Underwood eyes improved special teams play

I had a long chat with SCSU head football coach Scott Underwood on Monday about what the team’s needs are going into next season. Most of that was outlined in my year-ender story for Wednesday’s editions. Here are some other things the Huskies’ head coach talked about moving forward:

Another big loss the Huskies have to worry about is punter/kicker Tyler Aldridge. Aldridge was hampered by a right quadriceps strain for most of the season and it wreaked havoc on the team’s PAT, kickoff and punting units.

St. Cloud State has freshman kicker/punters Sam Benecke and Gus Utech in line to replace Aldridge.

“Gus injured himself on the first day of practice and never recovered,” Underwood said. “It’s hard to determine where he’s at. Sam’s a guy who has some work to do, especially with leg strength. We’ve discussed that with him. For us, we’re looking for a kicker, punter and a snapper in recruiting.”

Aldridge’s injury hampered St. Cloud State’s special teams play all season.

“I think it hurt us that we didn’t consistently have a guy kicking the ball deep. Tyler still wasn’t healthy at the end of the year,” Underwood said. “He had four weeks off during the season where he didn’t do anything. He missed his timing, sill development and that hurt the rest of the special teams.

“We’re going to evaluate special teams as a staff and talk about things we need to do better. We’ll do that with the offense and defense as well.”

With the return of cornerback Marvin Matthews next season from a redshirt injury year, the SCSU secondary will be loaded next year with the likes of cornerbacks Jack Moro, Bobby Wills and Jordan Sefon and safeties Eric Poggenburg and Kyle Risinger.

Underwood expects that unit to be the strength of the defense next year.

“We’re really pleased to have numerous guys in that area,” Underwood said. “We return a great portion in that area and they have to lead us again. We have to get Marvin back fully healthy and back to a competitive level. That’s always difficult. He’s been off for a long time.”

SCSU junior wide receiver Eli Shoemaker had a breakout year with 11 TD catches. Could he be the playmaker the Huskies have missed since Fred Williams left?

“The big thing is Eli’s confidence,” Underwood said. “He’s grown and matured in this program and he’s become confident in his skills. He questions himself on routes sometimes, but he’s coming into his own. We’re comfortable that he’ll continue to play at a higher and higher level.”

The Huskies already have their 2013 schedule in place. SCSU will open at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall on Thursday, Sept. 5.

That game is followed by the home opener against Winona State on Sept. 14. The Huskies are on the road on Sept. 21 at Concordia-St. Paul and then conclude their South Division games against Augustana at home on Sept. 28.

St. Cloud State kicks off its North Division schedule by traveling to rival Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 5. That is followed by hosting Minnesota Crookston on Oct. 12, traveling to Mary on Oct. 19, hosting Northern State on Oct. 26, traveling to Bemidji State on Nov. 2, and then hosting Minot State and MSU-Moorhead to finish the regular season at Husky Stadium.

The end of the season looks to be more favorable again for the Huskies this year. Hosting Winona State will be the toughest South Division game.

 ”The season will start a week later next year,” Underwood said. “That’s probably the biggest change. We’ll definitely have some tough teams again.”

 Here’s next year’s schedule:

Sept. 5               at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall

Sept. 14              vs. Winona State                            

Sept. 21              at Concordia-St. Paul              

Sept. 28              vs. Augustana                                  

Oct. 5                  at Minnesota-Duluth               

Oct. 12                 vs. Minnesota-Crookston                 

Oct. 19                 at U-Mary in Bismarck, N.D.            

Oct. 26                 vs. Northern State                       

Nov. 2                  at Bemidji State

Nov. 9                  vs. Minot State                     

Nov. 16                vs. MSU-Moorhead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Rennecke

About Andy Rennecke

A sports writer for the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times newspaper who covers St. Cloud State athletics with a focus on football, women's basketball and men's basketball. I also cover the St. Cloud Rox of the Northwoods League. Follow Andy Rennecke at https://twitter.com/AndyRennecke
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