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March 30, 2010Ask any Southern Miss football fan what the team's main problem was last year and they'll tell you one of two things: defense or kicking field goals.
While defense may be a bit more complex problem to solve, the Golden Eagle coaching staff has taken several steps to cure the kicking woes which cost them as many as three games last season.
One step is the signing of one of the nation's top kicking recruits, Corey Acosta out of Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, another is the hiring of special teams coach Kasey Dunn from the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.
"We take a lot of pride in special teams," said Dunn, who will also coach wide receivers. "Our players are skilled, fast and running and that's what you want."
The Golden Eagles converted 14 of 20 field goal attempts in 2009, and were a woeful 42 of 52 on extra point attempts, which are generally considered automatic points at the college level.
Kicking mishaps cost the Eagles against C-USA rival East Carolina last year when an extra point which would have given them the lead with three minutes remaining was locked and returned for two points giving the Pirates a two point lead and all of the momentum.
The Eagles also failed to convert on two extra points and a field goal in a 50-47 loss to Houston, who went on to win Conference USA's western division.
Dunn said he feels like he can whip USM's kickers into shape, but right now he's still adjusting to coaching at Southern Miss.
"Right now the schemes are a little bit different," said Dunn. "It all comes down to whether or not your guys believe in what you do and do they come out every single play and give it their all."
Southern Miss returns one of the league's best punters in sophomore Peter Boehme, but there may still be more questions than answers at the place-kicking position when fall rolls around.
With the signing of Acosta, the nation's No. 13 place kicking recruit by Rivals.com, and the return of senior Justin Estes, Southern Miss has a couple of options.
"I'm excited about (Acosta)," Fedora said. "I'm really excited about him. We expect him to come in here and compete immediately for the job. Obviously we had a lot of problems in that area, so he was a very big part of this recruiting class."
This feature was originally published in the Student Printz on March 30, 2010.