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Specialist Looking for Another Special Year
Coach's Corner Interview with Chad Wilt
For the second-straight season, LibertyFlames.com's Countdown to Kickoff coverage will feature the Coach's Corner, an in-depth position-by-position breakdown for each of the Flames' player units.
The coaching vignettes will include an article on the position, that position's preseason depth chart and an audio interview with the spotlighted unit's position coach. The 10-part series continues today with a look into Liberty's special teams unit. The group has not only given the Flames prime field position in recent years, but also helped put up considerable points on the scoreboard over the past few seasons.
Liberty's special teams truly lived up to its name last year, providing the Flames with great field position and numerous points on the scoreboard.
Noah Greenbaum set a new school and Big South record with 101 points scored by a kicker, while ranking No. 14 in the country. Wynton Jackson thrilled fans each time he touched the ball, ranking No. 10 nationally by averaging 13.4 yards per punt return to go along with two returns for a score.
As a team, Liberty ranked No. 8 in punt return average (14.24 yards per return), No. 10 in kickoff return average (23.66 yards per return) and No. 24 in net punting (34.67 net yards gained).
Liberty took home six Big South Special Teams Player of the Week honors out of 12 weeks, while both Jackson and Dominic Bolden were recognized as Big South all-conference return specialists.
Finally, Zac Kolegue posted the second-highest punt average in program history at 40.9 yards per punt, but since Liberty's prolific offense kept the punter off the field, he didn't meet minimum conference standards for average punts per game to be ranked.
Greenbaum, Kolegue and Jackson all graduated, leaving several key positions up for competition entering preseason training camp.
Two solid players return to Liberty's special teams unit in long snapper Dan Pope and kickoff returner Dominic Bolden.
Pope, a two-year starter at long snapper, was duly honored for his snapping efforts, which aided both Greenbaum and Kolegue. He was named to the College Sporting News Fabulous FCS All-America team to become Liberty's first first-team All-American since Jesse Riley in 2000.
Bolden ranked No. 2 nationally in average kickoff return yards (32.0), while posting the third-most kickoff return yards in a season (671) in program history. Bolden was named CSN National Special Teams Player of the Week following the VMI game in which he returned three kickoffs for 198 total yards, including one 83 yards for a touchdown.
"Our return game is an exciting part of our game," stated head coach Danny Rocco. "Our kickoff and punt return has been one of the more exciting aspects of our football program in the last two years. Dominic Bolden is certainly a guy who you are going to see out there on kickoffs and potentially on the punt return, as he has had a great career here as a returner."
The Flames' kicking game is somewhat up for grabs come August. David Drake and Ben Shipps competed for placekicking duties during spring workouts, while Wes Cheek served as Liberty's punter during the conditioning sessions.
Liberty also signed Matt Bevins to a full scholarship, while bringing in Paul Young from New Mexico State as a solid transfer option.
"We went into spring ball knowing that the kicking and punting positions were of concern," stated Rocco. "We addressed those concerns the best that we could. We signed a full scholarship player out of high school by the name of Matt Bevins. He is a punter and kicker, as he can do both very well. I'm looking for him to focus more on punting, especially early in the season."
"David Drake has been in our program for a while and will compete at the kicking position," continued Rocco. "Ben Shipps will compete on extra points and field goals. We have a couple other incoming freshmen who we are excited about that might add some depth and competition at the position."
Special Teams Depth Chart
KO - Matt Bevins (Fr., 6-2, 185)
Paul Young (So., 6-2, 180)
PK – Paul Young (So., 6-2, 180)
Matt Bevins (Fr., 6-2, 185)
Ben Shipps (R-Fr., 6-0, 130)
P –Mike Larsson (Fr., 5-10, 170)
Matt Bevins (Fr., 6-2, 185)
H - Chris Rocco (Jr., 5-10, 200)
Mike Brown (R-Fr., 6-0, 190)
LS - Dan Pope (R-Sr., 6-3, 200)
Tommy Shaver (R-Fr., 6-6, 250)
KR - Dominic Bolden (Sr., 5-10, 180)
Ryan Greiser (Sr., 6-1, 205)
PR - Dominic Bolden (Sr., 5-10, 180)
Jonathan Crawford (R-Sr., 6-0, 215)
To catch previous installments of the Coach's Corner or to take a look at future position segments, below is a complete Coach's Corner training camp schedule:
Links to Previous Installments
Coach's Corner Preview (Aug. 1)
Coach's Corner No. 1 – Defensive Backs (Aug. 2)
Coach's Corner No. 2 – Offensive Line (Aug. 5)
Coach's Corner No. 3 – Tight Ends and Fullbacks (Aug. 6)
Coach's Corner No. 4 – Linebackers (Aug. 10)
Coach's Corner No. 5 – Wide Receivers (Aug. 13)
Coach's Corner No. 6 – Defensive Line (Aug. 18)
Schedule of Future Features
Coach's Corner No. 8 – Defensive Coordinator (Aug. 23)
Coach's Corner No. 9 – Running Backs (Aug. 24)
Coach's Corner No. 10 – Quarterbacks (Aug. 26)
Tomorrow, LibertyFlames.com will continue its Countdown to Kickoff coverage with a preview of Big South foe Gardner-Webb. The Bulldogs are predicted to finish third in the league this year, but they will be gunning for Liberty in 2008, following the Flames 31-0 victory in their season finale against Gardner-Webb last year to close out Liberty's first-ever Big South title.