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April 7, 2017

Special teams

Welcome, everybody, to a Fast Friday edition of the Carriker Chronicles where each and every Friday I keep it quick and easy.

Today I want to talk about the Husker special teams. I want to start right off with our kicker Drew Brown. Now he’s been handling our placekicking and kickoff duties for three years so this will be his fourth year in a row. Doing so, he owns a handful of school records. He’s earned all-conference honors the past couple of seasons and this year he’ll be one of the favorites to win the Lou Groza award, more all-conference honors as well as some other national accolades.

Let’s talk about some of the honors and stats that he’s earned to this point. Now as far as his stats—he has 47 career field goals. That’s 3rd in Husker history! He’s only 21 shy of tying Alex Henery’s school record which he might tie or break this season. Now, he holds the Nebraska freshman scoring record with 101 points. He set the sophomore record for field goals in a season with 21 and he tied the Memorial Stadium record for field goals in a game with five versus Southern Miss. And he set the NCAA record for field goals in a HALF with five!

Now, as far as PATs, he’s pretty much money. He’s made 99% of his PATs—he’s only missed two out of 143 in his career. As far as field goals, he’s 76% when it comes to making his field goals over his career. But here’s what I like: he went from 67% his first year, 78% his second year and 86% last year! So I want to see something in the 90% this year my man! Now as far as his kickoffs—44%. Just under 50% of his kickoffs result in touchbacks. I feel pretty good about Drew Brown as our kicker.

Now moving on to our punter, Caleb Lightbourn. Now this guy has got a big leg and he’s got a year of experience. Now it’s very unfortunate what happened with Sam Foltz. If you look at it from just a pure football perspective, now Caleb does have a year of experience so that’s going to help him this year. He was a bit inconsistent last year. I have just a little bit higher expectations for him this year. Now I love that he’s going to be coached by Bob Diaco cuz he’s got these punters actually sweating in practice and he knows what he’s doing. I love it!

I gotta share a story with ya: my senior year—once I started a practice, I never once had to take a (bathroom) break in a practice in 4½ years. My senior year, I HAD to go to the bathroom, I had no choice, I’m sure you can relate. So I’m going in the middle of practice—I’m going to the locker room bathroom. And what do I see??? I see the punters, I see the kickers, I see the long snappers, the holders! They’re all in there, and they’ve got our stools flipped over that we sit on in front of our lockers, and there’s a little cylinder in the bottom. Kind of a little hoop. And they’re playing H-O-R-S-E, shooting footballs! They’re playing HORSE in the bottom of these cylinders! I was not happy. I went to the bathroom, went back out to the field. But you gotta keep in mind, I had just taken on a bunch of double teams, and when I went back on the field I did one-on-one pass rush, the most intense and highly scrutinized drill an offensive and defensive lineman can do! I’m glad Diaco’s got these boys sweating just a little bit.

Now we had some multiple blocked punts, and some blocked punts last year as well. I have higher expectations for the punt team and our punter going into this season. As far as our returners, Wyatt Mazour: I’m excited to watch him. Tre Bryant: now if he wins the starting running back battle, I wouldn’t use him too much but if he’s part of a committee or if he doesn’t win that battle get that guy the ball in his hands on kickoff return. He’s too fast and we’ve got a healthy De’Mornay Pierson-El but we don’t have a deep wide receiving corps so I would use him sparingly.

Now, I expect our special teams to be better this year. It’s not very often it’s two years in a row teams struggle in the same exact aspect because coaches tend to focus on what you’re struggling with. We don’t have a special teams coordinator but we’ve got all the assistant coaches—all hands on deck handling the special teams this year. So, special teams isn’t complicated. It’s blocking, it’s tackling, it’s effort. Now some teams had some successful fakes on us last year as well. That’s discipline! Again, the fundamentals of football is what special teams is.

Now this might surprise you but I played some special teams in practice and in games! Field goal block of course, field goal protection which is slightly more stressful than one might think! Kick return, punt, and kickoff as well. Can you imagine my big butt running down on the punt and kickoff teams?! I can barely imagine it myself and I did it! Now as far as our kickoff return teams that I was a part of—all the special teams coach wants is for the kick returner to get 10 yards every time. You want the big play, but get that first down every single time. If he catches (the ball) at the 15, get to the 25. I told our special teams coach “Put me back there! I GUARANTEE I’ll get ya ten yards!” I don’t know if I’ll get ya 11, but I’ll get ya ten! (I would have got 11).

I’m also excited about our holder Zack Darlington. He was one of the top holders in the country. He’s reliable and a former quarterback. Can throw, athletic, he can run. So fakes are part of the special teams game and I love that as well.

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