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USU: REPORT CARD

Two junior kickers with good shots at postseason all-conference honors and a senior return specialist who's among the best in the nation.

Why wouldn't the head coach decide to preside over Utah State's special teams? Looks like automatic duty.Well, yes and no.

Certainly kicker Micah Knorr and punter-when-he's-healthy Nate Morreale and first-team All-Big West return specialist Kevin Alexander make coach John L. Smith's special teams truly dangerous.

But their support people, says Smith, are far from being set. "They'll be question marks until we go through a real game," he said.

The Aggie special teams are still undergoing a lot of fine-tuning. Smith wants good players on special teams, but he also doesn't want to use too many who are entrenched starters on offense or defense. They should be rested.

Alexander, a premier wide receiver, won't get much rest, although Smith says junior college transfer Jason Bandy is pushing Alexander for the punt-return job. Bandy doesn't have Alexander's speed, but he cleanly fields virtually every kick - important on punts.

Smith says Aggie special teams coaches are still mixing and matching people at other positions on the return and cover teams, and he expects that process to go on for perhaps a couple of games.

Morreale, last year's punter after being the placekicker as a freshman, has had a groin pull in his kicking leg and didn't begin practicing until this week.

Knorr, last year's leading Aggie scorer with 63 points, ranked 16th in the NCAA in field goals per game (1.4) and made eight of nine beyond 40 yards in 1994. In Wednesday's final scrimmage, he booted a 59-yarder; his career-best was a 54-yarder for the AT&T Long Distance Award at Colorado State in '94. (Alexander won two Long Distance Awards, one for a return and one for a pass reception TD.) Knorr handles kickoffs, too.