August 7, 2018 11:19:05 PM
STARKVILLE -- Joey Jones' special teams experience and acumen are why Mississippi State football coach Joe Moorhead chose him to be the program's first special teams coordinator. He aligned forces with Chris Boniol, MSU's senior special teams advisor, he of six years of NFL experience and another five as a coach.
Their brains have come together to benefit MSU's punter -- whichever one ultimately comes out of the preseason with the starting job.
As MSU takes on its second week of preseason practice, it does so with junior Kody Schexnayder and sophomore Tucker Day vying for the spot vacated by Logan Cooke, who has since been drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. They know whoever comes out of the battle victorious has a good situation waiting for them.
Day described it as Jones' special teams schemes and Boniol's knowledge of formations and the team's kickers, "put into a blender and this is what they got."
"Our coaches have set it up to be what we need to be successful, whether it's me or Kody," Day said.
Schexnayder and Day went about preparing for this in different ways.
Schexnayder chased whatever outside influence that could make him better. He watched film of Cooke, noticing his consistency and, "the way he explodes through the ball." He also made offseason workouts a top priority.
"In the summer I attacked the workouts really well," Schexnayder said. "(Strength and conditioning coach Anthony) Piroli did a great job with us and he has my leg much stronger. I tried to prepare mentally, watched a lot of film, watched Logan's film, just to go into it as confident as I can."
Day took the introspective route.
"It all starts out with your personal training time, what you want to do, your rhythm," he said. "I equate it to ballet, because everything that a ballet dancer can do is controlled by himself. So I find what I like to do: do I like to stretch first, then run, then start doing my drops and the preparation for everything. Then you work on doing everything consistently, every single day."
The methods may be different, but they are both working toward the same conclusion. Moorhead's list for what he looks for in a punter is a short and simple one.
"Operation time, distance, placement, hopefully not getting it blocked," Moorhead said.
Operation time -- the time from catching the snap to making contact with the foot -- was an emphasis of Schexnayder's in the offseason.
"The biggest thing is to get the ball out there and make fair catches," he said. "You can put a 59-yard punt out there, but if it doesn't have hangtime, it's going to get returned. We're trying to limit the returns, and that's what everyone wants to do."
Day said of his own performance, "I've been hitting the ball well, I've been getting great hangtime and good distance. I feel like I've been doing what I've been asked to."
Many elements of the new special teams coaching brain trust's ultimate plan will remain to be seen until kickoff, but one thing is known for sure: hangtime. Jones' system depends on it, and both Schexnayder and Day know it.
"We used to focus so much on the direction of where the punt went, it would take some out of my distance and hangtime on the ball," Day said. "Now, I can hit a 5.2 (seconds hangtime) punt and it can get anywhere, as long as it's 5.2. That's something I can do really well.
"Coach Jones is always in our kicking meetings, paying attention. What he loves is big, high hangtimes."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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