“(I) know where the punter is going to punt the ball exactly, how their guys come off blocks and what not. I take a lot of time during the week to prepare for our opponents,” Saunders said.
OU coach Bob Stoops is adamant these aren’t new parts of OU’s game plans. Boulware is the first “special teams coordinator” since Jonathan Hayes left the staff following the 2002 season. The position was filled by a variety of coaches in a variety of ways in the decade before Boulware was hired 10 months ago.
“Jay’s done a great job. I think it’s like anything. Sometimes your guys hitting the ball are a little bit better or more experienced. You get caught and some years you’re not. We’ve always worked them really hard,” Stoops said.
Boulware refuses to beat his chest.
“It’s about our players. It’s never about us as coaches,” he said.
The value of special teams, however, is magnified under extreme circumstances. The Sooners’ 2008 national championship bid was greatly hampered by their lack of a consistent kicker and their struggles covering kickoffs.
The Sooners are back in a BCS bowl game despite averaging just 422.5 yards and 31.8 points a game. Both are OU’s lowest averages since 2006.
The Sooner defense has vastly improved, but so has the squad’s special teams’ impact.
“I like the guys we have hitting the ball. They’re doing a really good job and the guys around them are doing a really good job in what we’re asking them to do,” Stoops said.
Scoring what would be one of the biggest upsets in OU history in the Sugar Bowl won’t likely be done without another big special teams performance. Or, at least, something like the one those units have put together their last three games.
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