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Ken SugiuraKen Sugiura

7 things to know about new special-teams coach Ray Rychleski

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I wrote a story for myajc and the paper about new special-teams coach Ray Rychleski (link here). A few things that didn’t make it into the story…

1. From his time coaching with Ralph Friedgen at Maryland, he said that Bobby Dodd Stadium “is one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever been in.” (Rychleski was at Maryland from 2001 to 2007, during which time the Terrapins played Thursday night games at Tech in 2001 and 2003.)

2. He will be learning Tech’s spread-option offense in order to assist offensive line coach Mike Sewak. The plan is for Rychleski to be with the offensive line during practice for all of the periods except for those dedicated to special teams.

“We had some option in there (with Friedgen),” Rychleski said. “But this is a unique offense. You talk to anybody, they hate coaching against this offense, so I think it gives us a great chance to win.”

In his last three coaching jobs in college – Wake Forest, Maryland and South Carolina – he coached tight ends and special teams.

“Like Coach (Paul) Johnson said, tight end, tackle – same position,” Rychleski said. “And it’s actually easier because they can’t catch passes.”

3. On kicker Harrison Butker: “Harrison has proven he can kick in the ACC. I think he has a great deal of talent. What we have to do is take it to the next level. As I say, you can’t get sophomore-it is, but he’s not that type of person. He’s a guy that, he just wants to get better and better and better.”

4. On punter Ryan Rodwell: “He didn’t punt last year, so he’s got a little chip on his shoulder, which I like. He was in here (in Rychleski’s office) asking a lot of questions. I think he’s going to be a tough guy. I think he can handle me. So I’m excited.”

He said pooching the ball inside the 10-yard line will be critical.

“We’ve got to be great at that 9-iron or that pitching wedge,” he said.

5. He is not committed to using one returner or two (which, in this case, would likely mean using Jamal Golden on both punt and kickoff return, or sharing duties with DeAndre Smelter). He noted that special-teams experience makes players more attractive as draft prospects.

“So it’s an easy sell to these guys,” he said.

6. He plans to limit starters to two special-teams units each, a policy he has used in the past, to save wear on starters and limit injury risk. In special circumstances, for instance in late-game situations, he may use a starter on more than two units.

7. On splitting time between special teams and offensive line:

“People look at it (like), Well, he’s not focusing on (special teams). Well, yeah, I am. There’s enough time in the day. I’ve done it. I know it. I think it also is going to help with more eyes on the offensive line that they’re going to get better. As I said to Coach Johnson in the interview, ‘You’ve got a chance to kill two birds with one stone.’ I want to do that. Now some guys (might say), ‘Oh, no I’m just doing special teams.’ I want to win. And not that I have an ego about me, but I want to do my part. I’ve got to prove to you guys, I’ve got to prove to Coach Johnson, I’ve got to prove to this staff, I’ve got to prove to the players that I’m worth a (darn). And I’m excited for that opportunity, because that’s what it is. It’s a great opportunity. We’ll work it out. You’ve just got to trust me on that.”

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