Utah State football preview 2016: Special teams

<em>This is the third in a series of previews of the 2016 Utah State football team. The other previews can be found at these links: <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_a8767102-5db9-11e6-8e72-876267ee69ec.html” target=”_blank”>Offensive line</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_c646adcc-5e82-11e6-a8e0-634ab124a813.html” target=”_blank”>Wide receivers</a></em>

LOGAN – Before fall camp started, head coach Matt Wells said it will be “fun to see” how the “three-headed kicking competition” plays out. It is currently one of several battles among special teams players for starting spots. In some cases veterans are being challenged by freshman.

“We’ve got a good group of guys,” new special teams coordinator Stacy Collins said. “We’ve got a good mix of older guys and some young guys in the program.”

The kicking competition is currently being unfolded between senior kickers Jake Thompson and Brock Warren as well as freshman Dominik Eberle. Eberle redshirted last year, but Thompson and Warren each got turns kicking in games. Warren was 8-for-11 last year on field goals while Thompson was 3-for-6, but Thompson was used more in the long-range situations. Thompson took care of the kickoffs in every game except New Mexico when he sat due to injury.

Collins said the competition for the starting spot still isn’t over in the kicking contest, or any of the others.

“Right now we’re still competing everyday through camp to see who is going to be ready to roll when it’s goal time,” he said.

Wells said answers need to be found with the long snappers. Salanoa Galea’i had that role for two seasons, but is no longer with the team. Junior Emmett Odegard, who joined the team in the spring, is in the running. So are two freshman.

“We brought in a couple of new young long snappers,” Collins said of the freshman. “Daniel Anderson and Brandon Pada.”

As for the punting situation, redshirt-sophomore Aaron Dalton is back alongside newcomer Zach Lee, who arrived in time for spring camp.

“I worked a lot with Zach (Lee) just perfecting our craft and getting ready for the season,” Dalton said.

When those two practiced, they occasionally kicked to the guys like Zach Van Leeuwen, Andrew Rodriguez and Jaren Colsten-Green – guys that could be returning the punts this year. Dalton said he has noticed improvement from all the kick returners and he wants to improve too. He said thinks he can improve on the 41.3 yards he averaged per punt last year.

“We just want to get better every year,” he said of the punters. “Better on location and just do whatever we can to help the coverage team.”

Collins, who was the head coach last year South Dakota School of Mines said he is enjoying his new role at USU.

“When you’re a head coach there is a lot of things that encompasses,” he said. “Whether that’s all the off-the-field things of working with boosters and administrations or really handling the whole program. The ability to be a special team’s coordinator and focus on that phase has been nice.”

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