While multiple units on special teams looked extremely improved in 2014, even more attention will be put on the phase of the game next season with the hiring of Bruce Read on Mike Riley’s staff.
“Coach Riley has coached a lot in the professional ranks, both in the NFL and CFL. They all have special teams coaches,” said Read. “Realizing the impact it can have in the game. I also think he’s comfortable of having a guy in charge of it.”
Read says when you rely on position guys to coach special teams; less emphasis can be put on the third-phase of the game. It can become “fragmented” or a “lost focus.”
“It becomes a second job for a lot of guys,” said Read.
Over the past seven years, Nebraska has used starters on their special teams units. It will likely continue under Read, but he will be very conscience of it.
“I really try to work hard on energy management,” said the coach. “You can take your best player and put him on all your special teams...but by the third game you are going to wear him out.
“The more guys you can get involved with ‘this is my spot,’ the better you will be…That kid is vested, it’s important to him. There is more interest there.”
This includes walk-ons.
“I love walk-on players, it doesn’t matter how they got here, it doesn’t’ matter if they are on scholarship or not,” said Read. “We want to play the best player for that particular position on special teams. I’m open to all the kids...Mike is really open to playing all kids.”
With 29 years of coaching experience, one thing Read actually prides himself on is the amount of time in practices focused on the phase of the game – it’s often less time than most.
“The thing that Mike grinds me on is to be super efficient and to be organized,” said Read. “He feels we can do it in less time…I think we are very efficient in what we do.”
Read will run the show, but will have certain assistants helping him along the way. For instance, running backs coach Reggie Davis will work with returners. Linebacker Coach Trent Bray and secondary coach Charlton Warren will work cover team guys.
“We will incorporate everyone, besides the two coordinators on special teams – especially during fall camp,” said Read. “We like to get other coaches involved.”
More than a few Husker fans probably scratched their head and questioned the idea of hiring a full-time special teams coach. But, with Read’s resume – especially in the NFL – it’s undeniable he’s well respected in the coaching ranks when it comes to the phase of the game.
“It was easy for me. I love working for Mike and this is a great spot,” said Read, when asked about coming to Nebraska. “This is one of the premiere Division 1 jobs in college football.”