As training camp begins one of the big questions for Stanford will be the kicking game. The Cardinal will be looking for a new kicker and punter this year. So far it appears four players are competing for those spots with one freshman capable of filling all roles. A week into camp seemed like a good time to seek out Special Teams Coach Pete Alamar to see how the competition was going. I found the conversation about technique interesting and I'd love to spend time watching film and breaking that down in detail. But after practice our time was limited.
The Bootleg: How was practice today?
Pete Alamar: Productive
TB: You like what you saw out there?
PA: I like some of the things. It's early, we are getting better. But I thought it was very productive.
TB: How are the kickers and punters? Those are some big questions coming into it, a week into it what do you see?
PA: Oh no doubt. Today was a day off kicking and punting wise. We worked on fundamentals on the other field. You kind of see what you expect. Conrad Ukropina had a great summer. He came in in awesome shape. He is 17-19 on charted field goals in camp so far. He has done a great job. He has got the ball up nice. He's hit the ball very well. Jake Bailey, Alex Robinson both have hit some monster punts. We're still working on just getting our timing down which is probably the biggest thing for a young punter like Jake. Just to understand the timing of the game, the get off, the pace at which you have to work and still get the ball up and out. That's the biggest thing he is working on right now. Charlie Beall is a young kicker we've got in camp with us that is just working on fundamentals and technique. He has a really strong leg. He just has some things he has to continue to work on. Jake is working some with kickoffs and field goals but he's spending the majority of his time, probably 75-percent of his time right now is punting. He and Alex are in a real good duel right now to see how that is going to shake out.
TB: So that is the focus right now is to have them punt and....?
PA: Alex and Jake (will punt) and Conrad and Charlie (will kick), and Jake can flip over too. I think that's something we'll have to decide. The big thing is not to wear Jake out trying to do all three things. He has a really good kickoff leg. So you kind of have to pick your poison by days with him and manage his leg. It's a young leg. He's 18 so you have to be really careful.
TB: It's the first week and (David) Shaw was just talking about timing and footwork and you just said the same thing. We're obviously not going to try and win a game here the first week. When you are working with them how much of it is just simply working on the mechanics of it?
PA: We break it down. We break it down from how we stand to our first step and then we just take in pieces. We basically use a whole part method.
TB: Whole part?
PA: You go through the whole approach, you set up the approach and swing and then you break down in parts and then go back and teach them those fundamentals and then you put it all back together again.
TB: Does it compare to breaking down a golf swing?
PA: If you want to compare kicking to another sport it is golf. The difference is when I don't like my driver I can put it away or buy a new one. My driver is the kicker, my club head is my foot, my leg is my shaft. It is the same thing, but you can't throw it away. You talk about what is the angle of my club face to the ball, the same (he looks down at this foot and adjusts it to a variety of different angles).
TB: You come out here in the beginning of camp and you have about 100 people running around. You won't use your three quarterbacks. How in the world do you narrow it down? This guy looks like a gunner. Do you look someone in the eye and say "you look a little crazy maybe I should try this." How do you go from 100 down to 11?
PA: What you do is this: We film everything. The benefit for me is I've got four cameras (points to the raised camera locations) and sometimes a fifth on the ground that I can work and I look at every night. I have 300-400 clips of film every night. What I do is I pull all the freshmen and redshirt freshmen. Everyone of their drill clips go off into a file with those guys in it. So when I go back and I want to go look at my young gunners, I can't see them all at one time so you use the film. We talked today about the qualities we look for in a Stanford special teams player. They know what's expected. They know for a young guy special teams is the first opportunity to get on the field, so the competition should always be great.
TB: When you tell them what your are looking for, what do you tell them?
PA: You tell them to play fast, play physical, play with great effort, own the technique of your assignment, bring a passion and an understanding of the importance of special teams with you every day. Those are the five things.
TB: Do you need to be a little crazy, or have a little edge to play special teams?
PA: I think you have to enjoy the opportunity of having to be right one time and only getting one chance at it. There is no second down, there is no huddle up and do it again. We get only one chance. You have to enjoy that, you have to enjoy the challenge.
TB: Who are some of the standouts that will be on coverage?
PA: Wow, that is a good question right now. We lost some really good kickoff coverage guys. We have some tremendous young guys I think that are going to show up that I can't wait to see. But we haven't set the depth exactly yet. But young guys that could show up: I think Jordan Perez has a chance to be special. I think Joey Alfieri covering a kick and guys like that. Craig Jones is back, he did it last year for us. Kevin Palma is back and he did it last year. We have some good speed in speed spots. Terrence Alexander last year got a lot of experience. He's been down there before. Right now I think we have a lot of guys, and like you said, how do you get those 50 guys down to ten? We're still trying to get that 50 guys down to ten. We're down to about 20. The other thing that comes into play is how deep we are at a position? How much is that guy playing too? Managing, it is a chess game put the right pieces in the right spots. I'm just setting the board right now. It's going to be fun.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!