Provo • BYU coaches went into Thursday’s final scrimmage of preseason camp with several position battles still on their hands.
The team’s field goal kicker is not one of them.
Special teams coordinator Ed Lamb said after the scrimmage that freshman returned missionary Skyler Southam, the former prep All-American from Wasatch High, “is winning the job right now.”
Southam beat out last year’s place-kicker, senior Rhett Almond, who has mostly focused on winning the punting job in camp.
Southam said he has regained the strength, form and accuracy that made him a standout in high school.
“My accuracy has been good and I have been really consistent with my field goals,” he said. “Obviously, I still have a lot to work on, but I feel pretty good about things right now.”
This marks another in a series of previews analyzing BYU’s position groups this season. Today: Special teams.
The freshman grew up playing soccer, but got the tutelage of a kicking coach his freshman year of high school and started focusing on the skill. He also played safety at Wasatch.
He said he made a 65-yarder while “messing around” before practice but does not expect to be called on to attempt anything from that distance in games.
“Anything inside of 55 [yards] I feel confident I can make it every time,” he said. “Any time I get outside that, I can make it, but I won’t be nearly as consistent.”
Lamb said senior Andrew Mikkelsen will handle the kickoffs. A new NCAA rule is in place for kickoffs that allow returners to make fair catches inside the 25 yard line and have the ball placed at the 25.
Almond is competing with Australian newcomer Danny Jones, who punts left-footed, for the punting job. However, Lamb said both will be used in games.
“They both bring something to the table right now and I think they are both still working through obstacles to get to the ultimate consistency level that they would like to be at,” Lamb said.
The punters have not looked sharp in the media viewing portions of fall camp; Sophomore Jared Kapisi, who also plays rugby, has been given some reps there as well.
Lamb said junior Aleva Hifo and senior Matt Hadley will be the primary kick returners, backed up by senior Michael Shelton and junior Dayan Ghanwoloku.
Shelton is the No. 1 punt returner right now, backed up by Hifo and senior Dylan Collie, the Hawaii transfer.
“They’ve done it in games and we have a high level of confidence in them,” Lamb said.
The coach feels really good about the kickoff and punt coverage teams.
“You know, there’s not a better group of coverage guys in the country — kickoff coverage, punt coverage have just been fantastic for two years running,” Lamb said. “We still have most of those guys around. I have a higher level of confidence in that personnel and what they have done than I have in the return games. And I feel really good about the way the guys on the return teams have blocked and worked this offseason.
“But I think we are nothing until we go out and get our first returns. I am just anxious for it.”
Head coach Kalani Sitake said the special teams are “looking good” and should be a strength of the team if they can get more consistency from the punters.
Mitch Harris will handle the deep snapping and is backed up by fellow senior Matt Foley, who is joining the team next week after missing preseason camp.