USU football: Dave Ungerer wants USU’s special teams to be aggressive
Utah State had two running backs drafted in the NFL last year, and could have a third this year. Do you sense a high standard within the running backs group?
“That’s about as high of a standard as you can get. Three in the last two years is about as good as you can do. I wish I could’ve had the chance to work with those guys (Robert Turbin, Michael Smith, Kerwynn Williams). They’ve set a high bar for this position. I think our guys are trying to push themselves to get to that level. I’ve been really happy with our practices and our work habits and the ability to listen and take coaching. As a group, we’re getting better. We just have to get more guys healthy and that will provide a little more competition. It will also lessen the workload. This is a lot of work for two guys.”
You are also Utah State's special teams coordinator. During your career, you have had great success in that area. What is your secret?
“I don’t know if there’s any secret as far as having success in special teams. I think special teams are kind of the blue-collar core of your football team. The way you play on special teams tells you a lot about who you are as a team. There are a lot of crucial plays that are being made out there. We have a system that we’re implementing this spring that we’re learning. Any time a new coach comes in, there’s a learning curve and we’re getting there. I’ve been really happy with the progress we’ve been making. We’re putting in all the foundational aspects of the punt and kickoff as well as both returns. As we go into camp, we’ll be able to expound upon those things. They have a good foundation from what’s been done here before. They have an appreciation of how important it is and that’s really what it comes down to. When they realize how important special teams are, it makes my job a lot easier. I’m learning the players and trying to fit the right pieces to the puzzle. That puzzle is starting to come together a little more as I get to know them. We’re still moving some guys around and trying to figure that all out, but we have a really good nucleus of kids. I think we’ll have a chance to be a pretty good special teams group.”
What can Aggie fans expect from Utah State's special teams with you as its coordinator?
“First, we’re going to play extremely fast and extremely hard. That’s kind of our mantra. We want to play fast and we want to play physical. We want to make plays. Those are the three things we want to do. We’re still trying to find our play makers after losing some to graduation or new schemes. They come in in all aspects. We want to be really aggressive. We’re going to be intelligently aggressive. We want to be a really good punt-blocking team. Hopefully we’ll be able to do some fakes and that sort of thing. That’s part of our package. We want to be exciting in the return game and make some things happen there. We take a safe approach on special teams, but it’s also an aggressive approach. We get about 25-30 snaps during a game and we want to be as aggressive as we can in those.”
Are there goals or percentages you will put on those different groups throughout the year?
“We definitely want to finish in the top part of our conference in every aspect of coverage or return. It does have a correlation with the success of the team. When we look at the numbers, we don’t look at it as far as accolades. We look at it as efficiency and helping the offense have a short field and the defense have a long field. If we can do that, then we’re part of the team and really helping to set the table for them. If we do that, then some of those other things will come along with it. We want to help the offense and defense be as successful as we can.”
Utah State blocked six kicks last year. Is that something you hope to duplicate in 2013 and beyond?
“Hopefully. That’s a statistic I didn’t know and that’s awesome. We work on it every day in practice, putting in a lot of time and effort. Hopefully we’ll continue along that line and do a little bit better. You never want to stay the same. You want to always try and get a little better. I have been impressed with the effort that we’re giving on that end of special teams.”
Megan Allen writes for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
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