Rob Park update -

Rising junior Rob Park has been the Rebel punter and holder on placements for the past two seasons. He now considers himself a veteran, and with that comes a degree of leadership responsibility and higher expectations of production. Read about it inside.

The improvement junior Punter/Holder Rob Park saw in the special teams units last year should be contagious.

At least that's the thought process he's going by.

"The difference in special teams from 2005 to 2006 was very recognizable. We want to take that a step further in 2007 - we want to become a weapon for the team," Park, a 6-0, 185-pounder from Memphis, said. "We feel we've got a lot of momentum in the kicking game heading into 2007. We feel we can be one of the best special teams units in the conference."

Why does Park believe the Rebel special teams units will move up a couple of notches? Simple. Experience.

"Other than Will (Moseley, kickoff specialist), we have everyone coming back. (PK) Josh Shene, (PR) Marshay Green, (KOR) Dexter McCluster, (DS) Preston Powers, (KOR) Mico (McSwain), and me," he said. "We've all been through the battles now and are comfortable we can make good things happen.

"I don't think you will see any jitters or uncertainties out there this year. From now on, it's all about execution. I've been there and done that now, so emotions should be out of the equation. I can go out there now with confidence and do my best to be a weapon for the team."

Park said it's been a momentum thing for the special teams, and, for that matter, the whole team.

"Even though we didn't close out some games last year where we were very close, we kept getting better as a team and that built our confidence little by little," Rob continued. "Ending the season by beating Mississippi State should propel us into spring and next season."

Rob can see it in the offseason workouts.

"I think we have a lot more leadership than in the past because more guys are taking that on their shoulders," he explained. "In my workout group, Brent (Schaeffer), Dustin (Mouzon) and Mico McSwain are pushing us. We are veterans now and we are all assuming some leadership roles."

So what does Park believe he's got to do to help the special teams excel?

"I've got to give us some more yardage in field position. Instead of being a punter who averages 40 yards and nets 35, I've got to get to 43 and 38," Rob assessed. "I've worked really hard on gaining leg strength and staying flexible. I can feel I'm stronger."

An example of his added strength is apparent in the IPF. Two years ago, he couldn't hit the ceiling of the IPF with his punts. Now, it's hard for him to punt indoors because he hits it virtually every time.

"I definitely have a stronger leg than I did when I first came here and I did last year," he says. "There are always things you can work on in punting - your drop, your steps, etc. - but when you have more strength, it means you don't have to be perfect, so to speak, to hit a good punt," added Park.

Park, as mentioned, has a dual role on special teams. He takes holding for PK Shene seriously and he's proven to be sure-handed and reliable in that capacity.

"I take a lot of pride in holding. It's just as big a part of the operation as the snap and the kick," said Rob. "We work on it every day and make sure that operation is smooth. Mine and Preston's goal is to make it so smooth that Josh doesn't even have to consider whether the ball will be there on time and placed correctly. All he needs to do is concentrate on putting a good stroke on the ball.

"Preston is doing a great job. In the offseason, he had been on target every day. He's getting stronger and his snaps have more velocity. He's always been accurate. We are set there, I believe."

Justin Sparks is likely to be the backup at punter and placekicker. Park is also predicting he will take over for Moseley as the kickoff specialist.

"Justin is a good all-around kicker. He can do it all. He's a very good punter, PK and has a strong leg for kickoffs," Park said. "Whoever kicks off this year is going to have to have a strong leg because KOs were moved from the 35 yardline back to the 30 in college football. I think where Justin will have an advantage is that he kicks the ball high and has good hang time."

In the return game, Rob just shakes his head.

"Tell me three more electric return guys anywhere than Dexter, Marshay and Mico. I can't think of any," he closed. "And in coverage, we now have a bigger pool of fast, physical players to draw from.

"I am real excited about all the special teams for 2007. Like I said, we expect to be weapons for the team."

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