Special teams: The Boise State football team's proving ground

ccripe@idahostatesman.com © 2013 Idaho StatesmanAugust 24, 2013 

Trevor Harman is entering his senior season, but his position at punter isn’t locked up. He has been challenged in camp by freshman Sean Wale.

  • BOISE STATE SPECIALISTS

    Kicker

    Dan Goodale (5-10, 196, R-Jr.) OR Tyler Rausa (5-8, 190, So.): The decision has been made but special teams coach Scott Huff deferred to coach Chris Petersen, who doesn’t talk to the media until Monday. Goodale is the favorite after nailing all nine of his field-goal attempts in the fall scrimmage to complete an impressive camp. Goodale was the starter two years ago but lost the job after missing a potential game-winner against TCU. “It’s nice to see that my work has been paying off,” he said. “Hopefully it will continue throughout the season.”

    Punter

    Trevor Harman (6-3, 211, R-Sr.) OR Sean Wale (6-1, 185, R-Fr.): Harman is the returning starter but faces a challenge from Wale after struggling last season. Their duel likely will carry into the season, Huff said. “Probably not as consistent as we would like,” he said of the punting, “but we’re definitely making some progress. We will be better off than we were last year for sure.”

    Kickoff specialist

    Goodale OR Rausa OR Harman: They continue to compete for the job that Harman lost during a junior season he called a “nightmare.” Goodale took over late in the season.

    Long snapper

    Kevin Keane (6-0, 211, Jr.): He snapped in four games last season and slides into the starting job this season.

    Holder

    Matt Miller (6-3, 222, R-Jr.): He’s the returning starter at holder. Quarterback Joe Southwick and Wale also are options.

    Kick returner

    Shane Williams-Rhodes (5-6, 157, So.): He averaged 24.9 yards as a kickoff returner last season and is expected to become the punt returner this year. Coaches have a long list of players under consideration as the second kickoff returner and backup punt returner but likely will use game reps to identify the best candidates.

Editor’s note: This is the ninth and last in a series of stories previewing the Boise State football team by position.

Many Boise State football careers begin on special teams.

It’s a place where exuberance and athleticism are almost as valuable as experience and savvy.

It’s also a proving ground.

Junior linebacker Corey Bell played special teams almost exclusively as a true freshman in 2011. He was part of a player panel that spoke to the Broncos’ incoming freshmen this year.

“I tell them, that’s your best shot to get in,” Bell said. “All the coaches want to see that you’re willing to give it up on special teams as well.”

The Broncos likely will need many newcomers to fill spots on special teams this year because of the team’s youth. More than half the players on the roster haven’t played in a game at Boise State.

In recent years, guys like Bell, junior linebacker Blake Renaud, sophomore safety Dillon Lukehart and sophomore tight end Holden Huff have used special teams as a way to contribute while waiting for an opportunity on offense or defense.

And usually, the guys who shine on special teams become playmakers in their traditional roles fairly soon. Bell and Huff already have started games, Renaud was the team’s sixth-leading tackler last year and Lukehart is pushing for playing time at safety.

“We always feel like our young guys who may not know the defense or the offense as well but they’re talented guys who can play in space,” special teams coach Scott Huff said, “let’s keep it simple on special teams and let’s get those guys out there on the field and get them some experience.

“Those guys have made an impact early because of special teams. We’ve got some good young players and hopefully they can do the same thing.”

Redshirt freshman Chris Santini is a prime example. He’s No. 3 on the depth chart at strong-side linebacker but he’s got a chance to contribute on kickoff and punt this season.

“It’s definitely what I’m trying to do is work my way up through special teams,” he said.

He enjoys the wide-open play in the kicking game and knows the program’s rich tradition of special teams dominance. It was on his mind last year as a redshirt.

“Scout team last year, I would just go as hard as I could each time because I knew eventually it would come to this,” he said. “… I’m seeing what Blake did. Corey has always been a standout on special teams. I’m just trying to follow what they do, see how they do it and copy it.”

The Broncos won’t just throw youngsters on the special teams units to fill them. They use their best players extensively, but they prefer to rest them if they can find a backup who is able to execute at a similar level.

That helps develop players for the future and also can provide a spark to the special teams.

“They’re bringing energy that maybe the junior who’s playing on everything doesn’t have the energy to bring,” Bell said. “Some other guys maybe feed off of that.”

Last year, the Broncos’ Special Teams Player of the Year was a redshirt freshman backup: Lukehart.

“I just tried to make more of an impact (each week) and be competitive and fly around and be a leader on special teams — whatever my role,” Lukehart said. “Just take advantage.”

By season’s end, his play at safety was getting noticed by coaches, too.

This year, he could get some playing time with the first-team defense.

“My role on defense is expanding — I’m excited for that,” he said. “Special teams, I’ll always be very excited for that. It’s not like you leave special teams behind. I want to play where the coaches want me — if I’m on special teams or on defense, I’m going to play my hardest and play to win.”

That’s the attitude that coaches instill in players from the day they arrive, Bell said.

“We have to be selfless and being selfless sometimes you have to give something up to move on and be better in the future,” he said. “In order to be good later on, maybe you’re going to have to play special teams early on and get that game experience that you maybe aren’t going to get to have because of the depth at your position.

“Being able to give it up and just play special teams that year, maybe that’s going to better prepare you for the next year when you’re going to be in a competition for an offensive or defensive spot.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,

Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

Specialists

Kicker

Dan Goodale (5-10, 196, R-Jr.) OR Tyler Rausa (5-8, 190, So.): The decision has been made but special teams coach Scott Huff deferred to coach Chris Petersen, who doesn’t talk to the media until Monday. Goodale is the favorite after nailing all nine of his field-goal attempts in the fall scrimmage to complete an impressive camp. Goodale was the starter two years ago but lost the job after missing a potential game-winner against TCU. “It’s nice to see that my work has been paying off,” he said. “Hopefully it will continue throughout the season.”

Punter

Trevor Harman (6-3, 211, R-Sr.) OR Sean Wale (6-1, 185, R-Fr.): Harman is the returning starter but faces a challenge from Wale after struggling last season. Their duel likely will carry into the season, Huff said. “Probably not as consistent as we would like,” he said of the punting, “but we’re definitely making some progress. We will be better off than we were last year for sure.”

Kickoff specialist

Goodale OR Rausa OR Harman: They continue to compete for the job that Harman lost during a junior season he called a “nightmare.” Goodale took over late in the season.

Long snapper

Kevin Keane (6-0, 211, Jr.): He snapped in four games last season and slides into the starting job this season.

Holder

Matt Miller (6-3, 222, R-Jr.): He’s the returning starter at holder. Quarterback Joe Southwick and Wale also are options.

Kick returner

Shane Williams-Rhodes (5-6, 157, So.): He averaged 24.9 yards as a kickoff returner last season and is expected to become the punt returner this year. Coaches have a long list of players under consideration as the second kickoff returner and backup punt returner but likely will use game reps to identify the best candidates.

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