IU Football: Q&A With Special Teams Coordinator Kasey Teegardin

Kasey Teegardin’s tenure with the IU football program predates Tom Allen, and during the offseason his work with the Hoosiers was rewarded with a promotion.

Allen promoted Teegardin to special teams coordinator on Jan. 19. He will also oversee the husky position after leading the safeties in 2018 and 2019.

A Hoosiers defensive graduate assistant (2014-16) for three years and director of on-campus recruiting for one campaign (2017), Allen promoted Teegardin for the first time on March 2, 2018.

Teegardin joined a teleconference to discuss the offseason and his plans with the special teams units.

(Transcript via IU Athletics)

Q: On different pieces around and set for special teams…
TEEGARDIN: There’s no doubt. I think Coach Allen’s done a phenomenal job recruiting guys specifically to what we look to do in our kicking game. Coach McInerney has been instrumental for me since I’ve taken over. Just getting me up to par with personalities in the room and those guys. The nice thing about it is like you said, you have a guy like Haydon Whitehead returning and knows what’s expected of him. You’ve got Charles (Campbell) who came in and kicked a big field goal against Purdue, there was a lot of pressure on him. And I think Sean Wracher is the best long snapper in the Big Ten, in my opinion returning. You’ve got a lot of instrumental pieces, and you’ve got good depth behind him as well. I think the unit as a whole has a lot of talent, Jared Smolar with his leg and Jack Cardillo, the list goes on, which definitely helps me get my arms around things to where I can focus more on the schematic side of it in changing a few things the way we’re going to do different stuff, and meeting with Coach Allen and making sure he’s on board. It definitely makes it a lot easier having Big Ten talent at the specialist positions. Now I have challenged those guys to compete with each other and I told them that no job is safe. My firm belief is that pressure makes diamonds, and those guys, when they’re on the field there’s a lot of pressure on them. They get one play and it’s got to be a game-changer. So even though they’ve got a lot of returning experience, I want them to raise their level as well, that’s been my challenge to them this off-season.

Q: On making IU’s special teams a plus…
TEEGARDIN: The very first meeting that I had in front of the team as the special teams coordinator, the entire team was in there, all I talked about was how important that play is. We averaged 32 snaps a game on special teams last year. That includes PAT, field goal and PAT field goal block. When you break it down it is a third of the game. There were some games where on defense we played right around 30 snaps because our offense was controlling the ball so much. So that was my first challenge to the entire team. I wanted everyone to understand, quarterbacks included how important special teams is in terms of field position. I did a study, in 2019 if we won the field position battle, we were 6-0 and I put these numbers up in front of the whole team. When we lost the field position battle, we were 2-5. In 2018, when we won the field position battle, we were 3-1. When we lost the battle, we were 1-4. If you add that up when you win the field position battle, we’re 9-1 overall. To me that has a direct correlation to special teams, because if you look at the games that we’ve lost, losing the field position battle it has been Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan. So how do we take the next step and beat those teams? You’ve got to do it with great special teams play, pin the ball deep when you need to, changing the field, breaking big returns, get the ball to midfield to start the offense, that’s why I wanted the whole team in there. What we’re doing on special teams is going to impact the entire team. That’s been my biggest challenge to the team in general and just trying to motivate those guys to get them to understand the bigger picture.

Q: On working with (new safeties coach) Jason Jones…
TEEGARDIN: It’s been great. Jason is awesome to work with, I mean you talk about a first-class guy. He came in and we sat down and met and just talked about first our families and our backgrounds, just the bigger picture of things. Then we talked about the safeties, and I know he did a great job of going back and studying them, and we just kind of bounce ideas off each other. He’s been awesome to work with. We talk every single day, whether it’s about recruiting or safeties, just keeping in touch with those guys that are still back there. Thankfully I was in a position where I had coached Marcelino Ball in the past, and having Bryant Fitzgerald come with me from the free safety spot was awesome as well. He’s like family to me, we’ve known each other for a long time now. The room itself is great. They’re an older group. They know what’s expected of them, and Samuel Slusher and Gabe Cohen, the two walk-ons, have been excellent in their preparation in what they do. It’s been a really smooth transition. I think Coach Allen in general has done such a good job of hiring a cohesive staff, a staff that really gets along and just enjoys being around each other. We joke and say we spend more time with each other than we do our own families until this pandemic, but that is the truth. This staff gets along really well and believes in each other.

Q: On being able to implement every change he wanted to do by fall or having to scale it back without spring ball…
TEEGARDIN: They’re not wholesale changes. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I think we can make subtle changes and make things better improvement-wise. Really our special teams last year was probably middle of the pack overall, but they did a lot of good things on kickoff returns, just couldn’t break the big ones. If you look at it David Ellis is probably one or two reads away from being the top kick returner in the conference. I’m not going to be making wholesale changes, but definitely some improvements in my and Coach Allen’s opinion. We talked about how we can make this better. We started to do a little bit of it in the first four practices. We really focused more on punt, changing some personnel around, looking at different guys. We’ve got a lot of experience. We’re more athletic in my opinion than we’ve ever been, so we’ve got to utilize that. But just some wrinkles, I’m going to leave it at that. I think teams will have to really study us.

Q: On competition at the punt return position…
TEEGARDIN: Absolutely. I want competition at every position, every play. Every season, every game, every week, I want competition. Iron sharpens iron and pressure makes diamonds, like I said. I think you’ve easily got two of the best returners, in explosive players in Reese Taylor and Whop Philyor. It’s our job to coach them up better, that starts with me. I’ve got to get those guys more confident in what we’re doing, but it also starts with the other 10 guys on the field. Blocking for them, drawing it up so that we can give those guys an opportunity to field the ball and then get north and south, and not feel pressure right away. I think Whop and Reese are for sure one and two. I think David is a guy that we’re going to get some reps back there. He got a few before spring ball was cut. I think David Ellis has a natural instinctive vision. He does a great job of feeling the block before they’re even there. He gives us an opportunity at both kick returner and punt returner. I’m also interested to see the young guys that we have coming in. I think we can throw some of them back there and see what they can do as well. We’ve got a good stable of returners, it’s just a matter of getting them coached up and getting the other 10 guys to do their job better.


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