Special Teams -

The following is Part 10 of an 11-part series discussing spring training with the assistant football coaches. Today's offering deals with the special teams, under the direction of ST Coordinator James Shibest.

There are, obviously, two part of special teams play.

One, the specialists – kickers, punters, holders, deep snappers and return men.

Two, the coverage and return personnel surrounding and aiding them.

From a specialist standpoint, Special Teams Coordinator James Shibest doesn't seem to have many issues coming out of spring training.

"We feel pretty fortunate to have several key guys coming back," Shibest noted. "Preston Powers has done a tremendous job for us handling all our deep snaps. He's very good, very consistent and very valuable to our kicking operation. We expect him to have an outstanding senior season, just like he had a great year last year.

"We are replacing a very good holder in Rob Park, but Justin Sparks has shown he can do the job. He has good hands and is getting that duty down pat. We were happy with him holding in the spring. "

Sparks has a chance to be a triple threat, so to speak.

"I've been happy with Justin punting the ball this spring. He's been more consistent lately and that's what he needed. He's always had a strong leg," said Shibest. "He's also going to battle with Bryson Rose and David Hankins for the kickoff spot. Bryson has gotten stronger and David did an excellent job in the Cotton Bowl, all things considered. We'll see what happens when we bring in P Tyler Campbell and PK Andrew Ritter, but I'm OK with who we have now."

Even though Rose has steadily improved and had a good spring camp, senior Josh Shene is the leader for all placement duty. He's earned it.

"Josh has been solid this spring. He needs to put back-to-back excellent years together, but I think he can," Shibest stated. "We are pretty blessed with kickers."

At punt returner, senior Marshay Green will handle those duties for the third year in a row and will be backed up by Dexter McCluster and, perhaps, Herman.

"Marshay does a good job of handling the kicks and he makes good decisions," Shibest explained.

Kickoff return is a different matter. Shibest has several different thoughts on that.

"Mike (Wallace) did a good job for us there last year, but I think we can get better at it," James assessed. "I think Brandon (Bolden) is the natural back there if he can get his hands right, but it may be someone like Markeith Summers or one of the newcomers like Pat Patterson, Rodney Scott or Korvic Neat, if he's not too little. We are still up in the air on that, but we feel we have some candidates."

From a coverage and return standpoint, the identification process is ongoing and was not completed or expected to be completed in the spring.

"We have a pretty good nucleus of coverage/return players coming back from last year," Shibest said, "but the problem we have is that some of them are moving up the ladder and becoming starters, like Patrick Trahan, Johnny Brown, Lionel Breaux and so on. You have a balancing act with those guys because you have to determine how much special teams duty they can handle. Consequently, we have been looking for guys who can replace them or fill in for them on special teams.

"The main player we have to replace is Chris Bowers. He did it all and did it well. It will be hard to find a Bowers type of player or two, but that type is what we are looking for."

Shibest said a few names emerged in spring who he will be watching closely when fall practices begin.

"S Derrick Herman is a guy who comes to mind. He can do a lot of things and can make some plays for us. LBs Jason Jones, Lakenwic Haynes and Lamar Brumfield pop in my mind as well," James stated. "TE Ferbia Allen can help, Reggie Hicks, CB Marcus Temple are others who we have our eye on.

"It's an important part of our team. Those coverage and return perimeter people have a big responsibility and we have to make sure we fill those slots with guys who are talented enough to get it done and take pride in it."

Overview: Special teams are important to this staff. They have revived the pride within the team of earning a spot on special teams. It's not a chore to them anymore. It's a badge of honor. With that in mind, there is enough experience and talent on the team to amply fill the slots for the Rebs to be good again on special teams. There are no apparent drawbacks, but the decision-making process on personnel by Shibest is ongoing.


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