"We needed to work on our special teams, plus I wanted to give the guys a little bit of a rest," said Tech head coach Jack Bicknell. "Although we try to work just as hard during the practice, it's not quite as tiring for everyone. Unfortunately, we were a little sluggish early. These kids have to understand how important special teams are ... they can win or lose a game for you. It is so important."
With the loss of last year's starting kicker Kevin Pond and punter Caleb Price to graduation, Bicknell is searching for their replacements for the 2000 season.
Sophomore Trent Wierick and freshmen Josh Scobee and Tommy Hebert are battling for the place-kicking duties. Wierick, who sat out last year due to an injury, converted 42-of-46 extra points and 6-of-6 field goals for the Bulldogs in 1998, while the two freshmen have no prior collegiate experience.
"Right now, Josh will handle all of our place-kicking duties," Bicknell said of the freshman from Longview High School. "He will kickoff as well as handle all field goals and extra points for us. He has an extremely strong leg, but has to improve on his consistency. The other guys are doing a good job, but it just boils down to who is more consistent."
As for the punting responsibilities, Bicknell said he is currently leaning towards walk-on Dustin Upton, who prepped at Spring Hill High School in Longview, Texas. Upton is currently battling Hebert and walk-on Billy Morgan for the duties.
"Dustin is our punter right now," Bicknell said. "He has done a good job of getting his timing down so far in two-a-days."
Bicknell said although he has been pleased with what he has seen from the kickers in practice, he is eager to see how they handle the season opener against Mississippi Valley State.
"Although they have been impressive, it's really hard to tell until they get in a game situation," Bicknell said. "The talent is there, but I want to see how they react to the pressure of the game."
The Bulldogs will take Sunday off before resuming practice Monday night at 7 p.m.