Special Teams Fantasy League Encouraging Competition

Andy Buh was already Kentucky’s outside linebackers coach. This offseason, Mark Stoops made him special teams coordinator as well.

Now you can add commissioner to his title.

Taking over sole control of special teams, Buh has founded a league of sorts.

“What we did was we took our entire football team, we split them up into four teams,” Buh said. “So we’re building pods of teams and we have team captains.”

Buh designated Courtney Love, Blake McClain, Darius West and Charles Walker as captains. The four players all had to select teams at a meeting early in fall camp. Everyone was picked, save for kickers, punters, holders and long snappers. The only reason they weren’t is that there aren’t enough for four teams.

“It was like the NFL Draft,” Buh said.

Starting with the third spring practice, the four teams competed in four different drills designed to teach and encourage good technique in kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage and punt return.

“We have competitions,” Buh said. “We compete every day. We tell them in the meeting room. We teach them the rules. The techniques are the plays. The drills are the games. What’s the goal of the games? To win.”

The competition has been a fixture this spring, but Saturday will be its biggest day yet. That’s when each of the four captains will have to cut a player based on performance. That player won’t participate in special teams again until the fall.

“On Saturday, a team captain is going to stand up and they’re going to say, ‘You’re cut off my team,’ ” Buh said. “And he’s going to tell him why. Everyone’s trying to avoid that situation, so the level has play has risen big time.”

In addition to making the cuts, the captains will be able to put the franchise tag on their top three performers on Saturday, making them ineligible for subsequent trades. It will be the first of two such days this spring.

“We’re not only teaching special teams,” Buh said. “We’re also teaching value. What is your value to the team? How much energy are you giving us? How are you performing? Are you listening to the rules? Are you winning the games?”

Buh might have made a game of special teams this spring, but it’s no gimmick. The competition – originally conceived by Michigan special teams coordinator John Baxter, whom Buh called the best in the country – has turned the often rote exercise of practicing special teams into something anything but routine.

“Part of this thing is just teaching them the techniques and reducing their battles to just a one-on-one battle,” Buh said. “That’s all we’re trying to do this spring, is teaching them really good techniques and getting them excited about playing special teams. I think we’re doing a good job of that.”

Buh isn’t wasting any time making UK’s special teams his own.

“We could talk about finishing,” Buh said. “We could talk about toughness. We could talk about alignment, assignment, key technique. All I want to talk about is winning. That’s all I want to talk about with them. How do we win? You win by competing. And so that’s what we’re teaching them.”