Broussard: Special teams remake underway

COUGAR RUNNING BACKS COACH Steve Broussard, in his second year at Washington State, is adding special teams coaching duties to his responsibilities and says WSU's woeful showing in that phase of the game last season will be rectified if the players do one specific thing. And it could be worth three wins a season.

Coach Paul Wulff said at a recent recruiting dinner the one question he gets from Cougar fans more than any other is simply; 'What are you going to do about special teams?'

And for good reason. In many of the Cougar losses over the last four seasons, when the offensive and defensive battles were all said and done, the deciding factor was who won the special teams battles.

Indeed, the difference between going to a bowl game or staying home, said Broussard, is often found in special teams play.

"I'm a believer that special teams has a direct effect -- I think we can win three games off the special teams," said Broussard, who coached kickoff and punt return units during his time at Portland State.

IN ORDER TO right that ship, a return to basics is the spring's theme, says Broussard.

"One, it's about getting a base and 'repping' that to get the get the foundation built first. Once you lay the foundation and are comfortable with it, then I think you can start to look at venturing off and doing different things," said Broussard.

You may still see Reid Forrest execute the rollout style of punt -- it was one of the few areas of special teams reasonably effective last season -- but gone for the most part this spring will be the exotic or gimmick.

But getting the players involved in wanting to be on special teams -- something more and more schools are challenged by these days -- is the key, said Broussard. Success on special teams has more to do with motivation that it does with design or scheme, he said.

"The number one thing is to get them to jump on board," said Broussard. "It's about just getting these kids to buy into what we're doing...It's up to us to find those guys that want to be on them and those kids to know that it is going to have a direct impact on the outcome of the game.

"Anybody can have a (great) scheme but kids have to buy into it. We have to hang onto that and preach it to our guys in our position meetings. And I know Paul is making it an emphasis."

THE BIGGEST need on special teams -- an area where improvement is needed throughout -- is not difficult to identify, said Broussard. It's in the return units.

Washington State ranked No. 97 and No. 94 out of 119 D-IA teams last year in kickoff and punt returns, respectively. That translated to tenth and eighth in the Pac-10. So how do the Cougs go about solving that?

"It's about finding the right players who are going to fit what we're doing and putting guys in the right positions," said Broussard.

CB Tyrone Justin and WR Daniel Blackledge are listed 1-2 on the pre-spring depth charge as punt returners, with RB Chris Ivory and WR Brandon Gibson as the kickoff returners.

The Cougs will also have to replace their placekicker. Wade Penner heads into the spring as the starter but he will see competition.

Head man Paul Wulff has said a junior college kicker will be walking on in the fall but couldn't name him due to NCAA rule and there may be another one as well coming in by the time camp rolls around in August.

Walk-on Matt Myers out of Corona, Calif. (Santiago High) will be participating in spring ball. So will some other hopefuls.

The Cougs last week held an initial meeting for walk-ons from the student population this past Monday -- participants could not actually kick due to the rules governing offseason workouts but they will be able to during the spring session now underway.

Broussard will spearhead the special teams but he said the entire coaching staff will also be involved. "I think the more eyes the better," said Broussard.

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