After bowl debacle, special teams emphasized in BYU camp
Provo • There's a strong possibility that BYU's starting placekicker this fall will be a 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore returned missionary from Alta High School whose teammates and friends call "Moose."
BYU coaches released their post-spring depth chart on Friday, and Vance "Moose" Bingham is listed as the starting kicker. He apparently edged out senior Trevor Samson, a transfer from Fresno (Calif.) City College who joined the program prior to the 2013 season, after a lengthy battle that wasn't settled until the last day of spring camp.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said the kickers were "within one percentage point going into the grand kickoff finale" in which Bingham made a couple of 45-yard attempts and Samson missed his.
Another kicker, Hurricane High product Corey Edwards, will join the competition this fall when he returns from a church mission. Edwards might be the Cougars' kickoff specialist until his accuracy returns because he is believed to have a stronger leg than either Bingham or Samson. His great uncle is former BYU coach LaVell Edwards.
The Cougars are trying to replace Justin Sorensen, the one-time prep All-American who set a school record with 21 made field goals and was 45 of 45 on his PAT attempts in 2013.
But that's not what is keeping Mendenhall awake at night. He's more worried about replacing senior Kevin O'Mary, who performed flawlessly as BYU's deep snapper last year.
Parker Dawe, a sophomore offensive lineman from Pleasant Grove, is listed as the starting deep snapper out of camp, just ahead of linebacker Kevan Bills.
"Still need to find [one]," Mendenhall said, "and we have players coming, as far as deep snapping. We have work to do there."
Foothill (Calif.) College transfer Scott Arellano returns for his senior season as the punter, so the Cougars are set there. He punted 80 times last year with a respectable 41.0 average, but had three blocked.
Mendenhall said Arellano "is performing at a higher level than a year ago."
Who will replace JD Falslev as the Cougars' primary punt returner? Garrett and Mitchell Juergens, brothers and walk-ons from Houston, Texas, are listed along with the "or" designation on the depth chart, but that quite likely will change this fall when some of the highly touted transfers, such as Devon Blackmon of Riverside (Calif.) College, get on campus.
Running backs Adam Hine and Paul Lasike will again be the primary kick returners, assuming Hine returns from offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of spring camp. BYU was 11th in the nation in kickoff return average last year.
Special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga said the Cougars had a good year in 2013 on special teams until the Fight Hunger Bowl. But Sorensen missed three field goals, Arellano shanked a punt and the kickoff coverage unit allowed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the 31-16 loss to Washington. The Cougars worked on special teams "every single day" in spring camp, Poppinga said.
Mendenhall identified part of the problem as every-down players being tired on the kickoff coverage team, and promised more players including freshmen would play more downs in 2014.
"We are going to play [freshmen] up to 22 plays a game, if they are close to being prepared, and that's going to be really important through the long haul," Mendenhall said. "That's what I learned a year ago. So you might see their number of plays increase as the season goes, but at least the idea now isn't 'come in, be groomed, develop, redshirt.' It is, 'come in and be groomed and developed and play.'"
Special teams post-spring depth chart
Position Player Year
Kicker Vance "Moose" Bingham Soph.
Punter Scott Arellano Senior
Kick returner Adam Hine Junior
Punt returner Garrett Juergens Soph.
Punt returner Mitchell Juergens Soph.
Deep snapper Parker Dawe Soph.