use him as our kickoff guy. That is a weapon if he can do that. Last year, in our conference, there was only a couple of guys who could consistently put the ball in the end zone. Everybody else was about the same as us."

Sophomore Aaron Feld will be your snapper this coming season. What are your thoughts about him?
"I feel like we have one of the best snappers not only in the conference, but maybe in the nation. Aaron is a very, very talented snapper. His snap times are much better than the average time, which allows us to get the ball off much quicker.

"And Aaron is not only a good snapper, but he's a very good athlete as well. For the first year and a half he was here, he was a backup linebacker. And he was doing a very good job at that position. But I eventually had to ask him to focus on snapping because he's so important to us at that position. And despite being so young - he's got three more years - he's done a good job for us. He has the type ability that will allow him to snap for a long time."

Who is behind Aaron?
"Behind him we have a senior, Anthony Bowles, who is a very, very dependable guy. I would have no problem putting him in in any situation. He is very consistent and a very hard worker.

"I also have a third guy, tight end Austin Wilbanks, who is a very good snapper.

"So, we really have three guys who travel to games who are good snappers, although Feld is our guy."

Who will be your holder this coming season?
"Our holder is Blake McAdams. He's been the holder for a few years. And Zach Smith has also held for us. All of our quarterbacks also get reps at being the holder."

Who do you expect to return punts and kickoffs?
"Derek Pegues has done a really good job for us on punt returns. And he will continue doing that because he has a knack for the big return. He is not only a fast guy, but he's a strong guy. It's hard for guys to bring him down because he breaks through arm tackles. We are going to try to do things this year to get him started downhill on punt returns. If we can get him started, he can make things happen.

"Last year, he had to do kickoff returns as well. We tried different guys, but they weren't what we were looking for on kickoff returns. When we put Derek in there he did a good job, but he's more comfortable in the punt return role.

"What we are going to do this coming season is use a young guy. I really believe (redshirt freshman) Wade Bonner is going to be the guy back there because he really has the knack for kickoff returns. While he's also strong like Derek, he's more of a find the hold and hit it type guy. He's more the scatback type guy.

"We'll also give (redshirt freshman) Robert Elliott a chance at it, as well as some of the freshmen that we signed this year - Delmon Robinson, Terrance Davis, Corey Broomfield, Arceto Clark. All of them did it in high school and were very good at it."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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