USC special teams coming together under new coordinator Sean Snyder – Press Enterprise

USC special teams coming together under new coordinator Sean Snyder – Press Enterprise

If ever there was a year to get creative with how to hone your craft, it’s 2020. Sometimes that means getting chased off of neighborhood fields while working on kicking, as USC’s Chase McGrath did this summer. Other times, it’s Damon Johnson and his father tying a tire to a tree as a target for long snapping.

That extends to coaches, too, as USC special teams coordinator Sean Snyder has discovered in training camp.

“I’ve been able to challenge myself in creativity, which I haven’t had to do like this for my entire career,” the veteran coach said Wednesday.

Snyder came to USC this past offseason after spending the previous 26 years coaching at his alma mater, Kansas State. So for the first time since the 1990s, Snyder has had to install his special teams without any groundwork laid in previous seasons.

And, of course, under unusual circumstances. Due to California rules surrounding COVID-19, USC has had to split the team onto separate practice fields. At first, they did so by defense and offense, so Snyder spent time with the defense, working on installing units that mostly relied on players from that side of the ball, such as kickoff, punt and punt return.

He did the same with the offensive players, focusing on punt and kickoff return. But it wasn’t until the team came together that Snyder was able to show everyone how it all fit together.

“There was some retention that came out of it, which was good, so it wasn’t like we were starting from scratch,” Snyder said. “The timing and getting them all synced in together and working together, it’s taken a little bit of time, but I was real pleased with practice [Tuesday].”

So far, Snyder says he’s been pleased with the play of defensive stalwarts like Isaiah Pola-Mao, Talanoa Hufanga and Chase Williams in coverage units, as well as Raymond Scott, Bru McCoy, Drake London and John Jackson.

And Snyder has seen progress from punter Ben Griffiths.

“Basically, we need good hangtimes, great hangtimes. Good distance. Don’t want to out-punt our coverage,” Snyder said. “Those are the things that when I first saw Ben, and he’s a great talent, but it was just a little bit inconsistent, what he was doing. … He’s really doing well right now, and I’ve been very very pleased. What he has the potential to do this year is unlimited.”

Some stuff still needs to be ironed out. Snyder says he hasn’t settled on kick or punt returners, though Amon-Ra St. Brown, Olaijah Griffin, Tyler Vaughns and Stephen Carr have had their turns.