Editor’s note: This is the last in a series previewing the Boise State football team by position.
With little notice, Boise State juniors Tyler Rausa and Sean Wale built the confidence last season that they hope will propel them to success this season.
Rausa, the first-year starting kicker, and Wale, the second-year starting punter, headline a special teams group that the Broncos expect to have a significant impact on games.
Rausa was the backup last season, but after a talk with special teams coach Kent Riddle he prepared like the starter and gave coaches confidence that he could deliver if needed.
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That confidence grew with Rausa’s performance in fall camp this month.
“He’s shown that he’s a competitor, he’s mentally tough and he’s ready to have another great season,” special teams coach Kent Riddle said.
Rausa was recruited in 2013 to compete for the starting job. Dan Goodale beat him out, forcing Rausa to redshirt his first year and serve as a backup last year.
When Riddle arrived in January 2014, he sensed that Rausa was content with his role.
“We had some good conversations about that,” Riddle said, “and I felt like when we got to the fall, he showed up ready to be the guy.”
Rausa only tried one scoring kick last season, a PAT he made in a blowout. He hasn’t attempted a field goal in a game since 2012 at Riverside (Calif.) City College, where he was 15 for 20.
He knows kicking at jam-packed Albertsons Stadium Friday against Washington will be a much different experience.
“I can’t get too much in my head,” he said. “I have to stick to what I know and everything should work out fine.”
Rausa has plenty of leg to kick a 50-yard field goal but says he has focused on 45 and in. He also has improved his kickoffs, which was one of Goodale’s strengths.
He’s eager, he said, to get his chance.
“The feeling is just excitement,” Rausa said. “I’ve been working for a long time. ... I’m clicking on all cylinders.”
Wale certainly was when last season ended. He averaged 49.5 yards on eight punts in the Fiesta Bowl win against Arizona, including a 61-yarder on Boise State’s final possession.
His average increased from 40 yards in the first seven games to 43.7 yards in the last seven. He carried that momentum into an impressive spring and “phenomenal” fall camp, Riddle said.
“I was kind of down, frustrated, with the highs and lows of last season at the beginning,” Wale said. “But to end on a game like the Fiesta Bowl with I believe my best game of the year was huge.”
The Broncos’ confidence in their specialists — they return long snapper Kevin Keane, Wale as the holder and kick returners Shane Williams-Rhodes, Donte Deayon and Jeremy McNichols — gives them hope for a more impactful season in the kicking game. They ranked 32nd in punt returns, 50th in net punting, 114th in kickoff returns and 54th in kickoff-return defense last season.
“I feel like we’ve made huge strides,” Riddle said, “but we won’t know probably till we get to live competition. Once we get that, we’ll have an idea. The first week always gives you an indicator. The best indicator comes within the first month of the season.”