LOGAN – With less than a week until the first football game of 2013, Utah State is raring to go. Following the most successful season in school history, the Aggies have a lot to live up to along with a lot of confidence.
In the final question and answer session before the season opener at Utah on Thursday, Aug. 29, special teams coordinator and running backs coach Dave Ungerer talked about his specialists. With a consistent kicking team, veteran running backs and a confident core of returners, he has a lot of faith in his student-athletes and what they bring to the field.
How have the first few months and preseason of the job been for you?
“Camp has gone extremely well. We’re getting a lot of installation in with our game planning and our personnel. The kids are working extremely hard. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on special teams, allotting a lot of time to it in practice. The kids really give a tremendous amount of effort and pay special attention to detail. I’m really happy with our progress right now. I’m fortunate to have an experienced group of running backs in Robert Marshall, Joe Hill and Joey DeMartino who are great kids to work with. I have the same thing with the specialists. The kicker/punter/snapper group is a really hard-working group. They’re very mature and go about their business every day in a very professional manner.”
We have quite the legacy at the running back position here at Utah State. How is that spot looking at this point in camp?
“They’re doing really well. It’s a tough thing with what’s happened before them. They feel a little bit of pressure and the bar is set very high. They’re a very hard-working group and they’re very conscientious. They come to work every day and give it their best effort. Can we be as good as what’s happened in past years? I don’t know that yet. It’s still a little bit of a crystal ball. With what they’ve put into it, I expect really good things from them. They’ll really help our offense and our football team.”
What are the strengths and weaknesses among special teams at this point into fall camp? Who is standing out to you?
“I don’t know if they are weaknesses more than they’re just unknowns at this point. The biggest unknown is at the punter position. We have a first-time guy in the game. That will be something we’ll have to see how it unfolds as it goes. Our kicker, our field goal and kickoff situation is really good because we have returning starters there. They’re guys who have played in games, which is a good bonus. From a returner standpoint, we graduated some guys so we’ll have some new (kick and punt) returners back there. I feel really confident with the guys who are working there, they just don’t have a tremendous amount of game experience.
“I’ve really been impressed with our snapper. Nate Needham is, I really think, one of the better snappers in the country. Our field goal kickers have been executing at a really high, crazy level. Our consistency has been really good so I feel good about that. I think Bruce (Natson) has done a really great job as a return guy.”
How is the kicking game looking at this point of camp?
“I think we’re in a much better place. When you have guys who have kicked in a game, it puts them in a different category. They’ve been there and done that, they’ve had success and had failure. That helps a lot. We’ve got a tight battle going on there between Josh (Thompson) and Nick (Diaz) and the freshman, Jake Thompson, has come in and done a really nice job. He’s got a big leg and has really put some pressure on those guys as a young player coming in.”
A question all-around has been the depth of the team this season. How is that looking from your positions?
“Being new, it’s a little bit hard to say, but I feel like our depth is fairly good. Looking at personnel in our depth chart on special teams, we’ve got a solid two-deep, which is a good luxury to have. We can rest some of our starters here and there which is a good thing.”
What will it take for special teams to be effective and successful this season?
“The biggest thing for us is trying to control field position. That’s a combination of our kickers and punter and coverage teams. We have to give the defense a really long field to play on, and in the return game, give our offense a short field. If we can execute on kickoff coverage and get the defense started making the other team have an 80-yard drive, I feel like we’ve done our job. “
What are your impressions of the team as a whole heading into the last week of practice before the Utah game?
“I’m really impressed. We have some really outstanding players. I think the thing I’m more impressed with though is the attitude out here and how hard the kids work every day. They’re focused and they practice really well. The tempo has been high and the intensity has been good. When you work that hard, I think success is right around the corner.”
Megan Allen writes and works for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.