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September 12, 2013

Boulware bringing more energy to OU football

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Oklahoma special teams coordinator, Jay Boulware, lifts his hat off his head and points to the top of his head.

"I'm going bald," he says. "I've got a nice little bald spot from the 8 or nine years I've been doing this."

Boulware has been talking about special teams at Oklahoma. It's a position he's taken over since being hired after the 2012 season.

Special teams have always been near and dear to Bob Stoops' heart. When he first arrived at Oklahoma, his special teams became one of his biggest advantages over his opponents.

SCOOPHD: JAY BOULWARE TALKS SPECIAL TEAMS

video by Eddie Radosevich

Stoops was known as a gambler during his early years at Oklahoma.

He won a game in Missouri by faking a field goal and having holder Matt McCoy complete a pass to tight end Chris Chester.

He ran a reverse pass to quarterback Nate Hybl against Nebraska during a 2001 game in Lincoln. The pass was underthrown and feel incomplete to a wide open Hybl. Nebraska turned around and ran the very same fake to quarterback Eric Crouch.

Special teams were the difference in that game too.

OU fans want to return to those heady days on special teams. Stoops seems to have hired a shiny new toy in Boulware to help get him back there.

"I love Coach. I do," said Boulware, gushing praise for Stoops. "It is a blessing. You guys don't even understand what kind of ball coach he is and how attentive he is to detail and all the little things.

"It's very humbling to me to have him oversee what we're doing and look at it. He'll come to me and say something and I didn't think he watched it. It's like, Oh my gosh, he saw that."

Boulware is a great example of the Sooners' new staff in Norman. While many fans might view Stoops as old hat, Boulware reminds us all of his reputation in the coaching community.

If Stoops deserves to be looked at in awe, Boulware's opinion certainly reflects that perception.

"It's just a blessing to be around a guy who can push me to be a better ball coach," he said. "I'm very fortunate and very grateful, I really am."

But how does Boulware recreate the special teams magic Stoops and Oklahoma used to be known for? For Boulware, it's all about energy.

"When I walk into that meeting room every day with the guys, I talk about it," explained Boulware. "It's not just that I say, 'Hey, we've gotta have energy!' It's in everything that I do and how I approach the kids. This is something we can do to pump your fists in the air and get around to everybody and make some noise and jump up and down. We coach with energy, the kids feel it and they play with energy.

"I'm energized by special teams. It means something to me for Oklahoma to be the best in the country. When they say the best special teams, I want them to think of us."

Right now Boulware's impact is already being felt. The Sooners finally have a kicker

When defensive back Julian Wilson was asked if it was strange to have a kicker kicking most kickoffs out of the endzone Wilson answered, "Yeah."

Then he paused, trying to come up with a better answer than just admitting OU's issues with that aspect of their special teams in the past.

"But," he said. "I mean…

"Yeah."

It was obvious Wilson gave up on trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes.

The room erupted with laughter.

Boulware has worked with kicker Nick Hodgson to develop consistently deep kickoffs. Instead of asking Hodgson to be his backup to Michael Hunnicutt, he's instructed him to concentrate more on kicking the ball deep.

He's not looking for a blunt instrument. He's looking for a marksman with a powerful leg.

"I feel like at OU we should have a kicker who can put the ball through the back of the end zone whenever we ask him," explained Boulware. "Just like we should have a guy where if you want the ball in the field of play, look, let's get after them and pin them inside the 20-yard line. That's what we're working towards. We're getting close."

Boulware is just starting to put his stamp on OU's special teams unit. He's not there yet. But he's trying to create a new spark.

"That's why you see our guys when they go out there for kickoff they're trying to get the crowd going," said Boulware. "When those guys make a play, when they knock something out inside the 20-yard line and that crowd erupts, now all of a sudden you've created energy on the whole football team. That's what we're trying to do.

"We're trying to make plays to give our team momentum. That's what special teams is all about."




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