USC senior punter Kris Albarado will be playing an important role this season for the Trojans. With improved depth on offense and defense, USC will need Albarado to steal some extra yards on special teams, flipping the field after a three-and-out or pinning an opponent deep when a drive stalls.
During fall camp Albarado was doing exactly that, booming punts when the situation called for it or knocking down high punts with backspin to stop dead inside the 10. But compared to other camps, Albarado's repetitions were down this fall for a reason.
“For my position, I rely heavily on technique," he said after a recent practice. "A lot of times I’m not punting all these reps, I’m focusing on the side doing my own thing and focusing on my technique. It’s been really technique heavy.
"We’ve done obviously a lot of team stuff, we’ve done punting out of the back of the end zone, we’ve done going in, we’ve done right-left, you know all the stuff we usually do.
"We’ve stayed pretty light on the reps just because I spoke with Johnny Nansen and we determined that last time was a little heavy on the reps, so we’ve scaled it down a little bit and we’re getting quality reps now. That was kind of our thing, we want quality over the quantity.”
Another noticeable difference this fall was the distance and consistency Albarado has been punting with.
“Spending another whole offseason with Ivan Lewis has really helped me and spending another whole season in the weight room stretching, getting more explosive, getting stronger, I can really tell a difference," he said. "The weight room and then also taking care of myself too. Especially in camp, I’ve been just really trying to take care of my muscles, my joints, make sure I’m feeling good, and make sure my legs are feeling fresh too.”
Like a good golf swing, having more strength doesn't necessarily make the ball go further, proper technique has a lot to do with it. But adding strength and technique together can be a devastating combination.
“It’s a lot of technique but obviously having a stronger leg is going to be more beneficial, having more leg speed is going to be more beneficial, being more explosive is going to be more beneficial," Albarado said. "It’s mostly technique, but the other things are more of icing on the cake. If you’re really strong and you’re really flexible that can help, but if your technique is not there it doesn’t really help you.”
If Albarado can carryover how he has performed during practices into the games, the Trojan punt team should be in good hands this season. But he knows there are still plenty of things he needs to work on.
“I would say understanding some of the situations that we were in as far as in the game is one thing I need to work on," he said. "I spent some time doing a couple of different drills, I would just throw the balls out randomly and I would just say, ‘Alright let’s hit it right there,” and I hit it to my spot. That’s something that I thought I probably could’ve done a better job on and that helps me to be more consistent in the games as well because I’m not just sitting in one spot and hammering punts left and right. I’m doing different spots, I’m getting different things, I’m seeing variation which is what I’m going to see in the game. I’ve been trying to make it game-like.”
A punter's best friend can be his long snapper, and Albarado has a guy he can trust in Zach Smith.
"We’re actually roommates now, we moved in together in an apartment this summer, and working with Zach is great," Albarado said. "He’s good and we’re getting him to where he’s absolutely money, so he’s absolutely perfect on every snap and that makes my job so much easier. [He has] to get the ball off quickly so we don’t have one blocked. It’s great, he’s a really great guy [and] an even better snapper.”
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