One-on-One with Ake

Last week Broncos Illustrated had the opportunity to talk to the Western Michigan University Broncos special teams coach, Wally Ake. Coach Ake talked about how the special teams have done prior to the game against UCF. He also talked about the punt/kick return game, as well as the new walk-on, place kicker whom also through the shot put in high school.

Seems like the special teams has gotten better each week so far, can you explain some of the things that have been done to pick up the special teams play?

"One is, like the opening game we had a lot of trouble with kickoff coverage and you just don't get to do that live enough. So, until you do it live and the speed of what happens and doing everything full speed, because people are really serious trying to block and they're good. You sometimes just don't know about it, so we might have to during two-a-days have the student maybe a little bit more live work on it, just to get the speed of the game of doing it. But, one is not the people who you have on it, we've really kind of, numbers have gone down in all our special teams. I was just counting it the other day, and you've got our 4 teams, the special team's two-deep is 88 positions. Well on our re-meet room we've got about 38 guys to fill those 88 positions. So, we're just a strict two-deep roster. So we've narrowed it down to those guys that we feel are committed to what they are doing and it matters to them. The result of what happens is important to them and I think that showed in a punt return. I think our kickoff coverage is improved dramatically, it still needs to get better. It's not where we need to be but its gotten better each week or in some aspect it has and all aspects of it have. I think we are just finding the right people that have the ability, but they care about the result and what is going to happen, it really means something to them."

The team allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown in the opening game against Indiana State and hasn't allowed one since then. Is that because of the way you guys changed the way kickoffs go, kick them high and short to around the 25 to 35-yard line? What can you attribute to that?

"Some of it is that. Some of what we are doing is if we get the kick right we want the kick driven down there and let them try to return it, we will cover it well. When we have done that, we've done pretty good. It's when the kicks aren't going quite consistently where they need to be, we're expecting a long kick and it comes up short. So, we've got to do some placement kicks to help and change up. Just to keep it different from the returner, so they're not exactly sure where it's going, and to change the timing of the blocks for your kickoff return teams that your playing against. What we do some has a bearing on it, but again, it's the people going down. It just we're do a few things, we're trying to do those few things well and have enough change ups to make it different. Its just guys are going down where it means something and they're just getting more and more aggressive doing it."

With the return of Kendrick Mosley, how has that helped the special teams? We know about the punt return for a touchdown last week (October 5), but other than that, how has that helped with the special teams?

"Well, it's helped dramatically since we lost Greg Jennings. So, their unit had two guys which either one of them could have gone in. If Greg were playing loud or Kendrick was tired, you could just put the other one in to return a kick and you feel confident. We still have good back ups behind those guys, now. It became kind of a critical factor, because Chris Chestnut was working even with Greg Jennings, and then he got hurt in the first game, until he got full speed. So, it's kind of a transition, Kendrick came back at a time where we really needed him and he had an outstanding performance on the game back, he did a great job."

Do you think when Greg comes back; we can see both of them on kickoffs, at the same time, so to make it a double threat when teams kick off to those two?

"No, because we are only going to have one guy back there deep anyway, so they got to kick to him. If they want to kick away from him, than hey they're pooching it we will get it at the 30-35. So, we aren't going to worry about that that is up to them. But, we can see them both rotating through maybe. But again, Greg may be able to come back; is Greg full speed? Is he the same Greg that he was when he left us? Because if Kendrick continues to do the job he's doing on the punt return, we wouldn't just throw a guy coming off of an injury in there. We just make sure he is full speed. Coach wouldn't play him if he wasn't, but the point being, the guy who is doing well we're just not going to replace him right now and Greg can work his way back in. There will be opportunities for both of them"

Are you going to use the same setup has you have been with (Robert) Menchinger and (Anthony) Apa?

"Yeah, right now we're trying to find, we may, there is another walk-on kicker that we are looking at Justin Glanz (East Kentwood High School in Grand Rapids, originally from Old Bridge, New Jersey). If we have an opportunity, get several kickoff opportunities, we will probably throw him in there to see how he does under pressure. He's a left-footed kicker; he's got some strength in his leg and some consistency in driving it down. He certainly has got a strong leg. We may look at him if an opportunity arises. It would be a home game because traveling our squad is limited in numbers, so we need to see him at home in a competitive situation. That's what we will do. Those are the two we've got, for your kickoffs. So, Justin Glanz may have a shot if we get numerous opportunities to put him in there to see what he can do."

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