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BYU coaches' focus turns to special teams as fall camp wraps up

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 7:45 p.m. MDT

Special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga is interviewed during BYU Football Media Day in Provo, Monday, June 23, 2014. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga is interviewed during BYU Football Media Day in Provo, Monday, June 23, 2014. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

PROVO — As fall camp wraps up, BYU's coaching staff is giving special emphasis to special teams.

"Odds and ends to trim up. PAT/field goal work today in terms of some substitutions and some timing and pressure," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall after practice. "So it's becoming more specific and situational now."

The Cougars practiced running onto the field repeatedly at the end of Tuesday's practice for PAT and field goal attempts, alternating between the first and second team. Both Trevor Sampson and Vance "Moose" Bingham took turns practicing field goals. While both were able to hit field goals from between 30 and 45 yards out, Sampson made two 51-yard field goals while Bingham wasn't able to put the ball through the uprights from that distance.

Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall coaches during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014.  (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall coaches during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

"I'd say that Trevor Sampson, if we had to go today, would be a kicker," special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga said. "He's kicked the ball consistently really well, Moose being right behind him. Percentages are very, very close, but Trevor has a little stronger leg and he's been a little more consistent over time."

Poppinga also commented on the punt returner situation. "Right now going into the game, we'd probably go with Keanu Nelson, but it's still a battle between him, Jordan Leslie and, I would say, Michael Shelton," Poppinga said. "These guys are very capable of making one guy miss and taking the thing to the house."

BYU needed some improvement on special teams over the offseason, particularly after a poor performance against Washington in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl last year. Justin Sorensen missed a 44-yard attempt late in the third quarter, and the Cougars gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to the Huskies' John Ross. Punter Scott Arellano also had a rough day with a 8-yard punt and a dropped snap on a punt that ended in a 2-yard loss and great field position for the Huskies.

Little wonder special teams is getting some special attention as the season approaches.

"We'll have one more scrimmage tomorrow [Wednesday] morning for younger players who are working their way to get onto the travel team to possibly establish some depth or a special teams role," Mendenhall said. "Then we'll move on to UConn."

Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.

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