2023 Fall Camp: Practice 4—Kelly Poppinga and Specialists Preview
PROVO, Utah – BYU football practiced Friday for its fourth session of fall camp as the Cougars continue their first week.
Today, BYU features special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga and the specialists, including 2023 Ray Guy Award nominee, punter Ryan Rehkow. Poppinga also coaches the defensive ends, which will be detailed later in camp.
|2023 BYU Specialists
|Veradale, WA/Central Valley HS
|Veradale, WA/Central Valley HS
|Heber City, UT/Wasatch HS
|Kaysville, UT/Boise State
|Honolulu, HI/Punahou HS
|Eagle, ID/Eagle HS
|Eagle, ID/Eagle HS
|Returners (P=Punt Return, K=Kick return)
|Davis, Miles (K)
|Las Vegas, NV/Las Vegas HS
|Eldredge, Koa (P/K)*
|Honolulu, HI/Punahou HS
|Gunther, Talmage (P)
|Cedar Hills, UT/Lone Peak HS
|Kingston, Parker (P/K)
|Layton, UT/Roy HS
|Marion, Keelan (P/K)*
|Nyberg, Hobbs (P/K)
|St. George, UT/Dixie HS
|McKenzie, Marcus (K)*
|St. George, UT/Pine View HS
|Ropati, Hinckley (K)
|Downey, CA/Cerritos College
Lost from 2022:
Jake Oldroyd, Justen Smith, Britton Hogan, Cash Peterman
Coach Preview - Kelly Poppinga
Former BYU linebacker and assistant coach Kelly Poppinga returned to BYU on Dec. 7, 2022 as the special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach under head coach Kalani Sitake.
Originally from Evanston, Wyoming, Poppinga joined the BYU football staff with 14 years of coaching experience, including 12 as a full-time assistant and 10 as a coordinator or co-coordinator.
Before returning to BYU, he served as the co-special teams coordinator and edge position coach at Boise State for the 2022 season. Prior to spending a year with the Broncos, Poppinga was at the University of Virginia for six seasons and on the BYU staff for seven years.
On special teams, Bronco punter James Ferguson-Reynolds was named to the 2022 College Football News Freshman All-America Second Team. Ferguson-Reynolds averaged 42.5 yards over 59 punts, with a long of 61. The Geelong, Australia, native dropped 19 punts inside the 20 and only had four punts go for touchbacks.
While at Virginia, Poppinga worked under former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall as the special teams coordinator for the 2016-17 seasons.
During Poppinga’s two seasons as the Cavaliers’ special teams coordinator, Virginia boasted the ACC’s top kick return specialist in 2017 and a Ray Guy Award semifinalist in 2016. In 2017, Joe Reed led the ACC at 29.7 yards per kick return – a mark that also ranked eighth nationally – and became the first Cavalier in school history to return multiple kickoffs for touchdowns. Reed was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In 2016, Nicholas Conte was named first-team All-ACC with a 44.3 yards per punt average. Conte led the nation with 34 punts inside the 20 and with 15 punts inside the 10 during the regular season, while six of his punts were downed at the one.
Poppinga was also the Cougars’ special teams coordinator from 2013-15. Under Poppinga, BYU’s special teams also ranked No. 7 in punting average and No. 19 in kick return coverage in 2014.
Head Coach Kalani Sitake on Coach Poppinga (From December, 2022)
“Kelly is a BYU guy who has a ton of previous experience with BYU football, having both played here and coached here. He’s recruited and coached some great players over his career, guys he has helped get to the NFL. Kelly is a tireless worker and a relentless recruiter. He brings outstanding experience as a special teams coordinator and defensive coach and coordinator from his time at Virginia in the ACC and with Boise State. I’m excited to have him back at BYU.”
Read select comments following Friday's practice from Coach Kelly Poppinga below
On the placekicking battle
“I feel very good about it. We didn’t kick today but we did during the first three days of camp. I’m very pleased with each of our three kickers, Will Ferrin, Matthias Dunn and Jordan Kapisi. I’m excited. Obviously, we need to get them in a game situation but over the last three practices, I don’t think Will has missed and Matthias has only missed one kick. I’m very confident in Will and he’s confident in himself and is feeling healthy. I think Matthias is right there with him as well. That’s a great problem to have. I tell the guys all the time, that the more confidence they have in themselves, by making their kicks they’ll build the confidence of the team as well. It’s great to see the support the team is giving them with the success they’re having. We’re going to try applying those pressure situations and that environment as much as we can until we get into the first game.”
On kicker Jordan Kapisi’s arrival
“Through recruiting, you always have a list of guys you’re aware of. We always have a list of walk-ons that we have to be ready to take. So, I’ve been talking to Jordan for a long time. If Justen Smith didn’t go due to injury, then Jordan was going to be here on the first day of school anyway. Instead of waiting until then, we just bumped Jordan up to fall camp.”
On previously coaching kicker Will Ferrin at Boise State
“I was with him during spring ball in 2022 at Boise State and he was battling our starting kicker. Really, percentage-wise, Will was better than our starting kicker. That guy had kicked forever and was one of the best kickers in the entire country.”
On correcting players during practice
“Coach Hill likes us to wait until we get into the film and instead focus on the next play. There’s little breaks in practice where we’ll correct things or emphasize something. I try to hold back and write the correction down, so I remember for later. In a game, however, you have to adjust from play to play and series to series. Here, we do most of our corrections in the film room.”
On veteran players teaching younger players
“That’s a culture that Kalani’s created. He talks a lot about peer-to-peer leadership. That’s a great thing. I see it a lot more on the offense, but the defense is starting to pick it up more and more. The more veteran guys teach the younger guys, that’s part of this program.”
BYU Special Teams
BYU's special teams start with three-time Ray Guy Award Watch List honoree, punter Ryan Rehkow.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rehkow earned recognition on the 2023 list for the third consecutive year after averaging 46.2 yards per punt last season, which would have been good for No. 5 nationally but only punted 3.1 times per game, less than the 3.6 minimum to qualify for the statistical leaders.
Rehkow, a preseason All-Big 12 second-team selection by Phil Steele averages 46.8 yards per punt for his career and has 39 boots of over 50 yards and 48 of 108 career punts dropped inside the 20.
The Veradale, Washington, product is a three-time All-Independent performer and holds the school record with an 83-yard punt in 2020.
The younger brother of Ryan, Landon Rehkow arrives as a newcomer in 2023 and looks to find a role as the backup punter ready to follow in his brother's footsteps.
Ryan Rehkow has also served as the primary holder on placekicking as well.
The kicking game will be a competition throughout camp as the all-time leading scorer Jacob Oldroyd graduated and Justen Smith and Cash Peterman have moved on.
Will Ferrin, a Boise State transfer and other newcomers Matthias Dunn from Heber City, Utah and Jordan Kapisi out of Honolulu, Hawai'i look to earn the starting spot during camp. Ferrin and Dunn competed in spring and the younger brother of former BYU defensive back Jared Kapisi joining the squad for fall camp.
All three have the leg to give BYU a weapon in the kicking game and will also look to handle kickoff duties up for grabs.
BYU returns its field of longsnappers in 2023, with another set of brothers, Austin Riggs and backing him up, younger brother Dalton Riggs.
The elder Riggs has served as BYU's snapper for three seasons, taking over all duties in 2022 after splitting some time with the departed Britton Hogan. Riggs was recently named to the 2023 Patrick Mannelly Award, presented annually to the top long snapper in college football.
The return game is an area where the Cougars seek to make more of an impact in 2023.
Hobbs Nyberg returns as a punt returner, joined by the sure-handed Talmage Gunther with experience, but speedster Parker Kingston looks to get into the action this season after getting reps with the scout team in 2022.
Nyberg had nine returns for 115 yards in 2022 and was named to the 2023 Phil Steele, Athlon Sports and Sports Info Solutions Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
Newcomers Koa Eldredge, a freshman from Honolulu and UConn transfer Keelan Marion also aim to earn reps as a punt returner in 2023. Marion had experience for the Huskies with 10 returns for 124 yards, an average of 12.4 with a long of 45 yards.
All five of them will compete for kick return opportunities, with Nyberg getting the most touches in 2022 with 17 returns for 388 yards, an average of 22.8 yards per return.
Running backs Hinckley Ropati and Miles Davis, who returned four kicks in 2021, will get into the mix as kick returners, joined by defensive back Marcus McKenzie.
BYU has plenty of options to make an impact in the important special teams area in 2023.
For the third straight year, BYU junior Isaac Rex has been named to the John Mackey Award Watch List, presented…