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EKU coach keeps watchful eye on special teams
Eastern Kentucky University’s Dean Hood puts a premium on special teams.
So when the Ray Guy Prokicker.com camp comes to the EKU campus every summer, the Colonels’ head coach is always around watching – and learning.
He’s scouting talent and admiring the work of the professional staff of Prokicker.com, led by former EKU punter Rick Sang.
“I own the camp technically but Rick runs it the way he wants to run it,” Hood said. “He’s the best in the country at doing what he does.”
Several top prospects were showing off their strong legs and fast snaps at the camp and the players were well aware of Hood’s presence.
But Hood becomes a bit of a student, too, while watching the staff at work.
“I come here every year and walk around with a different group – punters, kickers, long-snappers,” he said. “They are so detailed and such experts in those three areas that it makes the hair stand up on your arms.”
Hood said the quality camper who attends the Prokicker.com camps benefits EKU. The kickers, punters and long-snappers come because of the camp’s reputation, he said.
“I haven’t been to any other camps but I can’t imagine there’s a better run camp anywhere in the country,” he said. “It’s amazing how detailed they are but simplistic at the same time. They’re teaching kids fundamentals. What they’re teaching is, no doubt, state of the art.”
While the importance of the special teams varies from coach to coach and program to program, it rates high on Hood’s priority list. He learned under legendary EKU Coach Roy Kidd, who always made sure the special teams were solid. It was through Kidd that Hood came to know Sang, who played for the Colonels from 1976-80.
“I was an assistant for coach Kidd back in the early 1990s and I first got to meet him (Sang) in 1994,” Hood said. “He’s always run the (kicking) camp here and Coach Kidd thinks so much of him.”
Kidd, who still lives in Richmond, makes it a point to get with Sang during the camp, too.
“Eastern Kentucky University football got put on the football map by Roy Kidd,” Hood said. “I’m sitting here at Roy Kidd Stadium. He really is the foundation of success and tradition here at EKU. Coming here for me is a dream.”
Hood said he remember when the team used to have a fish fry prior to the start of the season and Coach Kidd was speaking with a grandfather who Coach Kidd had coached. He also coached the grandfather’s son and grandson.
“Three generations of Colonels,” marveled Hood. “It’s truly a family. Having one man there for 40 years makes everybody feel connected. I’ve been blessed to have Coach Kidd still in town here.”
Hood has carried on EKU’s successful tradition with one Ohio Valley Conference championship and a two OVC runner-up finishes in first three years.
The Eastern football program has produced four All-Americans, one OVC Defensive Player of the Year and nine first team all-conference performers in Hood’s three years on the EKU sidelines.
Hood, 47, spent seven seasons working at Wake Forest University before taking over the EKU program in January 2008. Under Hood’s direction, the Wake Forest defense was known for creating turnovers and scoring touchdowns. The Demon Deacons forced 186 turnovers from 2001-07, more than two per game. In 2007, Wake Forest led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 35 turnovers forced on its way to going 9-4 and capturing the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
As for special teams, makes sure he has a scholarship available for a kicker, punter and long-snapper. He knows not getting top-notch talent at those positions can be the difference in winning and losing.
“If you don’t have a long-snapper you’re going to have a long season,” he said. “If you’re playing good defense in one of those field goal battle games where you’re going to win or lose 12-9, if you don’t have a field goal kicker, you’re in trouble. We try to play sound defense and manage the game offensively. The punter is critical for us.”
Last year, for instance, punter Jordan Perry dropped 25 balls inside the 20. Hood understands the importance of that kind of punting.
“Look at the stats on driving it 80 yards and scoring,” he said. “You’ve got a lot better chance of keeping your opponent out of the end zone.”
By Mark Maynard, Pro Kicker News