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August 3, 2011A popular topic of conversation surrounding NC State football this preseason will be the kicking game because of the three true freshmen that are expected to handle the punting, kicking and special teams duties.
Wil Baumann will boot the punts, Niklas Sade will handle field goals and kickoffs, and Scott Thompson will be doing the snapping. It's a unique position that both special teams coordinator Jerry Petercuskie and head coach Tom O'Brien have never been in during their respective coaching careers.
Fortunately for them and NC State however, the trio seem to have the mental makeup to handle the load.
"We still have to wait until they get into a game, but I think that they are interviewed by you people all the time so they have a lot more wherewithal than the kids have 20 years ago, so these guys have been exposed to a lot more," Petercuskie noted. "Consequently I think it shows up in their demeanor. We'll see what happens when the bullet starts flying.
"I have a lot of confidence in them. Their demeanor up to this point has been fantastic."
O'Brien, too, praised their maturity levels.
"Both kids have strong legs," O'Brien added. "Our snapper, there is a lot of revolutions going back on the ball, you know it's going to be on a line where a guy can catch it. It's a matter of them just playing and getting good experience under their belt. I think they are going to be fine. They are going to get better each and every game."
Petercuskie said that Baumann has already kicked some punts with 5.0-plus second hang time, and Sade's leg strength can kick field goals out to 50 yards.
"I don't think there is any doubt they are talented," stated Petercuskie. "All three are real talented. Scotty can really snap the ball. Wil has great leverage on his punts and can get the ball up in the air and Nik has great elevation and has a real strong leg.
"Like every other position we're striving for consistency. We don't want to hit a 350-yard drive and then hit the next one out of bounds."
O'Brien called the second day of practice a "normal day two." The Pack will put on shoulder pads for the first time Thursday and Friday before going in full pads Saturday, which O'Brien dubbed the "real" start of camp.
"I think the opening day jitters are over with and hopefully we can get into a routine now," O'Brien said. "If we can get exams out of the way the next two days then we can really start camp on Saturday."
The heat was back Wednesday, although not as scorching as Tuesday afternoon. Sophomore cornerback David Amerson, who left the first practice with heat related issues, was declared fine by O'Brien and back on the field Wednesday. O'Brien could not help but joke that the heat would not be a big issue if NC State had an indoor practice facility.
"This is what people in the south do, they have indoor facility and they go and practice inside, and we're the only one in the Triangle that doesn't have one," O'Brien said with a smile. "That's part of the South though. Football teams have learned to manage the heat forever. Just take more breaks in certain periods and have more rotations and it's worked.
"I think they did a great job conditioning themselves and I think our training staff has done a great job pushing the water. We'll take breaks when we need it. Right now you are rotating three or four guys at a position."