Which players are going to handle kickoffs, field goals, extra points and punts isn’t among them.
“I think they do,” special teams coach Ed Lamb said Monday. “Their numbers showed it last year.”
“I believe we are the best duo and I will continue to believe that. We work really well off each other. We feed off each other. Ryan has been a great partner for me to work with in terms of a holder and I hope I can push him as a punter, as phenomenal as he is.” — BYU kicker Jake Oldroyd
You would get no argument from Oldroyd and Rehkow, who have been pushing toward that goal since the highly recruited Rehkow returned from his mission to London for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a year ago.
“I believe we are the best duo and I will continue to believe that,” said Oldroyd, a finalist last season for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation’s top kicker. “We work really well off each other. We feed off each other. Ryan has been a great partner for me to work with in terms of a holder and I hope I can push him as a punter, as phenomenal as he is. We work really well together and I hope that partnership continues for a long time.”
Rehkow, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound multi-sport athlete in high school, who is built more like a linebacker or tight end than a punter, said the specialists take pride in the unique bond they have formed and enjoy it when they are mentioned in the same breath.
“Obviously, if you are not competing to be the best, then there is not really a lot of reasons to compete,” Rehkow said, not disagreeing with the top tandem in the country hype. “We definitely have high expectations for ourselves. Coming off of last year, we are just looking to get better. I think we made a lot of improvements in the offseason. I think we just want to keep up that momentum.”
Lamb said in all his years in football he has never been involved on a team with two specialists this good.
“Both guys are national award nominee type of guys,” Lamb said. “I would say they are both at that caliber.”
Head coach Kalani Sitake said after spring camp that he’s probably never felt better about his specialists heading into a season than this year, after Oldroyd and Rehkow were spectacular in 2020.
“Those guys might even get me to like kickers and punters,” he quipped.
Here’s a closer look at each specialist:
‘Jake the Make’ recovers from subpar season
Oldroyd, 23, has seemingly been around forever because he made the game-winning field goal, a 33-yarder with eight seconds remaining, in his first game as a Cougar in 2016 to beat Arizona in the opener, which was also Sitake’s first game.
After an injury cut short the remainder of Oldroyd’s season, and caused him to count it as a redshirt year, he went on a church mission to Osorno, Chile. Upon returning in 2019, he doubled as the Cougars’ punter and kicker and made a 54-yard field goal against Washington, BYU’s first 50-plus field goal since 2006.
He struggled a bit with his accuracy, however, and was just 16 of 24 on field goals.
“Jake is super in tune to the fact that a couple years ago he had a slump,” Lamb said. “I feel really good about the experience that he gained. To me, that is the definition of maturity — facing a little bit of adversity and coming through it. I thought he responded well last year. I am super excited for him this year.”
Last year, Oldroyd became one of the top kickers in the country, as Rehkow came along to handle punting duties and allowed the product of Southlake, Texas, to focus on placekicking and kickoffs.
Oldroyd was a perfect 13 for 13 on field goals, setting a BYU single-season field goal percentage record, and was 60 for 62 on PATs.
“I try not to think too much about awards, and don’t really think those preseason honors mean anything. I know there are a lot of watch lists and things like that. But as far as I am concerned, I haven’t done anything to earn that yet,” he said. “I am just going to go take things one kick at a time, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Three of those field goals were from 50 or more yards; His 99 total points scored in 2020 — with an assist from BYU’s prolific offense, no doubt — ranked No. 6 among kickers.
Accolades poured in, most notably second-team All-America honors and the Groza Award citations. He became BYU’s first All-America kicker since Matt Payne in 2004.
“Of course, I can always improve,” Oldroyd said. “I would certainly love to have another year like last year, and I am going to do everything to make it even better. The key for me will be keeping my focus on the next play, versus what is going to happen 10 games from now and what the next play will do in terms of potential awards or whatever.”
Oldroyd spent the offseason concentrating on his flexibility and mobility, and “did a lot of pre-hab to make sure I am resistant to injury.” He also spent some time courting his girlfriend, a fellow BYU student who was introduced to him by teammate Ben Bywater, a linebacker.
Oldroyd became engaged Sunday, posting a picture of the event on Twitter with the cutline “Victory formation.”
As for his range on the football field, Oldroyd says he is comfortable making field goals “inside the 60,” but cautions that game situations are a lot different than practice.
“I haven’t really tried any 60-yarders, but with some of the balls I have hit in games, I know they could reach pretty far,” he said.
Off the field, Oldroyd is closing in on degrees in both accounting and Spanish. He could graduate this fall if he wanted to, but has “kinda pushed that back and elongated my schooling” to let his football eligibility catch up with his time in school.
Technically, he could play three more years, which would align him in eligibility with Rehkow and give BYU several more years of having the best specialist tandem in the country.
“I love Ryan — we do almost everything together, all our workouts, all our practices and even our work outside the team stuff,” Oldroyd said. “We share information and advice all the time.”
Running for it
Rehkow gained more notoriety last year for a 49-yard run against Texas State than for any of his 28 punts. In punt formation late in the game in another blowout, he noticed that TSU didn’t send a defender from his right side and took off with the ball, as he has been taught to do.
And even though another punt would have possibly added to his average or inside-the-20 percentage, he has no regrets.
“I mean, it was fun,” he said. “Afterwards, I definitely got some heat for it, but not from the coaches at all. … In the moment it was the right decision and I don’t regret it at all. It was a good time.”
Rehkow, from Spokane, Washington, finished the season with 28 punts for a 45.14 average, and a long of 61.
He would have ranked No. 12 in the country in punting average, but didn’t have enough to qualify among the listed NCAA leaders.
“Ryan’s only drawback last year was not enough punts to qualify to be one of the top punters in the country,” Lamb said. “But certainly he has that ability. I feel great about where we are at with those two.”
Even though BYU was No. 15 in net punting at 41.57 yards and opponents had only 80 punt return yards all season, Rehkow didn’t make the Ray Guy Award watch list this summer, for whatever reason.
He remains unfazed.
“The most difficult part of it was most of my punts came in the fourth quarter, so it was interesting,” he said. “You would get warmed up before the game, and then you sit a lot. I would just be waiting for my number to be called, and because the offense was so good last year it never came.”
Rehkow would find himself cheering for the offense, all the while knowing the better it did, the fewer chances he would get.
“It is more of a mindset to stay ready all the time, and then just staying warm so you can perform when your time comes,” he said. “Luckily, we have those heated benches and stuff. But yes, it is definitely a little challenging. But that’s what we are asked to do, so we do it.”
As was detailed last year by the Deseret News, Rehkow comes from an athletic, fun-loving family. His brother Austin, a former All-America punter at Idaho who got a taste of the NFL but is now in school to be a chiropractor, has tutored Ryan throughout his career.
“It would be easier to say how he hasn’t helped me, because everything I know has come from both him and my dad,” Rehkow said. “He paved the way for me. … We have grown up competing against each other, so honestly it is more nerve-wracking to compete against him at home than competing in games and practices.”
Ryan Rehkow also has NFL aspirations, but he’s not in a “big hurry” to get to the league.
Because the NCAA is giving the 2020 year back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rehkow still has four years of eligibility left, if he wants them.
“I’ve had the NFL as a goal ever since I started punting,” he said. “I knew I had the potential to do that, and so it is about really working hard right now. That is in the future. What’s important this year is doing well and holding myself to that standard that if I want to play in the pros I have to be at my best all the time.”
Rehkow said he suffered a few setbacks this summer, “just little nicks here and there, nothing crazy and no surgeries or anything like that,” but he’s 100% right now and will be ready when called upon.
“Hopefully, every once in a while our offense will give me a chance,” he says with a laugh.