Gutierrez, Peters headline Minot State special teams

When junior college transfer Brian Gutierrez joined the Minot State University football team this year, he encountered something he hadn’t seen before: a special teams playbook.

The junior kicker and punter acknowledged the playbook isn’t very thick – “probably a single sheet” – but it sent a clear message. Gutierrez will be asked to bring more to the team than a strong kicking leg.

“We run a lot of fakes,” Gutierrez said. “I’m learning to throw the ball, I’m learning to run the ball.”

The MSU coaching staff emphasizes special teams, stopping each practice multiple times to work with coverage and return units between offensive and defensive drills. The reason: special teams play can often decide close contests.

“We stress that a lot,” senior kickoff and punt returner Wayne Peters said. “Special teams can change the game (with) field position.”

Gutierrez signed with MSU this summer after two all-conference seasons at Los Angeles Pierce College. MSU sophomore Aaron LaDeaux – the team’s starting punter and kicker last season – had season-ending knee surgery, requiring the Beavers to seek an immediate replacement.

“He hasn’t kicked in a season yet, but he’s certainly a good person and a good kicker,” MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. “Everything we’ve seen in practice, we have no reason to doubt that he’s gonna do a fine job.”

Gutierrez has shown a powerful leg – his career-long field goal is 52 yards – and is working on his consistency during the preseason.

“I wanna get to the point where coach Rudy knows that, we’re 40 (yards) and in, he has three points in his pocket if he needs it,” Gutierrez said.

The Beavers tied for third in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference with 21.8 yards per kickoff return in 2012, but will have two new deep guys this season.

After fielding punts last season, Peters is adding kickoff returns to his game-day duties. He also starts at wide receiver.

“He usually does pretty good things with the ball in his hands,” Rudolph said. “He’s got some dynamic in him. He doesn’t possess great straight-line speed but he’s got good straight-line speed and he’s not afraid to weave in and out of some tight spots.”

Rudolph said junior Brandon Boston, sophomore Isaiah Steinwand and freshman Michael Jenkins are battling to join Peters at the back of the Beavers’ two-deep kickoff return formation.

Steinwand is expected to back up Peters on punt returns, where Peters averaged 9.88 yards per return in 2012.

Peters’ long was 31 yards, and he thinks he can reel off some more big gains this season.

“All you really need is the one block and the crease is usually there,” he said. “Coach (Andy) Heitkamp does a good job dialing up the blocks, so I just gotta spring it this year.”

Daniel Allar reports on Minot State University athletics and assists with high school coverage. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.

Editor’s note: This is part six of an eight-part series breaking down each unit of the Minot State University football team. Defensive linemen will be featured in Thursday’s paper.