BYU Football: Previewing the Utah Special Teams
For the first time in what seems like forever, BYU Football may actually have the advantage in the Special Teams game.
Utah has a long list of really good special teams. Matt Gay, Mitch Wishnowsky, Louie Sakoda, Andy Phillips, Reggie Dunn and Tom Hackett are just a few of a very long list of special teams players who have made a difference, especially against BYU.
In the Holy War, there are quite a few times where both teams are going three and out or 15 yards before punting back and forth. For years, that gameplay has very much favored the Utes because they had punters who would pin the Cougars deep and field goal kickers who could make kicks inside the 40 yard line.
2019 may be the year everything changes, and may honestly be BYU's best chance in winning.
Here is a preview of the Utah Special Teams:
Returning Starters: 1
Players to watch out for: Demari Simpkins (kick returner)
Strengths: Return game, Sharrieff Shaw (Special Teams Coach)
Britain Covey handled the punt returns last season, but coming off an injury, it is highly unlikely he will be handling that responsibility this season, especially during the first game. Demari Simpkins is a proven returner but last year was not able to return any kicks as all of BYU's kicks went back for touchbacks. The biggest concern needs to be what Special Teams Coach Sharrieff Shaw is able to do. Year after year he is able to develop players and make the Special Teams a strength of the team.
Assuming that Demari Simpkins is contained with touchbacks, every other player on special teams will be new. A brand new punter, place kicker, kicker and punt returner could lead to some mistakes in a stadium filled with 60,000 people fully invested. A mistake by any of these players could turn into two or three mistakes very easily.
What BYU has to do to expose the Utes
Three things: First, get the crowd into the game. Go out waving arms in the air to get the crowd into the players head. Normally special teams players, with an exception to placekickers, don't have a lot of pressure from the crowd. Make the players work through that in fielding punts, punting and even kicking off.
The second thing that the Cougars have to do is apply pressure. Go after the punter, try to block every field goal and force the punt returner to make catches with three or four players surrounding him. That combination could cause a few mistakes, which in this rivalry very well could be the difference in the game.
Finally, BYU Football needs to play Utah's game from the past. Punt the ball on 4th and two from the 45 yard line. Go out, force a three and out and get 1st and ten again around the 50. The back and forth game will probably play in BYU's favor this year and giving up a short field would ruin that.
Prediction: BYU will cause two mistakes by Utah Special Teams. A muffed punt return and a missed field goal attempt inside the 35 yard line.