Nathan : Alot of people are concerned with our special teams this year, namely the long snap situation- last year our special teams were excellent i thought- and im just wondering how you think it comapres with last year? Good luck, and Go Big Blue!
Steve Ortmayer : Nathan, we share your concerns I am sure. But it is our job as coaches to make sure that our special teams take a step forward, not backward. And we will do whatever it takes to ensure that consistency. We have improved the technical elements of both our punting and kicking this spring. As I have answered earlier, once we get the consistency that Jason Dickerson gave us as a snapper, our special teams will be much improved. We all have to figure out how to deal with the 30 yard line kickoff, but our kickoff return team should benefit greatly. But we have to make sure we do not get hurt conversely in our kickoff coverage. We will do that.
todd : overall what do you see as the biggest improvement this team has made this spring?
Steve Ortmayer : Perhaps not the biggest improvement, but the most noticeable improvement deals with our team atmosphere. This team is a veteran team. They understand the intricacies of practice and preparation better than our previous teams. There is a more business-like atmosphere on the field but I would say at the same time this football team is unquestionably having more fun than our previous teams.
George : Hey Coach Ortmayer, will we see any special teams freshman this upcoming season?
Steve Ortmayer : Yes, we will see freshmen utilized in our special teams this fall. It is difficult right now to say exactly which ones we will use, but in our discussions we factor in six or seven of these freshmen to step into roles in the kicking game as quickly as we can get them ready. We had a couple of linebacker injuries to players whom we felt would be good special teams players. They must be replaced. And that in all likelihood will come from our freshman class.
Steve R : Will we use a formation with 2 tight ends? Will we throw to these ends?
Steve Ortmayer : Because the tight end position has come along so well this spring, and some of our younger players have stepped up and become SEC-level players, there's a good chance you will see more two-tight end offense from us this fall. When you are putting players on the field, you always have to ask yourself, "Is our third best receiver better than our second tight end, or is our second running back better than our second tight end." And we have at present very good players in the skill areas of our offense. So our dilemma will be how to get the best players on the field at all times. But to answer your question more specifically, a second tight end is much more in the mix than it was a year ago. We do utilize our tight end in the throwing game as you can tell with Jacob Tamme being a first-team All-SEC TE and having the most receptions and yardage of any tight end in the SEC. All four of our tight ends catch the ball very well.
Steve : What is the most crucial element in a return team?
Steve Ortmayer : The most crucial element in a return game is the belief of the players that the returner can get it done if each man does his job. Belief is the key here because belief spawns not only hard-working practice, but an extra effort on any given play in the kicking game. So I guess the answer would be a great returner whom the other players have great confidence in.
Benji Stevens : So what are your chances of beating EKU, and do you have the athletes to compete with them?
Steve Ortmayer : Obviously, EKU is a classy program. They have a very fine staff and head coach and I would assume since they were picked to win the OVC a year ago and return most of their players, they would again be highly ranked. Obviously they have a streak of consecutive winning seasons that is the second best in the country, and that certainly gets the attention of our players. They will be a good opponent to open up with and a good challenge.
Brad Roby : What kind of progress has the longsnapper position made this spring?
Steve Ortmayer : We felt our longsnappers made good strides from the start of spring practice to the end and we felt like we were getting our punts off quicker this spring than we had in the past. We still need to improve in the accuracy areas of snapping, but we believe we have the talent at the position that can be very good when we get to our first game.
bigbluecaleb : Coach, do you see a change in the deep men on spechial teams? Since Burton and Little need an injury free season do you have ideas for younger guys to take the spot light on spechial teams? We have alot of young speed and the coaching staff seems to utilizing their speed to the teams advantage, however will they step in and contribute?
Steve Ortmayer : As you may or may not be aware, we have led the nation in overall kick returning the past two years. It is our belief that getting Rafael Little and Keenan Burton in the open field, whether it be on offense or the kicking game, is exactly what we're trying to do. We believe that when they catch punts and kickoffs, they are already in the open field and that has been an exciting play for us. We are also looking at some other players who have done this for us like Dicky Lyons in the punt return game and Tony Dixon and Alfonso Smith in the kickoff return game. We are very deep in this area through our sophomore to senior classes and it remains to be seen whether any of the freshman class can fit in at this level.
bigblueuk22 : how are our tightends looking for 07 season with tammie and how are special teams looking with speed and experience
Steve Ortmayer : Our tight end position had a very good spring. Jacob Tamme is probably showing the most improvement of all. This is the first spring he has been healthy and has been able to be in the weight room and it definitely shows. T.C. Drake, with a season under his belt, has shown what we wanted to see in him. We expect his playing time to increase dramatically this fall. Both Ross Bogue and Tyler Sexton had very solid springs and are significantly beyond where they were this year. It is a solid and deep position for us and we expect to get good play from the position this fall.
Mac : 1)Are you more concerned about the kicking game this year than last year? It seems our place kicking is very inconsistent in Spring Drills. 2)Will Tydlacka be looked at more as a punter or place kicker? Can he challenge for a starting spot? 3)Has Masthay improved how fast he gets his punts off from last season?
Steve Ortmayer : I'm actually not more concerned after this spring than I was after last. Although we have some different concerns. We need to make sure this year that we have replaced snapper Jason Dickerson and that won't be easy to do. We feel that our place kicking and punting will be very solid. Ryan Tydlacka will have an opportunity to compete to be both the punter and the place kicker. We have not been able to work with him yet in person but the reports of his workouts have been very pleasing. Ryan brings a maturity to the kicking situation that most high school players lack and he will be in the mix to play for us in 2007. Tim Masthay worked very hard this spring to get his get-off time down but until we know who our snapper is, it is hard for him to work with several people to gain an every-snap consistency. We will do this very early once we start fall practice and have him working with one guy. Tim has also become a very accomplished holder in a short time and we expect him to help us in this way also.
ukathletics.com : Thanks to Coach Ortmayer for his time. Next week's guest will be quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders.
Steve Ortmayer : Thanks for your great support. We are very excited about 2007. Certainly no team in the country plays the type of schedule we do and we are anxious, with your support, to show the country a very solid football team.