Sherman spends special time on special teams

Most college coaches don't spend much time on special teams during spring ball, but Mike Sherman isn't worried about what other coaches do. After spending time in mini-camp each year working on special teams in the NFL, he's bringing that philosophy with him to Texas A&M

Texas A&M has blocked just two punts in the last five years. Matt Szymanski hit just 15-of-25 field goal attempts in 2007 (60 percent). The last punt return in Texas A&M history is a distant memory. But that may all change under new head coach Mike Sherman, who is one of the few college coaches who chooses to work on special teams during spring ball.

Sherman comes from the NFL, where special teams is considered one third of the game. It's almost as important to him as offense and defense.

That's why he spent nearly 20 minutes of Wednesday's practice working with the punt team.

"(Special Teams Coach) Kirk Doll is an excellent tactician and knows special teams inside and out," Sherman said. "I didn't bring him here to not give him time, so I've set the schedule to afford time for special teams.

"From what other people have told me, we're doing a lot more work on special teams than most college teams, but I always do special teams in mini-camp, it's what I'm used to. Even though we have a new group coming in this fall that will be part of (special teams), we have to set down our core principles and that's what we're doing right now."

But by "working on special teams," we're not talking about the punt return team going up against the punt team. It's not just Justin Brantly kicking balls to Bradley Stephens in a scrimmage type format.

I mean, multiple stations, spread over two football fields, working on the individual aspects of a punt. Sherman's working on the individual parts that make up special teams, and Aggie fans are hoping that the sum of those parts help give A&M an advantage in close games.

At one station, you've got coaches throwing balls as high as they can into the air for punt returners, who are focusing solely on catching the ball—with the proper technique. They're holding towels under their arms so that they don't pull their arms away from their body, and if they do, they're running.

At another station, there are the outside punt blockers, working on the proper angle to the ball, with the kickers using kickballs—you know, the ones you played dodgeball and four square with in elementary school—as targets, so that the rushers go after the ball and not draw roughing the kicker penalties.

Over in one corner of the field, there is a station for interior blockers only. They're working on technique of blocking on the interior of the line, but without the backup blockers behind them—that's for a different station.

Those guys are doing drills inside of a large hula-hoop, simulating their position behind the line as the last line of defense against the rush on the punter.

It's the essence of teaching fundamentals—which is the case with all aspects of practice, not just special teams—and for Aggie fans, that's music to their ears.


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