David Lauder's nickname is "Ozone," because that's where he sends the football on his kickoffs. Alan Boardman boomed his punts an average of 43.1 yards last season, ninth best in the nation - and he was just a freshman.
It's safe to say the BYU football team will have plenty of leg power this season. If Lauder can get his accuracy back after a year-long layoff, the Cougars will have an outstanding kicking game."Lauder has a strong leg and Boardman's punting the ball extremely well," BYU coach LaVell Edwards said. "Our kicking game should be pretty solid."
Lauder, a senior from Centerville, was the Cougar kicker in '92 before sitting out last season. His kickoffs routinely went into and sometimes out of the end zone. He was 42-43 in extra points, made 13 of 20 field-goal attempts and was named honorable mention all-WAC. Lauder may be best remembered, however, for missing a pair of medium-length field-goal attempts (31 and 36 yards) in BYU's 23-20 Aloha Bowl loss to Kansas.
"It's going to take (Lauder) a while to get completely back into the swing of things after being out a year, but he's hitting the ball well," Edwards said.
Boardman was a bright spot in a disappointing season in '93. He had kicks of 61, 58, 57, 56 and 55 yards and was also adept at pooching kicks inside the 20. As a freshman he was named honorable mention all-WAC.
While the kicking game should be strong, the Cougars return other special team veterans as well. Long snapper Morris Unutoa and holder Tim Nowatzke are back. Mike Johnston, a junior, averaged 7.7 yards per punt return, including a 32-yarder against Utah. Nowatzke averaged 27 yards per kickoff return, while sophomore Mark Atuaia is back from a mission and is a legitimate kickoff return threat.
OVERALL - The Cougar offense should be the WAC's best while the defense will be improved but still only a little better than the average WAC team. Despite question marks on the defensive side of the ball, the overall team grade is greater than the average of its parts. BYU's tradition, coaching staff and prolific offense should be enough to give the Cougs yet another WAC title.