Friday, March 30, 2012

Special teams on display for T-Day scrimmage

Scrimmage is at 2 p.m. Live chat is in blog post below, and I'll get it moved up top when the scrimmage starts.

This story appears in Saturday's print edition of the Dothan Eagle. It can be found on dothaneagle.com HERE.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN

dchamplin@dothaneagle.com

TROY – Today’s T-Day scrimmage will give special teams coach Shayne Wasden a great opportunity to see how his new kickers and snappers perform in front of a larger crowd.

The Trojans lost nearly the entire special teams unit from a year ago. Kicker Michael Taylor, punter Will Goggans and long snapper Wes Henry have moved on. This year, three kickers are vying for all three spots – punter, kickoff specialist and field goal/extra point kicker, and two snappers are working to replace Henry.

Troy’s first scrimmage is at 2 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium and it’s dubbed the “T-Day” scrimmage. It’ll be played in front of perhaps the biggest crowd of the spring. Several recruits are also expected to be in attendance for unofficial visits.

Wasden has gotten a good look at his kickers through six practices so far, but practices are sparsely attended by fans.

“We want to try to put them in pressure situations and see how they perform,” Wasden said. “It’s easy to do it when you’re out here just practicing, but when you’re out here in front of a crowd and something’s on the line, we certainly want to see who can perform under those circumstances.”

Troy has three kickers vying for the job, and two are new to the program. Will Scott, a 5-foot-11, 192-pound junior from Lucedale, Miss., spent the last two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Ryan Kay, a 6-foot-1, 248-pound freshman from Dutchtown, Ga., signed with Troy in 2011 but delayed full-time enrollment as a grayshirt until January. The returning kicker is Jed Solomon, a 5-foot-7, 152-pound redshirt freshman from Valdosta, Ga., who walked on last year.

“We’re working hard and we look really good,” Scott said. “We work it every day, so we’ve got no choice but to be good.”

Scott was a second-team junior college All-American at Gulf Coast, averaging 43 yards per punt as a sophomore. He also kicked field goals and extra points as a freshman, and he’s currently ahead in the punting race.

Solomon has a slight leg up on field goals and extra points, Wasden said, but all three are still competing hard.

“It’s a competition every day,” Wasden said. “Will probably has a leg up punting the football, Jed would have a leg up on PAT/field goal and Ryan Kay’s strong point would be his punting right now. It’s really a luxury and a good situation that all three of those guys can do all of the kicking and punting.”

Scott said it’s a challenge to balance out all three kicking aspects while trying to get better at every one.

“On one (field goals), you’re trying to stay as straight as possible and on the other, you’re crossing over (kickoffs),” Scott said. “You’ve got to be able to do both. You’ve got to be disciplined, really.”

The two long snappers could both see the field. Kendall Gibson, a 5-foot-11, 276-pound junior from Greenville, is handling snaps on field goals and extra points, while Hunter Graham, a 5-foot-10, 191-pound junior from Lincoln, is snapping on punts.

Regardless of the new faces and the lack of experience, Scott is confident he and his fellow specialists will be able to get the job done.

“As many times as we do this, we’ve got no choice but to be good at it,” Scott said.

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