Fiery Dave Ungerer brings passion to Beaver special teams
CORVALLIS - Mike Riley chuckles when asked to describe his new special- teams coach, Dave Ungerer.
'Fiery,' Riley says. 'He scares me.'
At times, Ungerer might hurt the feelings of his more sensitive players.
'Dave has that type of personality Mike likes - kind of easygoing,' receiver coach Lee Hull says. 'But Dave is also a little like (offensive line coach) Mike Cavanaugh. He'll get after you. Maybe not as much as Cav, but he gets after you.'
Ungerer, who comes to Oregon State after four years coaching special teams and tight ends at Alabama, says that's just a reflection of his passion for football.
'That's my nature,' says Ungerer, 50. 'I love the game, and I'm kind of an emotional guy. I feel like you have to play the game with enthusiasm. Hopefully, the players feed off that. I want us to get a little edge going out there.'
Riley played his college ball at Alabama but hadn't met Ungerer - who lost his job in Tuscaloosa when coach Mike Shula was fired - until the interview process. Ungerer's experience coaching special teams for 20 years, including stints at California (2002) and Maryland (1992-96), caught Riley's eye as he sought to replace Bruce Read, who left for the Dallas Cowboys.
'Dave has coached in three major conferences, and his personality and value system makes him a great fit for our coaching staff,' Riley says. 'He definitely has a different style than Bruce did, but however you do it, whether it's loud of soft, it's all about who you are and the teaching you do.
'The players have already made comments to me about appreciating his intensity. I don't think our special-teams play will skip a beat.'
It's a small world
Ungerer and Cavanaugh are both Owls from Southern Connecticut State.
'How does that happen?' says Ungerer , six years older than Cavanaugh. 'His brother, Rich, is the head coach there now. Mike and I know a lot of the same people, and we've talked over the years.'
'Great guy, great coach,' Cavanaugh says. 'Yeah, he's pretty intense - he brings that to the table.'
And there's another tie - Hull played at Holy Cross when Ungerer was coaching there, and Ungerer helped train Hull during the offseasons when Hull played for Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League. Riley was the Blue Bombers' coach at the time.
Riley was the first Pac-10 coach to have a full-time special-teams assistant when he hired Read at OSU in 1997. He considers the special-teams coach a third coordinator, giving Ungerer status alongside Danny Langsdorf with the offense and Mark Banker with the defense. It's the first time Ungerer has had the luxury of not having to coach a position along with his special-teams duties.
'It's good in that I can spend some quality time with the snappers, punters and kickers and give them some attention, which is your dilemma when you also coach a position,' Ungerer says. 'The worst thing is to work for a coach who just gives you 10 or 15 minutes in the middle of practice.'
A different style
Ungerer's philosophy differs some from Read's. Ungerer prefers to boot kickoffs to a hash mark rather than down the middle, as the Beavers have done in recent years. He'll implore Loomis to do more directional punting, as his predecessor, Sam Paulescu, often did. Ungerer likes to block kickoff returns on a man-to-man basis rather than using a wedge. And he'll be more aggressive in attempting to block punts.
'But it's all personnel-generated,' Ungerer says. 'I'm a big believer in playing to your strengths. When you have a great punt returner like Sammie, for instance, you take advantage of his talents. We just want to balance things out.'
Like Read, Ungerer embraces special teams.
'It's the essence of 'team,' ' he says. 'It blends offense and defense. You have a linebacker next to a fullback, a receiver next to a DB. Positive things can happen for you, but there are so many negative things on every play, too. There is the battle for field position and the exchange of momentum … the ball's in the air for a long time … there's a lot of strategy involved. You have to get kids to be smart in the open field. I love the challenge.'
Quarterback Sean Canfield looked superb in early drills but was much less impressive in Saturday's scrimmage, throwing interceptions to linebackers Joey LaRocque and Dennis Christopher on his first two series.
Canfield needs more experience, and he and JC transfer Lyle Moevao will get plenty of that the rest of the spring and in August training camp as they prepare for the Aug. 30 opener against Utah at Reser Stadium.
• Coach Mike Riley liked the defense and wasn't concerned as much with the offense's lack of sustained ball movement as he was with a rash of penalties.
'Our defense is pretty good, and the defensive guys played good,' he says. 'There's wasn't much room to run or throw the ball - the coverage was outstanding. It disrupted any (offensive) continuity. But we have to clean things up penalty-wise (on offense). Too many flags out there.'
• Christopher is one of about a dozen linebackers vying for playing time next fall, and the 6-1, 215-pound junior - a special-teams standout a year ago - had perhaps the biggest hit of the Saturday scrimmage.
'Dennis has made a move this spring,' Riley says. 'He's undersized, but so is Derrick (Doggett).'
• The Beavers are deep, too, on the defensive line. One player who has made an early mark is Sioeli Nau, a quick 6-2, 290-pound tackle transfer from Snow College in Utah who reminds observers of senior tackle William Akau'ola Vea.
'We have some clones in the D-line,' Riley says. 'Nau is one of them.'
• Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf has praise for Tavita Thompson, the 6-6, 305-pound junior who will replace Adam Koets at right offensive tackle.
'Tavita has lost some weight (15 pounds) and is moving well, playing with some toughness, pass-protecting well and playing hard,' Langsdorf says. 'That's exciting.'
- Kerry Eggers