Our summer tour of FBS schools looks at the specialists for the Colorado Buffaloes.
"After he was named CU’s head coach last December, Mike MacIntyre’s final hire nearly two months later was Toby Neinas as special teams coordinator. That’s how Neinas’ job description reads – not special teams/tight ends coach, special teams/safeties coach, etc. It’s a rarity for CU. It’s also very, very early, but it’s working. 'It’s been hugely beneficial to us . . . you get way more efficient work done,' junior placekicker Will Oliver said. 'There’s less of the typical ‘specialists hanging around doing nothing and watching the team practice'....Kicker: Will Oliver, junior (Los Angeles, CA / Harvard-Westlake HS)
'There’s more of a direction and more structure for us now,' junior punter Darragh O’Neill added. Last camp there were no punter- or kicker-specific drills, said O’Neill, 'because we really didn’t know what to do. Now we do those for half an hour or 45 minutes every single day'.... For O’Neill, the benefits were immediate. Neinas has reduced O’Neill’s number of punts per practice. 'In the last couple of years in fall camp I would kick until my leg was almost falling off in some practices,' O’Neill said. 'It’s good to have a coach there to say, ‘Hey, you’re only kicking 20 balls today. I’m not allowing you to kick another one.’ He’s making sure each rep is good; you definitely take each rep more seriously because you know you’re not going to get as many that day. It’s helped out a lot in terms of me being able to keep the leg fresh.'
Neinas hasn’t settled on a kickoff specialist and will eventually choose between Oliver and Castor before the Buffs open on Sept. 1 vs. Colorado State. Also to be settled on before then are a backup punter – Oliver and almost everyone else is in the mix."
"As a freshman in 2011, Oliver assumed a role that had been characterized by inconsistent performances and dramatic letdowns since the departure of All-American Mason Crosby in 2006. After meeting a good deal of pressure head on during his first two seasons with a solid amount of success, Oliver is ready to help the program take the next step in the rebuilding process.... 'I’m happy with how I performed last season, but I can get better,' said Oliver. 'I feel like I’ve kicked very well this spring, especially in scrimmages. I didn’t get that many opportunities last year so I was limited a little bit, but hopefully we’ll be in more situations where they need me late in a game this year and I will respond'.”
"This offseason I've been really focused on lifting and taking care of my body off the field. I've also been very focused on taking every kick seriously which is often difficult over the summer when it seems like game day is months away. Other than that I've just been working on staying focused on making everything I do count because you're either getting better or getting worse."Kicker: Justin Castor, senior (Golden, CO / Arvada West HS)
Served as the primary kickoff specialist the past two seasons.
"This offseason: As a special teams unit we have been much more focused on getting group reps together. Meaning the snap, hold and kick, or for punters the snap and kick. Getting quality reps together like this is going to be largely beneficial for us heading into camp because of our overall comfort together and having our timing down. I think that largely the goal for the summer is to be able to come into camp and really not have to refine much. We would like to be in a place as camp begins where as a ST unit we are already game ready. Individually I would like to increase my FG consistency and the hang times on my kickoffs.
As far as the season goes this is a unit that has the talent to be competing for the top ST categories across the Pac 12. It would be a disappointing season for this unit if we find ourselves out of a position to be competing in any of those categories. Individually for the season, I would like to become the starting FG kicker and try to lead the PAC 12 in overall percentages. I think striving for anything less would be a disservice to the team. I would also like to make sure that on kickoffs I am giving my defense the best ability to succeed with great field position."Kicker/punter: Diego Gonzalez (Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico / ITESM)
"Mis metas al recibir una gran oportunidad son, a corto plazo, estudiar este semestre mi carrera y entrenar; a mediano plazo es ser titular en el 2014 como pateador de despeje, salida y goles de campo y a largo plazo son graduarme de la licenciatura de Administración de Empresas y buscar una oportunidad en la NFL"Punter: Darragh O'Neill, junior (Louisville, CO / Boulder Fairview HS)
"Just going out and kicking three Times a week and working with other punters. Also taking workouts seriously and trying to gain leg strength."
"[the other week] he was about to fly to Detroit to work out with former Ball State punter Scott Kovanda. Darragh O’Neill, the top returning punter in the Pac-12, says, just like the position players, he watches a lot of film. 'I watch film of guys who are good,' he said. 'I study what they do, and everybody’s a little different in terms of their technique but you just take little things from people and try to incorporate it in your style. It’s just repetition, really. It’s almost muscle memory. It’s important to get your workout, strength training for your legs — squats and stuff. That plays a crucial role. Just like quickness training with (elastic) bands. You can definitely improve your hang time.' It’s not just physical. 'A big part of it is the mental aspect,' he said. 'I’ve seen a lot of punters and kickers who come out in pre-game warmup and absolutely hammer the ball. I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, this is going to be embarrassing.’ Because my warmups, they’re not the best. I’m not pumped up yet. It’s not game time. When the lights come on, how do you feel about the pressure? That plays a huge part in your numbers throughout your career'.”
"O'Neill is also looking forward to his new duties with the team. He will go into the year as CU's holder on field goals and extra points.'I want to be out there as much as I possibly can, in whatever way that is,' he said. 'I think holding is going to be fun like that, in terms of it's a high-pressure situation. Lots of people don't really think about the holder; it's a lot of pressure on the kicker. But, at the end of the day you have to get the ball down for the kicker, too.' Between spring ball, summer practices and the early weeks of training camp, O'Neill has had plenty of time to get comfortable as the holder. He's grown familiar with how Ryan Iverson snaps the ball and how kicker Will Oliver likes it placed."Punter: D.J. Wilhelm, junior (Clear Lake, IA / Clear Lake HS / Northern Iowa)
2013: averaged 47.0 yards on four punts with a long of 58 yards during spring scrimmages.Long snapper: Ryan Iverson, senior (Newport Beach, CA / Newport Harbor HS)
2011: He was ineligible to play as he was required to sit out the season due to NCAA rules; he transferred to CU from Northern Iowa in time for the start of fall classes.
Returning starter. He has handled snapping on placekicks since his sophomore year and on punts since his freshman year..Long snapper: Keegan LaMar, sophomore (Boulder, CO / Fairview HS)
Backup snapper on placekicks and punts.Long snapper: Blake Allen, freshman (Parker, CO / Valor Christian)
Long snapper: Trevor Carver, freshman (Louisville, CO / Monarch HS)
A walk-on and redshirt last season.Long snapper: John Finch (Park City, UT / Park City HS)
"I am training 6 days a week at home, and snapping 3 days a week. Heading back to Boulder early August."