Barry Lunney Jr. Hoping Special Teams are Special

Pig Trail Nation

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ special teams coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. hopes his unit has a good showing this fall.

Lunney met with the media on Thursday and discussed the kick and punt returners as well as some punting.

“I’m excited,” Lunney said. “We’re going to keep pressing. Obviously Deon (Stewart) has proven in games he can do some good things. Trey Burks is working for us a punt returner. We haven’t haven’t gotten a lot in depth on kick returns as far as a skill just yet. Guys  in our coverage units we continue to emphasize that and we will all the way through the season. 

“As far as the punting competition, Sam’s (Loy) obviously brought some maturity and ability to that position. And I think Reid (Bauer) has responded very well.  I really like where they’re at in their battle right now. If we went to a game tomorrow we may punt both of them to be honest with you.”

In 2018, Stewart returned nine punts for 91 yards (10.1 avg.) with a long of 45. The senior also had a pair of kickoff returns for 31 yards (15.5) with a long of 20. The chief kickoff returner last year was De’Vion Warren who had 14 for 399 yards (28.5) with a long of 78. Warren returns for his junior season and is also in the mix at wide receiver. Bauer had 56 punts and averaged 38.9 yards per kick. Loy transferred to Arkansas from Colorado and as a grad transfer is eligible immediately.

Senior Connor Limpert returns after making 19 of 24 field goals with a long of 55. Limpert was perfect on 29 point after touchdowns. He averaged 56.9 yards on 59 kickoffs with 17 touchbacks. Lunney was asked about the competition at kickoff thus far in fall camp.

“Connor is going to handle that right now,” Lunney said. “If we kicked today, that would be Connor. There’s still competition. Matt Phillips, who is also one of the punters, brings some things to the table. But right now that would be Connor for us.”

Lunney talked about both the rugby and conventional punting that Arkansas will have this fall.

“All three of our guys that punt have the ability to rugby,” Lunney said. “Obviously Sam has extensive game experience doing it. Matt Phillips did it for us last year when we were having some protection problems early in the year and we started moving the pocket a little bit in the punt. So, Phillips has done it and Reid has also done it.

“All three of our guys right now, this isn’t just me saying this in case any of our opponents are watching, but all three of our guys are capable of rugby and punting from the traditional launch point. For Sam, that’s one of his strengths. But, one of the things that drew him here was the fact that we were going to be more traditional, and he wanted to work on that and sharpened his skill set for his potential future.”

Loy transferred to Arkansas from Colorado, but he spent his first two seasons at Vanderbilt where he was among the best in the SEC. Lunney is excited to have Loy back in the SEC. He was asked if Loy, who told on Media Day he is very happy to be back, is pleased to be back in the SEC?

“I would be lying to you if I told you we talk a lot,” Lunney said. “So, I’ll probably start talking to him a lot more if he hangs a few up there at about 42 with 4.5 hang time, me and him will probably get a lot closer. Of course I’m saying that jokingly, Sam kind of keeps to himself.

“But, if you play in this conference and you get a dose of playing in these environments, this competition and you know what it is. Then, you leave you probably have a greater appreciation for it. I know this, I don’t know how pleased or excited he is to be here, but I know we are thrilled he’s back in the SEC with Arkansas.”

Lunney had praise for sophomore Jordan Silver, a walk-on snapper from Branson, Mo. Lunney was asked who is leading in the long snapping.

“Right now Jordan would be the clear-cut guy,” Lunney said. “That was a good obscure question, it’s good, but yeah. Jordan did a good job for us last year. He’s really improved over the offseason. He really has. He’s just got good snap times, he’s gotten stronger, he’s gotten more confident.

“To be honest with you, we want this to be the last time we talk about him this year. As long as we’re not talking about him things are going good. He’s had a really good camp. We like were he is at and right now he would handle both short and long for us.”

Jack Lindsey, who doubles at quarterback, is the holder for the placements Lunney said.

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