Fall Camp: Special Teams

As a whole, special teams have been a black-eye for Oregon State football the past several seasons. While the place kickers and punters have improved, the kickoff and punt coverage, in addition to the punt and kickoff returns, have declined.

A significant part of the problem last year had to do with injuries. Seth Lacey, Chaz Scott, Dan Rothwell, and Harvey Whiten are just a few of the key players that were forced to miss games due to an injury. Due to the lack of success by the special teams, head coach Mike Riley hired Bruce Read, a special team’s expert.

D Bruns
Bruns will be a important part of the special teams in '04.

"Bruce has an enthusiasm and love for football that spreads to the players and other coaches," Riley said. "He's an exciting guy whose teams have had tremendous success blocking and returning kicks. Nothing turns a game around like big plays on special teams, and Bruce's units thrive on that."

The most decimated part of the special teams squad was the long snappers as Noah Happe opted for the NFL supplemental draft and the first (Dan Rothwell) and second string (Darrick Bruns) players were injured. Linebacker Trent Bray was forced to take over starting duties in the middle of the season. The inexperience showed as some snaps went awry costing the Beavers valuable field position and sometimes points.

It is highly unlikely that OSU will suffer the wrath of the snapper football gods again, but Bruns and Bray are both practicing long snapping this time around. Josh Linehan and Bruns will handle extra points and field goals.

The holder, although often overlooked, is an important part of special teams play. Carl Tobey did a splendid last year fielding snaps off the turf and over his head. Taking his place this year is Mike Hass who should prove to be a successful successor to Tobey.

J Dailey
Dailey could handle field goal duties this year.

Junior John Dailey has the starting place-kicking spot heading into fall camp. Dailey has attempted one field goal in his career, missing a 38-yarder. While Dailey does not have the strong leg that Kirk Yliniemi has, he will improve with more experience and will be a consistent kicker from 35-yards in. JC transfer Sam Paulesco will compete for field goal and PAT duties after arriving in fall. Redshirt freshman Alexis Serena could also push for playing time as he consistent from 30-yards in, but will get better with more repetitions.

Paulesco posses a strong leg and will handle kickoff and punting duties. His powerful leg will give the special teams coverage a boost as his extra hang time will allow the players more time to get down field. His leg will also help the Beavers in the field position battle. Redhsirt freshman Jon Stowbridge will back up Paulesco and will become better under the tutelage of Read in addition to picking up tips from watching and talking with Paulesco.

Dwight Wright, Harvey Whiten, Aric Williams, and Ryan Cole all have the opportunity to return kicks in 2004. The Beavers ranked 115 in the nation in kickoff returns with a 15.8 average and will be looking to increase that number quite a bit. Wright returned the most kicks (14 for 216 yards (15.4 avg)). Wright is shifty but does not have breakaway speed.

Whiten returned four kickoffs last year and broke the biggest return of the season with a 39-yarder against Arizona. Whiten has explosive speed and could become a threat with more game time. Williams returned three kickoffs for 29 yards but often heads east and west instead of north and south. Cole returned just one kickoff last year and will see more action this season.

C Clasen
Clasen is reliable, but does not have the speed to breakaway from the opponents.

Senior Cole Clasen primarily handled the punt return duties returning 42 kicks for 211 yards (5 avg.). The Beavers also ranked in the hundreds in punt returns at 113 with a 5.2 average. Clasen is reliable and rarely drops a ball, but does not have breakaway speed and sometimes he is too confident putting his body in harms way and risking a fumble. Williams returned two punts last year for 10 yards.

Redshirt freshman Yvenson Bernard, sophomore Kellen Marshall, junior Josh Hawkins, and freshman Charles Burnley also tried their hand at returning punts during spring ball.

Several freshman, including Burnell Wallace and Lamar Herron, could earn their stripes on special teams play and provide the team with a deadly return man. With several talented freshman coming in, a new coach, and experienced veterans the special teams should improve significantly this season.

Fall Camp:  Tight-Ends | Quarterbacks | Recievers | Offensive Line

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