Aug. 20, 2007
Editor's Note: Leading up to Baylor's Sept. 1 opener at TCU, baylorbears.com will be interviewing each of the Bears' assistant football coaches for insight into the position that they coach and the prospects for the 2007 season. This is the third interview of nine heading into the TCU game.
Kasey Dunn joined Guy Morriss' Baylor staff on Jan. 2, 2007, as the Bears' special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach after spending the previous three seasons as running backs coach at the University of Arizona. On April 25, 2007, Dunn took on additional duties as the Bears' assistant head coach.
In his 15th season as a collegiate coach and 12th in a Division I-A program, Dunn has worked on both sides of the ball during stops at Arizona (2004-06), TCU (2003), Washington State (1998-2002), New Mexico (1996-97) and Idaho (1993 and 1995). In addition, he served minority internships with both the NFL's Seattle Seahawks (2003) and Denver Broncos (1997). A standout wide receiver at the University of Idaho from 1987 through 1991, Dunn was a three-time All-American who still holds Vandal school records for career receptions (268) and receiving yards (3,847), while ranking No. 2 in touchdown receptions (25).
With the graduation of two-time Ray Guy Award winner Daniel Sepulveda and honorable mention All-Big 12 place-kicker Ryan Havens, there are big holes to fill in the Bears' kicking game. Junior Caleb Allen is expected to battle a pair of true freshmen, place-kicker Shea Brewster and punter Derek Epperson, for the top jobs. Sepulveda led the nation in punting as a senior in 2006 with his 46.5-yard average en route to unanimous consensus All-America honors, while Havens made 32-of-33 PATs and 11-of-14 field goals.
Junior Mikail Baker ranked No. 4 in the Big 12 and 37th nationally in kickoff returns a year ago with his 23.73-yard average.
Dunn recently sat down with baylorbears.com to discuss the Bears' 2007 special teams prospects as well as the outlook for the club's wide receivers:
How has the kicking game progressed with the graduation of Daniel Sepulveda and Ryan Havens?
Dunn: "We'll miss both of those guys, but right now our freshmen are really coming along. Both Derek Epperson and Shea Brewster are doing a nice job. At the beginning of camp, I think they came out of the summer a little bit leg weary, and it showed some. Early in they were probably a little nervous, too. So I was concerned, but the last couple of practices, they have really started to turn it on and showed the promise that they were recruited from."
What have you worked on in general to bolster the kicking game?
Dunn: "Right now, our biggest focus and goal is to give that ball back to our offense, that's our number one goal. Secondly, we want to get that ball in position to score. It's not so much how flashy we are going to be with returners. It's how consistent we are going to be with catching the football and holding onto the football."
Who are you looking at for returns?
Dunn: "Well Mikail Baker is definitely the leading candidate. We have Mikail and (Brandon) Whitaker, both those guys are back there and Joe Bennett, another sure-handed receiver. Right now, those guys are the ones we are really focusing on to really bring our return game around."
What's the number one thing a return man must do to keep that job?
Dunn: "Biggest move is catching the football consistently, no balls hitting the deck. Coming out to practice early and catching all the balls that he can, taking a lot of pride and not letting them hit the ground when he's out there in practice because you practice how you play. If they are going to go out and let the ball hit the ground and not run after them quickly, and make those plays in practice, then I'm going to interpret that as how they are going to perform in a game, and they won't get those opportunities. For us right now, it's all about trying to find that consistent football player back there that can hold onto the football and give us possession."
Are you the type of special teams coach who uses a lot of trick plays or are you pretty vanilla?
Dunn: "Oh, we'll throw everything in the book at them. It's one of those things that's given to you by opportunity more than anything else. I'm not going to say we are going to go out and shock the world with a bunch of fakes and things like that. It's a matter of trying to expose a weakness and also give your team a spark. So if you can put something on the field that's going to light up the sidelines so that they go out and play with a little bit more intensity, then great. But you have got to be sound in what you do and at the same time hold onto the ball."
Since Coach Morriss has been here, he has put a tremendous emphasis on special teams. How much do you work on it this time of year?
Dunn: "We're working on it a lot right now, as we should. There is quite a bit of turnover on our special teams units right now, from kickers to punters to return guys and new schemes and things like that. So, there's been a lot of work going on and we need a lot of time to do it. Coach Morriss has been gracious in making sure that we have all the time that we need, and if I go over, it's no big deal. We will just push everything back a little bit. I'm not under a set of parameters for the practice. I just go out there and get in what we need to get done."
How do you think moving the kickoff line back will change the game?
Dunn: "It will be interesting to say the least. I'm definitely in favor of the rule. I think it's a good change to the game. I think it will bring back two exciting plays in the kickoff and kickoff return."
Does that then change anything that you do?
Dunn: "Well, it depends on what kind of kicker that you have. If you have somebody that can drill into the endzone and get that touchback, then you just want to bang it deep. But if you don't have that guy, then you need to be a little bit more creative. It will change some things I'm sure for many teams out there. I'm sure half of them will have to rethink what they are doing right now, and put an emphasis on the kickoff return to take advantage of the new rule."
Who is the leader for the Bears' place-kicking right now?
Dunn: "Shea (Brewster), hands down, has got the job unless something weird happens over the next two weeks, but I wouldn't think anything will be too dramatic. I expect to see him in the opener against TCU. He's done a nice job. He was 3-for-3 on his PATs and hit a 38-yarder in the scrimmage the other day. He's done some good things and is really starting to come around."
Will Brewster also handle kickoffs?
Dunn: "Yes, potentially. He's battling with Caleb Allen. Caleb has a little bit of a stronger leg. Caleb will probably handle the duties, but it's hard to say at this point."
Who will be the punter?
Dunn: "Derek Epperson has a tremendous leg, and I think he is going to be a dynamite player for the Baylor Bears down the road for a long time to come. Like Shea Brewster, they are both talented, but both freshmen. You never know until they stand out in front of that big crowd and that pressure is on."
Talk about deep snapper Jonathan Weeks.
Dunn: "Jonathan (Weeks) is the money man. If it wasn't for him right now, I don't think I would be alive at this point. I'd probably be passed out somewhere. He's done a great job at bringing those young guys out there to practice and getting these guys to perform up to the level that we need to win. He kind of gets out there and takes those young guys and calms them down and really gets them to focus on the task at hand. About right now, without Jonathan Weeks, who know where we'd be. He's just been a tremendous asset."
You also coach wide receivers. How is that position shaping up?
Dunn: "You know, every position that I'm coaching this year has turned over from last year. But we're talented there too, and we're talented on special teams."
Who has caught you eye at receiver?
Dunn: "Well, it's hard to say right now. So many of them have been sidelined with injuries. I haven't had a full grip out there for more than four days. Right now, I'd say the guy that has really shown us a lot is Mikhail Baker. He's done a nice job coming out and making huge plays. Ernest Smith has done a great job too bouncing back from an ankle injury and making some great plays in the scrimmage the other day. We need him to step up. Thomas White and David Gettis should be back today in a back up role until they earn their jobs back. But they are competing and working hard, and we'll see what happens."
Have you enjoyed your time in Waco?
Dunn: "Absolutely. Waco's been great. I'm a family man here, and I've got mama bear and two little baby bears. It's a perfect place to raise a family."