The worst-kept secret about legendary Pacific Lutheran University football coach Frosty Westering is that he preferred not to depend on kickers.
But the man who took his place — his son — says the two booming legs on the Lutes’ special teams this season are reliable.
“It’s the best it’s been in a long time,” Scott Westering said.
In 2016, the PLU special teams have been a strength, not a weakness.
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Not only does placekicker Dallan Rodriguez have the type of strong leg that most former soccer players do, he is accurate. The junior has made four field goals in six attempts, including two in the team’s 27-16 victory last weekend over Pacific to open Northwest Conference play.
Punter Anthony Louthan is the reigning NWC special teams player of the week. The sophomore averaged 40 1/2 yards per punt against Pacific, including a 56-yarder. Two of his six punts were downed inside the Boxers 10-yard line. And Pacific had no return yards.
Then there is the unsung contributor, long snapper George Foster, who is considered one of the better ones that the Lutes have had in a while.
“We hit the trifecta,” PLU special teams coordinator Jud Keim said.
A look at the two kickers:
▪ Rodriguez grew up playing soccer in Pocatello, Idaho. So did his two brothers.
Because his father, Darrin, loved football so much, Rodriguez said he would give football a try.
As an incentive, after a couple of weeks, Darrin said he would wager $20 that his son could not make a 40-yard field goal. The teenager accepted the challenge.
“We lived a minute from (Highland High School),” Rodriguez said. “He set up a football on the lid for a can of spray paint, and I sunk it.
“He paid me.”
The two-time, all-state kicker in Idaho had planned on walking on at Stanford, but one of his test scores was too low to be accepted. So early in the spring of 2014, Rodriguez was without a school.
Fortunately for him, the Lutes were without a kicker recruit, too.
“We had six to eight leads on guys ... that all fell through,” Keim said. “One of the recruiting services we used sent us something on (Rodriguez). I sent him a quick email, and he got right back to me.”
Rodriguez is quite an athlete: He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seonds. He has a 35-inch vertical jump. And his bench press is well over 300 pounds.
Needless to say, he displays plenty of leg strength to make longer field goals — even when it isn’t necessary.
“My best coaching point with Dallan is that we don’t need the driver, we need the 3-wood,” Keim said. “We don’t want him overcooking those kicks.”
To which Rodriguez responded, “It was a good analogy. ... I don’t have to crank it out of the park.”
▪ Louthan knows that his primary role for the Lutes is punting.
But don’t label him strictly as a punter.
He did a little bit of everything at Montesano High School, starting as a punter as a ninth-grader in 2011. He played a little running back, then started at quarterback in his senior season.
“I did not have a soccer background, and that seems to be where most kickers come from,” Louthan said. “At Monte, it was, ‘Who wants to do (punting) — and who has the leg to do it?’ ”
At PLU, Louthan is a backup tight end who sees up to 10 snaps a game.
“I love punting, and that comes first,” Louthan said. “Whatever comes after that is extra.”
Keim’s approach with Louthan isn’t to overcoach technique.
“He has real savviness in situational punting,” Keim said. “And he has a thunder leg. He is not built like a punter, but he has real hip flexion and overall flexibility.”
And because of Louthan’s background, Keim puts in a couple of fake-punt gadget plays into the game plan each week.
In fact, Louthan is 2 for 2 in picking up first downs on fake-punt calls. The first came last season at Pacific, where he got loose for a 45-yard run.
“That was crazy,” Louthan said. “To get that call, I was like, ‘All right, let’s make sure and catch the ball first.’ ”
In the second game this season at Trinity University in Texas, Louthan ran 12 yards for a first down on the same play call.
“This year, I was so much more relaxed in that situation,” Louthan said.
In weekly team meetings with Keim, the longtime PLU assistant refers to Rodriguez and Louthan as “Kicker” and “Punter,” and not by their names.
“The difference with these two ... they generate great velocity on their kicks,” Keim said. “You do not see that very often at our level. And it is unique to have them here at the same time.”