CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (SEMO) - Southeast Missouri will have a new look on special teams this season after losing its top kicker and return man.
Despite the loss of All-American and three-year starting punter/kicker Doug Spada and kick returner Jacob McKinley, the Southeast specialists are gearing up for another strong year.
"I definitely want to work on our net punt," said Southeast special teams coach Chris Norris. "The type of punt we're doing is built for cover and trying to get you as close to that zero net gain as possible. Our goal is to stop those punts from being brought back."
Redshirt-freshman Joe Vucic and redshirt-sophomore Drew Geldbach are expected to handle the punting and kicking duties this season.
Vucic, one of two Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) transfers who joined the team in 2010, redshirted at Mid-American Conference member Kent State a year ago.
Geldbach also redshirted in 2009 after coming to Southeast from Missouri.
As of now, Vucic is the frontrunner for the punting job, while Gelbach holds a slight edge from a placekicking standpoint.
"Joe is a nice addition. He has a real strong leg and has good hang time on his punts," said Norris. "Drew had a good summer and is doing a great job on extra points and field goals."
Vucic or Geldbach will also handle kickoffs. That role is currently open since the team will be installing its kickoff coverage later this week.
As far as returns go, Southeast will count on true freshman Spencer Davis.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Davis has excellent speed and might have been the state's most electrifying return man last year at Hazelwood Central High School.
Davis averaged 18.3 yards on 25 punt returns and 39.1 yards on eight kickoff returns in 2009. He also ran back eight punts for touchdowns as a senior and was part of two state championship teams during his prep career.
"Spencer is exciting to watch," said Norris. "He's hard to find and when you do find him, you can't catch him." Seniors Abraham Woodard and Henry Harris also have experience returning kicks.
Redshirt-sophomore longsnapper Brandon Gabbard is the lone returning starter on special teams. Gabbard saw action in all 11 games in 2009.
"We felt that Brandon was one of the top longsnappers in the country when we recruited him and he has really done a nice job for us," said Norris. "He's very accurate and fast."