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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Miners seek stability in special teams area for 2012 season

  • After some shuffling in the kicking game last season, Missouri S&T head coach David Brown is hoping for more stability in that area in the upcoming 2012 season.
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  • After some shuffling in the kicking game last season, Missouri S&T head coach David Brown is hoping for more stability in that area in the upcoming 2012 season.
    The Miners employed two kickers and two punters a season ago, with hopes that the experience gained will allow someone to take firm control of those spots this fall.
    Adam Peden (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) took over as the Miners' placekicker during the second half of the season and was successful on all 23 of his extra point attempts, while making three of six field goal attempts which included a 45-yard kick.  Cole Wassner (Quartz Hill, Calif./Quartz Hill) averaged 37 yards on 28 punt attempts.
    The duo shared those duties with Will Morrison (Rolla, Mo./Rolla) a year ago; Morrison averaged 35.2 yards per punt, made of four of his six field goal attempts and has handled the Miners' kickoff duties over the last year.  However, Morrison recently decided to withdraw from the squad due to injury issues and in turn, leaves little experience in the backup spots at both kicking positions.
    "Peden and Wassner all have quality game experience," Brown said.  “Adam came on last season and took over our place kicking duties with a lot of success; he has a great work ethic.  Wassner has a leg up on the punting job, but we expect to have some good competition at both positions.”
    Wassner, along with returning squadmember David Druse (Coal City, Ill./Coal City HS) and incoming freshman Brennan Kristek (Waynesville, Mo./Waynesville) and Logan Turk (Moberly, Mo./Moberly) will compete for the placekicking job.  Kristek will also compete for the punting role this fall.
    The long snapping duties will likely involve a competition between returners Jon Vance (Marshalltown, Iowa/Marshalltown), Geoff Correnti (Bowling Green, Mo./Bowling Green) and Jordan Pulou (Magna, Utah/Cyprus).
    In terms of the return game, the Miners have several dynamic players that can fill those roles. Smook Thomas (Quincy, Fla./East Gadsden) averaged better than 10 yards per punt return a year ago, while Mark Hopkins (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), who sat out the 2011 season, ranked among the NCAA Division II leaders in that category in 2010 at 20.5 yards per return.
    “Smook has had many exciting returns during his career and Hopkins is back in the fold, so we hope that they will be able to recreate the dynamic duo that they had going for us in 2010,” Brown said.  “They are both sure-handed and are threats to make a big play on every return.”
    Leon Moody (St. Louis, Mo./DeSmet Jesuit HS) and Scott Hendricks (Kechi, Kan./Maize HS) could also be contributors in the punt return game.
    S&T lost its top kickoff returner in terms of average a year ago in Mike Wilson (Valrico, Fla./King) (23.8 per runback) and is counting on sophomore Nick Taylor (Wichita, Kan./Southeast HS), who averaged 18.6 yards a return, Hopkins and Hendricks to help fill the void.  Incoming freshman David Hughes II (Detroit, Mich./University of Detroit Jesuit HS) will also contend for that role this fall.
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