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September 28, 2011Last year was a new system in every phase with the transition of the coaching staff. All of the coaches had to learn what players were capable of and the players had to adapt to a new way of doing things. One area that experienced ups and downs were the special teams.
Special teams coordinator Aaron Stamn didn't panic. He started out on the recruiting trail to find players that could make the Jayhawks better. Three games into this season it appears he accomplished that goal.
The Jayhawks have been solid so far on special teams and they feature a lot of young players. Many of the first players down the field on the kickoff return unit are true freshmen Ben Heeney, Victor Simmons, and Michael Reynolds.
All three were playing Kansas high school football a year ago.
"The play with pride because they grew up here watching Kansas play," Stamn said. "When guys like that have been going to games since they were young and to get out there on field it is fun."
The youth doesn't stop there.
Alex Mueller, a true freshman, won the kicking job and is two-of-three on field goals. He is perfect on his extra point attempts. Mueller has also handled most of the kickoff duties.
"It has been nice contributing as a true freshman and trying to turn the program back to where it was a few years ago," Mueller said. "I have enjoyed playing and trying to help out the team. On special teams we are out just trying to flip the field or get three points. We are trying to do our part."
Sophomore Ron Doherty is off to a great start averaging 47.8 yards a punt. The NCAA national stats only list punters that average 3.6 punts per game. If MDoherty had one more punt in the stat column he would rank sixth nationally. He currently leads the Big 12 and the punt return unit is ranked 11th in the country.
The battle for long snapper went down to the final week before Tanner Gibas emerged as the winner. He was one of the top long snappers in the country last year. He has shown good accuracy and velocity getting the ball back to Doherty and during field goal attempts.
Gibas learned from Chris Rubio and watched his brother, Corey, handle the snapping duties at Texas A&M.
"I came in and worked hard," Gibas said. "I did a lot before I got here working with my dad and Chris Rubio trying to keep my skills and just do my thing. I'm just out there trying to do my job."
In a year Stamn has helped turn special teams around. He admits he has had a lot of fun with the kickoff return unit, which is one of his favorites. With so many young players it looks like special teams is in good hands for the next few years.
"They have a lot of energry," Stamn said of his players. "They want to play and they are ready to play. The thing that I have been seeing is play by play is they are taking good steps. They have room to grow and they are hungry."
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