The summer work-outs the Golden Eagle football team have been going through the past several weeks are not just for the position players.
Every member of the team has benefited from Coach Smith's tough work out plan that is restoring toughness and discipline, including the specialists.
No one knows this more than Corey Acosta, starting kicker for Southern Miss, who says the team focus has made everyone play an equal role in the great things happening.
“All the kickers do all the conditioning and all the lifting," Acosta said in an interview after a summer work-out.
"We are just there with all those guys, and we run with the skill group when it is individual runs and with the team of course during the team runs.
"It is tough running with those skill groups, but I have been very proud of all our group. In the running and lifting part we do the best we can. All my group has given great effort, and all of us are making our times and getting after it.
"We are trying to do what we need to do, so that when the team looks at us they say, ‘you know these guys have done everything that we have had to do and have put in the work just like us.’"
The infectious attitude of all the coaching staff has helped everyone on the team move forward and look ahead to much brighter days.
“It is more of an attitude of our coaches that they are bringing this intensity, especially in the weight room," he said. "They are getting us ready for fall camp and the season. When your coaches have that intense attitude all the time, guys want to get better instead of just forced to get better, and that has been a huge difference.”
Acosta walked us through a typical summer for himself as a kicker leading the unit.
“Right now we’ll kick about two days a week for June," he detailed.
"We’ll kick it up in July to about 3-4 times a week. Its more about our individual skill right now as specialists. We are working on a lot of technique stuff. The best time to get better as a specialist is over the summer, because you are implementing some new things, like the small things.
"It turns out those small things are what really add up to make the difference between those extra five yards on your field goals.
“We obviously still do some live reps, but June is much more individual based. In July we will work on more group work and getting our timing down and that type of things for fall camp.”
Interesting enough, Acosta said his work-outs are what we've been hearing is going on with all the other players, something that helps bring unity and solidarity.
“We are doing everything that everyone else is doing," he said. "There is a lot of explosive lifts in there, and that is a great thing for us. Kicking is an explosive movement in your leg, so these work outs are really great for us. In the next week or so we’ll get more into core work-outs because that is vitally important for us.”
Acosta had a very solid season last year despite a rough injury that didn't hinder his kicking, but sure made him have to deal with a lot of pain through it.
“I ended up in the Rice game last year dislocating my shoulder on the first kick-off as I was making a tackle," he explained.
"I popped it back into place and then it popped out again on the second kick-off. I had a tear in the labrum, but I went ahead and played the rest of the season.
"After the season I had surgery and wasn’t able to kick for about 13 weeks. I was happy to come back and have a productive and successful spring because my holder and snapper did a great job for me. I have one more month of therapy and then I’ll finally be free and clear.”
New special team's coordinator John Wozniak has made sure the Golden Eagle special team's unit is on the same page, and Acosta is excited about the opportunity to reunite with a coach he's had experience with in the past.
“Coach Woz was a special teams coordinator at Memphis, and he was the first person to offer me a Division One scholarship," Acosta said.
"I never wanted to go there, but because Coach Woz was there I considered it. Low and behold, three years later he’s now my coordinator.
"He knows what he is talking about, and knows more than the average special team’s coach. He’s a great guy who everyone respects a ton. We love playing for him and he’s just a coach that everyone loves to play for.
"He's got us ready to get back into fall camp and get after it again."