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Mid-Training Camp Report Card: Special Teams
Over the last several days, LibertyFlames.com's Countdown to Kickoff coverage has brought you some insight from head coach Danny Rocco, breaking down the three major player units in his program, as his team has reached the midway point of its August training camp.
On Aug. 11, the web site got Rocco's thoughts on his explosive offense, while a review of the Flames' defensive unit came on three days later on Aug. 14. Today, we are going to wrap-up the three-part mini-series by getting Rocco's insight into Liberty's special teams unit.
The Flames special teams unit truly lived up to its billing in 2007, capturing Big South Special Teams Player of the Week honors six out of 12 weeks throughout the campaign. Liberty had five special teams players take home Big South postseason honors, while Dominic Bolden and Dan Pope were named All-America special teams honorees.
Here are Rocco's thoughts on some of the key components to Liberty's special teams efforts during the upcoming 2008 season:
Mike Larsson – Fr., K
"One of the biggest surprises of camp this year has been Mike Larsson. We knew that he was a capable kicker/punter, as he came through our camp (high school) a year or so ago and then he made his commitment to the program."
"But when he made the decision to come here, I didn't know we would have a guy who was ready to contribute as a freshman. He has been stellar this summer during camp."
"He is a left-footed, two-step punter, who gets the ball off with great size. He is very athletic and has great hands and eyes, as he can quickly see and catch the snap. He has got great flexibility and the ball just sails off his foot."
"I think we have found ourselves a punter in Mike and I think he will contribute to our program over the next several years to come. Also, I think he has got enough poise to handle being a first-year player."
Dan Pope – Sr., LS
"Dan Pope is as good as there is in terms of his ability to long and short snap. He will allow a young punter, like Mike Larsson, to come in here and have some success, because he is not worried where the ball is going to hit him."
"The ball is going to hit him right in the hands and now the punter just has to worry about his mechanics, rhythm and timing. So, we are very fortunate to have (Dan) Pope back for his senior year."
Liberty's Place Kickers
"When you start looking at the kickers, in reality what we have is a two or three-man race for the job. I feel very comfortable that Matt Bevins will do our kickoffs, as he definitely has the strongest leg of the group."
"He has the ability to put the ball on or near the end zone. When they moved the kick off back to the 30-yard line a year ago, that became somewhat of a lost art. I think that Matt is going to get the nod for our kickoffs."
"Right now with our extra points and field goals, we are looking at both Ben Shipps and Paul Young. Right now, if we had a game to play, Paul would be our guy for field goals and extra points. If we got into a long-range field goal situations, we would probably put Bevins back in the game because he has the strongest of legs."
"It really is going to be a job by committee and I'm looking forward to seeing how it unfolds."
Kickoff/Punt Return Specialists
"We really have a number of guys who can return for us this year. Dominic Bolden is probably the most experienced and the most explosive in the bunch. Dominic can return both punts and kick offs."
"We are certainly looking at Zach Terrell back there on kickoff returns, in particular. Mike Brown is also a guy who we are starting to take a good look in the return game."
"Aaron Hewlett has been injured during training camp, and he is a specialist that will have a chance to return some kicks in the future for us. Also, Ryan Greiser has been back there a bit giving us a different look."
"All in all, I think we are in good shape as we have a lot of depth at both return roles. Right now, we have Jonathan Crawford and Dominic Bolden who will probably split duties as our punter returner, as well as Mike Brown."
"On kickoff returns, right now it is looking like Bolden and Terrell, with Greiser and Hewlett backing them up. But don't be surprised if we don't give a couple other kids a chance throughout the year. We have a number of different weapons, so we much change things up from week to week."
Tomorrow, LibertyFlames.com's Countdown to Kickoff coverage will continue its focus on special teams. The web site will give a much more in depth preview into the position, as well as an audio interview with special team's coordinator Chad Wilt.