Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars kicker Justin Sorensen's field goal attempt is ruled no good in the second quarter as the BYU Cougars host the Utah Utes, college football Saturday, September 21, 2013 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.
BYU football: Special attention to special teams has paid off
BYU football » The Cougars rank eighth in the nation in kickoff returns.
First Published Oct 23 2013 01:36 pm • Last Updated Oct 23 2013 11:33 pm

Provo • It is not written in stone and there are a few exceptions, but BYU football coaches have adopted the philosophy that players have to play on special teams before they can earn starting spots on offense or defense.

They also placed a bigger emphasis on special teams play this past offseason after losing several games last year due to subpar play in the kicking game, mostly shoddy place-kicking. The results mostly have been positive through seven games.

At a glance

BYU special teams rankings

Category Rank Stat

Net Punting 104th 34.74

Punting avg. 57th 41.4

Punt returns 39th 10.39

Kickoff returns 8th 27.8

FG % T36th .846

Boise State at BYU

Friday, 6 p.m.

TV » ESPN

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Look back to last week’s 47-46 win over Houston for proof; BYU kicker Justin Sorensen was 2 for 2 on field-goal attempts, while UH kicker Richie Leone was 1 for 3, including a missed 40-yarder that BYU’s 6-foot-6 jumping jack Mitch Mathews got a finger on.

"The thought was that you can earn your stripes on special teams, and that’s how you earn your starting spot on offense or defense," BYU special teams coach Kelly Poppinga said Tuesday as the Cougars (5-2) continued preparations for Friday’s showdown at LaVell Edwards Stadium against Boise State (5-2).

Poppinga said the only starter who hasn’t played on special teams is quarterback Taysom Hill.

"It was probably a little overreaction by me when I took over special teams," Poppinga said about the philosophy. "But it’s OK. That’s me just being a young guy. It is probably unrealistic, but yeah, the fact is we do have better players on special teams now, and we are using our starters more on special teams."

Houston’s Demarcus Ayers did return a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to greatly alter the game’s course, but Poppinga and coach Bronco Mendenhall chalked up that more to a great effort by Ayers than to a missed tackle by Kaneakua Friel at the 23-yard-line and Alge Brown being outside his coverage lane.

"The kickoff coverage team had been really great until that big one we gave up against Houston, which was super frustrating," Poppinga said. "I believe, my opinion, without that play, that game is not a [close] game."

Said Mendenhall: "That guy was really good is what it was. Sometimes really good players make plays, and that’s what happened."

Poppinga said the kickoff return team has been nothing short of sensational. It ranks eighth in the country in yards per return (27.8), and sophomore Adam Hine is second in the nation with a 32.8 average per return, second only to Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Both players returned kickoffs for touchdowns against Utah, but Hine’s was brought back by a holding penalty away from the ball.


story continues below
story continues below

"It is the strongest I have seen because we have the best players doing it," Mendenhall said. "So that is not only emphasized by how we meet and which coaches are in charge, but by which players we are sending out there."

BYU’s Riley Stephenson was one of the best punters in the country last year, and junior college transfer Scott Arellano (34.7 yards per punt) has struggled to fill his shoes so far. The Cougars are 104th in net punting (34.74) and have had two blocked (Virginia, Georgia Tech). The flip side is that their punt coverage unit has been outstanding, led by senior safety Daniel Sorensen.

"He is probably the best gunner in the country," Poppinga said. "I would like to find a guy that is better than that guy, because I don’t think there is one."

The punt return team has been better than average, aside from some punts that senior JD Falslev probably should have fielded that ended up pinning the Cougars deep in their territory. Falslev fumbled three punts against Middle Tennessee State, but is still 27th in the country, averaging 10.4 yards per return.

The biggest improvement has come from Justin Sorensen, who finally is healthy after playing with a bad back last season. The prep All-American from Bingham High is 11 of 13 on field-goal attempts and 25 of 25 on PATs. He said his leg finally is as strong as it was in 2008 when he signed with BYU.

"Yeah, I feel similarly to how I did then, just in the sense that I have no restrictions on what I can do," he said. "I don’t go to practice and talk to the trainers beforehand and say, ‘OK, what can I do today?’ I go out and do what I want to do."

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.