Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Czajkowski's kickoffs deeper for Pack

The news that former Boston College kicker Billy Bennett wasn't going to be joining N.C. State hurt the Wolfpack most on its kickoff team.

Coach Tom O'Brien had hoped Bennett could boot kickoffs into the end zone to put N.C. State's defense in better field position, but Bennett didn't enroll this fall. O'Brien is eager to improve on the Wolfpack's net kickoff number, which at 37.3 yards per game was by far the lowest in the ACC.

Senior kicker Josh Czajkowski, whom O'Brien said has improved his kickoffs since last season, will handle that duty now that the strong-legged Bennett isn't coming.

"He [Czajkowski] spent all summer trying to get more elevation, more hang time and more distance, which he’s been able to do," O'Brien said. "So if he can get five to 10 yards farther on his kicks, that ought to be sufficient. Plus, hopefully we’re deeper and more athletic on the cover team to where we can get down there and cover kicks."

O'Brien said punter Jeff Ruiz also has improved his distance and hang time; the Wolfpack finished ninth in the ACC in net punting last season, and O'Brien would like N.C. State in the top three in the conference.

Better field position would help a defense that gave up 31.2 points per game, although O'Brien isn't by any means blaming last season's defensive struggles on the special teams.

"That was certainly a factor," O'Brien said of the poor field position. "We put ourselves in some difficult situations, but we aided it [the defense's demise] by the way we played sometimes, too."

Ken Tysiac