Special teams for the 2011 season were an achilles heel to say the least. For 2012, the Warhawks could finally be turning the corner and in position to return to being tops in the Sun Belt Conference.
Gone from last year is kicker Radi Jabour and punter Aaron Munoz. Jabour completed his eligibility, while Munoz decided to transfer in the off season to return to the quarterback position. Jabour was limited in play time due to injury, seeing the field for just a pair of kick offs, however Munoz was the primary punter, averaging 36.7 yards per punt with 13 downed inside the 20 yard line.
Sophomore Justin Manton will be the primary kicker. During his freshman season, the Prairieville, La. native was 6-14 on field goal attempts with a long of 43. Two of his attempts were blocked. Kicking off, Manton averaged 54.8 yards, but booted the ball out of bounds four times. Despite his struggles early on, he feels that year two will be better.
"I've been working hard and learning from my mistakes from last year; keep working on my strength and kicking to get better," Manton said. "We are going to use the five yard difference this season to our advantage and my stronger leg to go for more touchbacks."
The five yards referred to by Manton is the new NCAA rule that moves the kickoff point up to the 35-yard line as an attempt to make the play safer for players. The rule is one of two rules that will affect not only the Warhawk's special teams, but all around college football.
Debuting this season though will be Caleb Gammel at the punter position. The former all-state player signed with ULM in 2011, but was redshirted to be better prepared for the college game.
"In the off season my leg got stronger and faster, so I should have a better hang time and further punt than what I've had in the past," he said. "With the new formation that we have and the NCAA rule about jumping over the wall, I will have more time and be able to get a better punt off."
The NCAA implemented a rule this season that
defenders cannot jump over a wall in an attempt to block punts. This change has already been well received by ULM as they have a three man backfield to accommodate the protection of the punter.
Also in the mix for the kicking duties will be sophomore Conner Fryoux. The returning walk-on kicker did see the field for 11 punts last season and averaged 37.8 per punt.