Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

August 18, 2012

Navarro Football: Special time

Dawgs could be potent in return, kicking game

By Rob Ludwig
Corsicana Daily Sun

— After having moderate success on special teams in recent seasons, Navarro could have a rejuvenated effort this fall thanks to its new head coach.

First-year coach Brian Mayper has been a special teams coordinator at virtually every stop he’s made in the coaching profession and he hopes to make that part of Navarro’s game a primer to the Bulldogs’ success.

Mayper has a lot to work with on special teams. Transfer Tony Drake returned kickoffs at Colorado State in 2011, averaging 24.3 yards as the Rams’ main return option. Speedy Chris Jones, a transfer from the University of Texas, could flank Drake.

But there are so many other options, almost a scary wealth of speed and elusiveness. Freshmen Sherman Gilbert and Tim Wright, who dazzled in high school state championship games, are return contenders, in addition to sophomore Tyler Middleton.

Punt return specialists will need more than quickness. Gilbert, Drake, Darrin Reddick, Tony Washington and third-year sophomore Jordan Jolly will all get turns early in the season.

“You’ve got to be fearless as a punt returner,” Mayper said. “I want somebody who will attack after catching the football. With guys coming at a dead sprint toward you and you starting from basically a standstill, that’s a lot to ask from them. We will find the right person and we will have a successful return game, both on punts and kickoffs.”

Mayper dipped into the international ranks for his punter this season. Australia’s Andrew Dobbs will handle the punting chores and Victoria St. Joseph’s Patrick Sohrt assumes the kickoff and, extra point and field goal duties from Trevor Pinkston. Although Pinkston was efficient in 2011, connecting on 18 of 21 field goals, his range was limited, which affected his kickoffs. Sohrt was named a second-team All-American punter and kicker by and is adept at collecting touchbacks and directional kickoffs.

Brent Nicholson (6-3, 240) of Denton Guyer, will be the deep snapper.

Navarro struggled at times on kick return coverage in 2011, allowing 14.3 yards on punt returns and 20.7 yards on kickoffs.

“I’ve already told the kids that just because you are a starter doesn’t mean you will not be on special teams,” Mayper said. “I’m going to put our best athletes on the field to put us in the best possible position to be successful. A special teams play can change momentum or make a big difference in the outcome of the game. We’re going to put ourselves in the best position and that means using the best players available.”