Boise State Football: Spring Preview for the Special Teams Unit

K BecksCorrespondent IIMay 15, 2013

Boise State Football: Spring Preview for the Special Teams Unit

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    It’s been a long ride, but we’re finally to the end of the road. This is the last spring preview for the 2013 Boise State Broncos football team.

    In this section, we’ll take a look at one of the groups that is largely undervalued, but is extremely crucial to any team looking to have a successful season: the special teams unit.

    Because it is difficult to even somewhat accurately speculate on the coverage team units, we will be omitting those squads from the preview. Thus, the preview will cover the kickoff and punt return men as well as the kicking game.

    In case you have missed any of the other spring previews, be sure to click on the links below to check them out.

    Tight Ends

    Running Backs

    Defensive Backs

    Wide Receivers

    Linebackers

    Offensive Line

    Defensive Line

    To reiterate one final time, this preview will take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the special teams unit, as well as highlight any potential position battles that may take place leading up to the season opener.

    Let’s take a look at the 2013 Boise State Broncos special teams unit.

Strengths

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    In two of the three areas that we will focus on in this preview, Boise State appears to be in good shape. Those areas are the kick/punt return game and the punting game.

    In the kick/punt return game, fans will be familiar with whoever ends up assuming the starting role. At this point, it appears that sophomore Shane Williams-Rhodes, who made a splash during spring practices with several solid days of work, has the upper hand over former Bronco Mitch Burroughs’s brother Dallas.

    One thing that the Broncos will not be in short supply of is speed.

    Both Williams-Rhodes and Burroughs can fly, so that should not be an issue regardless of who the coaching staff decides to give the nod to begin the season. The only real issue could be ball control, as Williams-Rhodes hasn’t always had sure hands.

    However, if spring practice is any indication, Williams-Rhodes is ready to contribute for the Broncos. Broncos fans needn’t worry too much when Williams-Rhodes is back to receive a punt or kickoff.

    In the punting game, Boise State also appears to be set. Senior Trevor Harman started all 13 games for the Broncos last season, punting 42 times for an average of 41.21 yards per punt. In addition, Harman also assumes the kickoff role, where last season nearly 18 percent of his kicks resulted in a touchback.

    As long as Harman doesn’t get injured, the Broncos shouldn’t have too much trouble in the punting game. Hopefully, the high-powered offense will make it so that Harman’s job is relatively easy and the majority of his appearances in games will be during kickoffs.

Weaknesses

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    It has plagued the Broncos before, and hopefully, the issue will not rear its ugly head for the Broncos again in 2013.

    But alas, the field-goal kicking situation could be an interesting one this season.

    On one hand, there is junior Dan Goodale, who once held the starting job in 2011. However, an ill-timed missed kick against TCU that season made it difficult to trust Goodale in high-pressure situations moving forward.

    He lost the starting job for the 2012 season to Michael Frisina, who graduated last year.

    On the other hand, there is JUCO transfer Tyler Rausa. The sophomore was brought in to compete for the job immediately, which isn’t surprising considering the circumstances. Rausa was originally recruited by Nevada and was set to become a member of the Wolf Pack before complications regarding his admission sent him to junior college for a season.

    Still, there will be concerns about the kicking game until someone comes through in the clutch. So how do you prepare for that?

    Simple: You can’t.

    As Rausa smartly put it, the Broncos aren’t looking for a guy who can boot the ball 60 yards. They’re simply looking for consistency somewhere inside around 45 or 50 yards.

    Until you have consistency, you can’t worry about the “what ifs?” of a game-winning kick situation.

    At this point, Boise State just needs to work on finding a guy they can count on for the routine ones.

Key Position Battles

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    For the positions that have been considered in this preview, it’s not incorrect to say that there is a battle for the starting role in all of them except for punter.

    Trevor Harman, barring injury or unforeseen circumstances, will start there.

    Outside of that, the other positions on the special teams unit are up for grabs.

    At punt returner, the battle appears to be between Shane Williams-Rhodes and Dallas Burroughs, although Williams-Rhodes’ performance in spring practice may have widened the gap a bit.

    At kick returner, don’t be surprised if both Williams-Rhodes and Burroughs share time during the early part of the 2013 campaign until one emerges as a clear favorite. If that never happens, then both should continue to return kicks throughout the season.

    Then there is the starting place-kicking job, which is a tossup at this point. Goodale seemingly had his chance two years ago but may have caught a break by having to compete with a guy that hasn’t played in a Division I game in his career.

    Goodale may begin the year as the starter but will probably have a short leash.

Final Thoughts

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    Special teams are not an area to overlook, and despite the woes in the kicking game the past few years, Chris Petersen doesn’t underestimate the value of this unit as a whole.

    Covering kicks and punts as well as a team’s own kicking game are the most important aspects of special teams, so fans shouldn’t worry too much about Williams-Rhodes or Burroughs. As long as they hold on to the ball, they will be, at the very least, satisfactory.

    The headaches, if there are any with this group, will come from the kicking game. Rausa is unproven, and Goodale must regain trust. Their performance could once again dictate postseason plans for the Broncos, so it is imperative that the coaching staff make the right decision for a starter.

    At the same time, let’s not be harsh on the kicking game the entire time. No Bronco fan has forgotten the fact that a kicker won the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas last December for Boise State with a clutch kick at the end of regulation.

    Chances are, things will go smoothly for the most part. No one can predict when a game-winning kick will be needed, and it’s very difficult to simulate those kinds of situations in practice anyway.

    So please, Broncos fans, don’t give yourself a heart attack conjuring up said situations.

    Games where special teams could have the most impact: Washington, Utah State, BYU, San Diego State