Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio had just completed a recent spring practice when he pulled out a piece of paper that included his agenda for the afternoon. It called for such activities as kicking off with his eyes closed, kicking off with his eyes open, kicking off with a ball and kicking off without a ball.
New special teams coach Jeff Genyk is leaving no stone unturned. The former head coach at Eastern Michigan has brought a labor-intensive approach to Berkeley, as the Bears attempt to improve a special teams unit that was one of the worst in the Pac-10 last season.
Genyk, a former punter at Bowling Green who also coached All-America kicker Andrew Wellock at Eastern Michigan, has been working hard with Cal kickers Vince D'Amato, David Seawright and Tavecchio to examine every element of their game. Tavecchio and D'Amato combined to go just 15-for-24 on field goals last year, and neither established any consistency driving the ball deep on kickoffs.
"He wants us to be aware of everything, from how we wipe our brow to whether we breathe in our left nostril or right nostril," Tavecchio said. "He has us write down everything that happens, from when we start taking our steps back to actually kicking the ball. It's everything we do — how we warm up, how we kick, how we take our steps, how we breathe when we take our steps, where we look. He wants all of that set in stone."
Genyk says he learned that coaching technique from working with Wellock, who was a Lou Groza Award finalist in 2004. The idea is to have everything become so routine that external factors won't have an impact.
"They have to understand what the fundamental steps are — what they do pre-snap, what they do during the snap and what they do post-snap, and then make it the same over and over and over again, so it becomes unconscious," Genyk said. "That way, the kick in practice is the same as the big kick in October or November."
After the jump, Tavecchio tells us what exactly has changed under Genyk's watch, a former Cal fullback gets into trouble with the law, Monty looks forward to building a big, tough 2010-11 team, and more.
- Here's a sample of what Giorgio said about working under Coach Genyk
On Genyk’s focus on repetitions:
"Consistency is the big word for a kicker. He has us write down everything that happens, from when we start taking our steps back to actually kicking the ball. Memorize it, put it in your heart and then do it on every kick, whether it’s an extra point in the first quarter against Maryland or Davis, or a game-winning field goal to go to the Rose Bowl. It has to be the same. He’s really been stressing that."
On how he’s embraced Genyk’s approach:
"I’ve really bought into his program. He’s big on the mental game. It’s like when you drive. When you first learn, it takes a lot of focus and concentration to learn how to drive a stick shift. Ten years after you learn how to drive, you’re using a stick shift while eating a burger and talking on the phone. You’re used to it. That’s how he wants us to be with kicking, that it’s so ingrained in us that everything that happens should be like you don’t even know it’s going on. It just happens. That way, you can focus on just you and none of the external factors that may affect the kick."
On the differences between Genyk and former special teams coach Pete Alamar:
"When he says something, he does it. He’s been strict, but I’ve found with my personality I really excel with structure. I’ve bought into his program 100 percent. I think he’ll make me the best kicker I’ll ever be. Coach Alamar kind of let us do what we wanted a little bit more. During practice, he’d work on our stuff, but it was more of a relaxed atmosphere."
On Genyk’s focus on leg management:
"He’s going to try to maintain our legs. I think sometimes our legs just were dead. That comes from working hard in the weight room and keeping fit, but also having better leg management. In fall camp, his idea is to kick every other day. Last fall camp, we just kicked like madmen every day. It was great for fall camp, but I felt at the end of the season I was dead at times."
- Former Cal fullback RJ Xavier Garret was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. He was dismissed from the football team in 2008 after a previous run-in with the law.
- Nick Daschel rates Pac-10 tight ends. Thanks to Anthony Miller, Cal is in the top category, "the wealthy" along with Oregon St and Washington.
- Faraudo posts an impressive lists of statistics Randle has compiled during his career at Cal.
- SFGate looks ahead to larger but less experienced 2010-11 team. Faraudo also looks into the future. Monty looks forward to having a big, tough team reminiscent of his dominant teams at Stanford.