Auditions for punt returner

Auditions for punt returner continued Monday with safety Cooper Taylor, A-back Embry Peeples and wideout Daniel McKayhan getting their shots.

The front-runners still appear to be A-back Roddy Jones and cornerback Jerrard Tarrant.
Tech is trying to improve a unit that ranked ninth in the ACC, averaging 6.7 yards per return.

(Quick aside on kickoff returns, which were also sub-par. Tech ranked 10th in the league, 19.6 yards per return. The candidates for that job include Jones, Tarrant and Marcus Wright.)

Talking to wide receivers coach Al “Buzz” Preston, who also coaches punt returners, it was clear that ball security will be the most important factor in choosing a punt returner. He kept going back to it.
Tech lost fumbles on three punt returns last season: Tyler Melton at Boston College, Roddy Jones at UNC, and Andrew Smith vs. LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“No. 1, catch the ball and don’t fumble it,” Preston said. “If your guy can catch it, make quality decisions and get north, you’ve got a chance to be pretty good.

“No. 1, catch it. No. 2, good decisions, being able to know when to make a call to get everybody out of there, when to catch it, fair-catch it, not catch it – the decision-making process.

“Then the ability to make something happen after the catch.”

Improving the punt-return unit is critical.

“You’re talking field position, you’re talking turnovers,” Preston said.

So far in spring practice, Preston said, “Tarrant and Roddy have looked pretty good. Those guys are probably the two leaders right now. Roddy’s done it. And Tarrant, he was somebody that we thought was going to be special but we didn’t have him last year.”

Jones returned six punts last year for 53 yards, a healthy 8.8-yard average. (The average would have been good for fourth in the conference if he had more attempts).

So who would you like to see return punts?

66 comments Add your comment

GTMan

April 7th, 2009
6:09 am

Kelly or Randy Rhino need to be recruited to work with the punt return team.They could give some good advice.

buzztrip

April 7th, 2009
6:58 am

As one of the coaches told me a couple of years ago, special teams are a function of depth. You really like to rest the starters and give the subs a chance to get in the game.
No secret that Tech has lacked depth for years, to the point that if only one punt returner could be designated that would catch the ball and prevent the turnover, real progress would be realized.
Maybe this year Tech can make the catch and then make some yards. The kickoff return team started showing real progress toward the end of last season.
My vote goes to Marcus Wright.

Tokyo jacket

April 7th, 2009
7:12 am

Buzztrip, I agree with your vote on Wright. But, I would take strategy from the best special teams head coach in all of football, Frank Beamer. He puts the best 11 on the field at all times. Harris, Hall, Hall, and Ekebe all played special teams and are all in the NFL (or going to be in three weeks). I’d like to see us do the same.

Agree that Rhino should coach punt returns. It would go like this:

Step 1: Never fair catch, but always catch the ball
Step 2: Never, ever ever fair catch, but always catch the ball
Step 3: Even if your arm is broken, you must never fair catch and always catch the ball

m

April 7th, 2009
8:25 am

Kelly Rhino is my favorite punt returner of all time. A lot of detractors tried to claim he only got his scholarship because of his family ties to Tech; but the truth is that O’leary saw what he was made of, and what he could do on a football field. He was fearless, and a very, very valuable asset to the team. I hope we have another one like him. It is just plain fantastic to watch the potential of this team. It is so wonderful to have a REAL college football coach now. After 6 long horrible years under a Braine-dead Gailey regime that destroyed our progam, it is so nice to have reason to be optimistic. It was made possible by DRAD’s proper decision to fire the worst coach in the history of the world. Thank God for DRAD and Thank God and Greyhound EVERY DAY FROM NOW ON that mediocrity is gone FOREVER.

rainman

April 7th, 2009
8:36 am

I think we have enough options to come up with some decent return men — provided they get adequate blocking.

The part of the special teams that should be of more concern is the kicking game. We need a FG kicker that can hit a 40 or 45 yarder and get near or in the endzone on KO’s. We need a punter that averages over 40yds. and has decent hang-time. I have heard about the search for return men, but almost nothing about the competition at PK and punter.

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
8:43 am

Wright guys?? I don’t know I just don’t like the idea the idea of him returning punts, put if your talking Kick off team I agree that he should be one of the guys because his size actually gives him and advantage to hide behind the return team.
PR though has to go to Roddy or Tarrant (we haven’t seen him so I’m going purely with what Ken and Larry tell us) with their size they will be able to take a little more punishment and still gain yards IMO. If Tarrant is anything of the athlete that he looks I really do agree that he could be special for us this year.
All in all though KO team was getting better near the end of the year once Roddy started returning the ball so I think it is his job to lose for one of the returners this year.
Also do agree with Tokyo (good to hear from ya) that we should get some of our best athletes for the Punt team which is what Beamer and Meyer do for their teams, and thus they have some of their bigger plays on Punt team.

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
8:44 am

Rainman, I asked Ken this earlier and he said their were 2 walkons I believe who are also working at Punt and Kickoff duties. I agree though that we need a more reliable field goal kicker who has a stronger leg, I 100% agree with you on that.

IE'66

April 7th, 2009
8:46 am

yellowblood, take your sissy-talk elsewhere. Go on to the liberal arts school in cow county. They like your NY commie leftist approach up there. It’s a LIBERAL arts school. It’s right there in the name.

Ok, now to the matter at hand. I’d rather us fair catch them and start the offense from there. I’ve got confidence in this machine that Johnson is building. Let his offense do the work, don’t rely on walkons and junebugs to run back kicks. That’s sissy ball. Like Georgia plays.

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
8:52 am

IE…I agree that a fair catch tho means we stay neutral when I would like the PR and KOR teams be a real positive addition to Techs game this year!

Yankee Transplant

April 7th, 2009
8:55 am

IE’66 if the IE stands for Industrial Engineer, why don’t you call it like it is? IE=almost engineer.

m

April 7th, 2009
9:03 am

i feel confident that Paul Johnson will get our special teams straightened out. Our special teams were good under O’leary; and were allowed to go down hill (like everything else) under the 6 horrible years of the Braine-dead gailey regime. Thank God and Greyhound that those days are OVER.

IE'66

April 7th, 2009
9:26 am

Yankee, your comments mean nothing to me. And by that I mean I don’t even understand it. Nor do I care. Your life is a fumbled punt.

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 7th, 2009
9:28 am

JUST CATCH THE BALL.

Reality Check....

April 7th, 2009
9:30 am

Punt returner and kick returners need to be like Rhino….Fearless, make the first guy miss. All great PR and KR are shifty… I know CPJ know this and will make it happen.

Atlanta Jackets

April 7th, 2009
9:52 am

Expect big things this year from Marcus “catches the ball” Wright. LOL! He’ll surprise a lot of you guys.

wth

April 7th, 2009
9:53 am

IE’66? Wooo hooo, those Industrial Engineers (aka, janitors) are pretty tough. You better go take your Zyrtec now GIOT fan.

NYJacket

April 7th, 2009
9:58 am

The kicking game is the most important part of the game when two very good teams play each other.

Go back and talk to some of Dodd’s players and find out how much the kicking game was praticed. And practice did not mean the kickers getting reps.

He felt the kick off was the most important play and that more games are decided on a kick off than any other play. If a player was off sides on a kick off, that player was benched – Dodd meant what he said.

We can’t afford to put ourselves in a hole because of the kicking game.

I am very glad the CJP is insisting that we improve in this part of the game.

The players that demonstrate excellence in the kicking game should be on the field.

Atlanta Jackets

April 7th, 2009
9:59 am

wth, be proud of where you went to school and what degree you earned. Or did you not go to school? Sorry about that. LOL! Burn!!

eBuzz

April 7th, 2009
10:04 am

To all, let’s get off the Gailey bashing. I wanted him gone, too, openly said so, and he is, so let’s move forward. As to punt returners, it’s fun to speculate, but most of us are not at the practices and see exactly who is doing what. I’m confident the CPJ will use the guy(s) who show the most promise on the field, not on paper.

While Kelly Rhino may or may not have been recruited as a result of his family connections with Tech, he proved on the field that he deserved the scholarship, and we should respect that. Oh, and Tokyo jacket, like your 3 rules for punt returners.

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 7th, 2009
10:28 am

I love hearing about Chappel’s grandson so respected. Too small, too slow, not Div. 1 material, and got the Ship because of Grandpaw and dad. That is what was said when Kelly came from the Marist School, but as any TECH Fan knows Kelly caught the punts, never made a fair catch, and never lost yardage playing the hardest job in football. RHINO is how he played. In that respect have they given lil “Bull” Cox a chance to return punts?

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
10:32 am

Wow bashing an IE major…I guess it must be easy for you talk about how hard your college…ooo yeah thats right you didn’t go to college…actually you didn’t even graduate high school….but hey even if you did, majoring in sports recreation is really just a miserable major now a days.
eBuzz I agree all we can do is speculate but all of the TRUE (non-annoying as hell fans) here are going by the information from Ken and Larry so I do believe it is just to talk about Wright and Roddy.

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
10:34 am

PI$$ once again I agree with you 100%, Kelly was good at what he did and represented himself Chappels grandson want even sniff the playing field unless its the UGA vs. Middle Tennessee State game.

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 7th, 2009
10:39 am

M.SOTA Jacket I am a little biased on Kelly because pop Randy Snapped and Cracked my Spine for a few years after a bad motorcycle wreck, but Kelly HAD NO FEAR when returning punts.

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
10:46 am

ooo I remember Kelly…balls of steel…the guy you like to have on your team because you know that no matter what happens its going to be positive yards every time he returns….what were his final stats for Punt Return?

runningmann

April 7th, 2009
10:48 am

GTMan, Randy already works with the team, as the chiropractor.

bb

April 7th, 2009
10:52 am

I loved Kelly Rhino’s punt return philosophy as well, it was perfect for the rules at the time. Unfortunately, the rules have changed, and his philosophy would/will not work now.

Kelly knew he had 2 yards of room to catch the ball and make the initial move (if he didn’t get it, it was a penalty). That’s not the case any longer, now the defender only has to make sure the ball gets to you before he does. A punt returner using Kelly’s philosophy of always catch the ball and NEVER fair catch is just asking for turnovers.

The coach is right, the punt return has to make good decisions now (it can’t be always catch the ball, never fair catch).

Ramblin Wrecker

April 7th, 2009
10:54 am

I want to know how Cooper Taylor does at punt returner. I read he has 4.38 speed and we know he’s very tough.

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
11:07 am

Cooper is fast…but doesn’t seem to be shifty kind of guy you need to be as well for PR

GT

April 7th, 2009
11:29 am

I think it was Texas A&M that use to have the entire kick off team made up of walk ons. It was a tribute to the 12th man, in the stands and it would bring the place down every time they kicked off. Virginia Tech always has the best special teams mainly because they practice it harder than most. I think CPJ is doing that now and his blue collar team will become very good at special teams, just like the 12th man that bring their lunch in a brown bag.

Richard Simmons

April 7th, 2009
11:31 am

Ooooohhhh! I would just love to return punts in those cute, tight, little yellow uniforms! Count me in big boys!

Forrest Gump

April 7th, 2009
11:33 am

I was an all american kick returner. I don’t know if I have any eligibility left, but I’m sure I can still be the best player on your team.

addicted

April 7th, 2009
11:37 am

Special teams are absolutely critical to this team. Mistakes on special teams cost us chances at doing well in at least 2 games, the UNC and the LSU one. Despite both the final scores looking like blowouts, neither game would have been as bad (and both would potentially have been winnable, although we would have to climb out of a hole) if we weren’t let down by special teams at critical moments.

Glad Coach is focusing on this aspect of the game.

Baba O'Riley

April 7th, 2009
11:49 am

Richard Simmons- You should be a fan of the team whose QB and back-up QB spoon.

Josh

April 7th, 2009
11:52 am

Tarrant will win it. If you have seen him at practice you have seen him take the kicks all the way numerous times, he is a playmaker.

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
11:52 am

addicted…very true…but the NC game also had to do with the fumbles on offense…

Jerry

April 7th, 2009
11:57 am

Kelly Rhino personally cost us the game against LSU the year he fumbled 3 punts in the Peach Bowl. Other than that he did a pretty decent job.

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
12:03 pm

I just think we should never take a bid to that bowl…we have NEVER played well in that bowl haha…even though it is nice because I don’t have to rent a hotel haha

m

April 7th, 2009
12:12 pm

addicted and jerry…you both make very good points.

Baba O'Riley

April 7th, 2009
12:28 pm

m- that’s your best post ever

JM

April 7th, 2009
12:34 pm

not all the special teams have been bad the last 6 years. I recall GT having the best punter in the country for a few of those years. Some people can’t get over their hatred to see the real facts.

griffdawg1

April 7th, 2009
12:42 pm

you effin nerds are pathetic! If you think that a punt returner is all you have to worry about, you’re sad!! What’s wrong, you’re fast guys too scared or you don’t have ANYONE that can field a punt??? I’d guess SCARED AND SLOW!!!!!!!

griffdawg1

April 7th, 2009
12:50 pm

What’s wrong? Ramblin On must be one the Dawg article blog keeping up with the team he really loves. I know you all are closet edawg fans anyway!!

macrotech

April 7th, 2009
12:57 pm

griffdawg1, you’re little turd eatin’ defense TOO SCARED TO TACKLE?! I suppose your little leg humpin’ self has plenty to worry about…. QB, RB, ENTIRE DEFENSE, taking the fries out BEFORE they burn, clean out the shake machine…. you effin blog hoppers are PATHETIC!!! GO TECH….AGAIN!!!!! ;0)

MinnesotaJacket

April 7th, 2009
12:58 pm

really would be nice if UGA fans that come onto the blog to make fun of Tech could at least speak in English with enough grammar that I could understand and make a comment back. Yet, why am I surprised they are UGA fans after all they can all understand gibberish!

Tom

April 7th, 2009
1:18 pm

His name is Kelley…..not Kelly.

Greyhound

April 7th, 2009
1:27 pm

Guys- Let me make a suggestion. When trolls like Griffdawg1 and yellowblood (the guys who way too proud of his tickle pile posts) get on here and try and stir things up with their predictable rhetoric. Ignore them. Its too easy to fall into a the war of words but I promise whatever perverse satisfaction these tools get from trolling every GT blog and trying to throw sophomoric jabs all day will be diminished.

The fact that they are fixated on our program speaks volumes though and it is fun to take swipes at them since their program is in decline and they are a wannabe powerhouse but resist the urge.

10 to 1 that ‘m’ has a poster of Chan Gailey in his secret room.

Baba O'Riley

April 7th, 2009
1:28 pm

I think the pronunciation is the same

spread10

April 7th, 2009
1:34 pm

2 words for Kelly Rhino’s success…….halo rule!

Baba O'Riley

April 7th, 2009
1:41 pm

One word…..guts! Sometimes, he ran through oncoming traffic to catch shorter punts. Guts, not only because he could have been decapitated, but also because he could have muffed the punt, but caught it anyway to save his offense some yards. Rhino was not successful because of some rule. He was successful because he had a great mindset for the position.

m

April 7th, 2009
1:42 pm

greyhound, the only poster that i would have of gailey would be on the face of a dartboard. I don’t like anyone that hurts Tech’s football program…certainly not a coach (sic) that destroyed the program for 6 long, horrible years. Thank God and Greyhound that the worst coach in the history of mankind is gone FOREVER….AMEN!!