08/21/08 — Football preview: C.B. Aycock

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Football preview: C.B. Aycock

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 21, 2008 1:35 PM

It receives perhaps the most attention in practice. It keeps coaches up at night, turns hair gray in a hurry and can be the difference between a successful season and one that leaves much to be desired.

What is "it"?

The priceless art of special teams.

Charles B. Aycock head coach Randy Pinkowski knows it's the one facet of the game that plagued his team most in 2007 en route to a 3-7 finish.

Fumbles on kick returns, missed blocking assignments, penalties and the failure to finish off drives with points in the kicking game were all special teams issues Aycock struggled to resolve last season.

"Last season on special teams we dropped kickoffs, we dropped punts and did a lot of things we cannot do," said Pinkowski. "We had too many instances of turning over possession to the other team. I feel good about our offense and I feel good about our defense.

"Special teams is the one area that I feel like if we can get on top of we can be a complete team."

Quarterbacks Stephen Strouse and Ian Calder graduated, leaving senior Zach Poole, junior David Gurganus and sophomore Craig Murdock battling for the starting job.

Poole enters the season with the most varsity experience, but lacks some of the athleticism required at times to run Aycock's spread Pro-I offense. Gurganus guided the Golden Falcons' junior varsity squad to a 7-3 record last season, and at 5-foot-10 and 168 pounds, possesses the arm and quickness to be effective as a passer and a runner.

Murdock lacks game experience at the quarterback position, but is described by Pinkowski as having "probably the best set of hands I've had since I've been at Aycock." Expect the Golden Falcons to find multiple ways to get the ball to Murdock.

Depth in the backfield won't be an issue for the Golden Falcons as fullback Tyheim Pitt and wingback Deven Sanders return. Each will be complimented by a bevy of young, but talented backups.

Dalton Lewallen, Khendra Reid, Dominque Young and Devon Newsome return to solidify the receiving corps. Senior center Chris Gustafson returns to anchor a deep offensive line that expects to rotate in fresh legs throughout the course of four quarters.

Reid (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) could wreak havoc defensively as a pass rusher from the defensive end spot or drop off in coverage. Pitt will be counted on to provide leadership defensively from his middle linebacker position.

Meanwhile, junior Marcus Cobb, who missed last season with a knee injury, returns and brings with him a head-hunting presence from the safety position that Pinkowski noted his teams have lacked in recent years.

As a young team attempting to learn a new offensive system, Aycock began to mesh toward the end of the 2007 season. The Golden Falcons finished 3-3 during their final six games, and their confidence level has grown from the offseason and through summer workouts.

Despite returning just six players, if Aycock can resolve its issues in the kicking and return game, 2008 could prove to be a 'special' season.

"I think the end of last season kind of cemented some things for us," said Pinkowski. "I don't think it's a matter of recapturing momentum, we just have to keep the ball rolling."