LSU hasn’t always been know for its consistency in the special teams department. Prior to the Ed Orgeron era, the unit struggled to find consistency in the kicking game, often times relying on trick plays that made the group so fun to watch for many years.
But those kinds of plays were only on special occasions and far too often the purple and gold left fans on pins and needles when the field goal unit trotted out. That hasn’t been the case since special teams coordinator Greg McMahon arrived.
McMahon has an extensive special teams background that includes college stops and with the New Orleans Saints, where he helped Thomas Morstead and Wil Lutz become one of the best special teams duos in the NFL before joining the Tigers in 2018. Since that season he’s helped the special teams group become one of the most consistent in the country, coaching the likes of Cole Tracy, Zach Von Rosenberg, Cade York and Avery Atkins.
The culture around the special teams group has signficantly changed since the addition of McMahon to the room and Atkins would know better than most, arriving the very same year as McMahon.
“I think when coach Mac got here he kind changed the culture of special teams, bringing in Cole Tracy that kind of kickstarted the consistency we’ve had,” Atkins said. “Just the culture we’ve deveolped, we’ve got so many great players already in the NFL or had shots. I really say it goes down to coach Mac. He demands a lot from us and that’s what we need. He’s done a lot to lead to the consistency you’ve seen the last couple of years.”
Atkins is currently in a punting dual with freshman Peyton Todd, who comes in as one of the highly touted kicking prospects in the country. Over the last few years Atkins has delivered as a kickoff specialist, booming nearly every kickoff through the back of the endzone during his time with the program.
He had some experience as a punter in high school but admitted it’s been a bit of an adjustment but that the extra experience and knowledge helps along the way.
“We’ve got great coaches and Zach [Von Rosenberg] helped me a lot because I was punting a lot in the background the last two years. Bringing in Peyton helps too because everyone has knowledge. Cade [York] is a kicking and punting guru so it’s been an adjustment but I’m happy where I am right now.”
York returns as a junior and first team All-American, Atkins will remain in his kickoff role and the punting competition will probably remain in full force until the Sept. 4 opener.