“Koo and the Gang” – Atlanta Legends thriving on special teams

By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance

ATLANTA – When it comes to special teams, the Atlanta Legends have all their bases covered.


SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 17: Younghoe Koo #7 of the Atlanta Legends kicks a field goal as Cameron Nizialek #9 holds in the first quarter against the San Diego Fleet during the Alliance of American Football game at SDCCU Stadium on February 17, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/AAF/Getty Images)
sport, alliance of american football, aaf

The Legends have a talented punter in Cameron Nizialek and kicker Younghoe Koo. Both are two-thirds of “Koo and the Gang” along with long snapper Jeff Overbaugh.

Nizialek is averaging 47.1 yards per punt and Koo is 4-for-4 on field goals. However, it’s the discipline of the unit that makes everything go.

The Legends face the Birmingham Iron in their home opener on February 24 at 4:00 p.m. ET at Georgia Stadium. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network. BUY TICKETS HERE.

“I think I have been punting the ball pretty well,” Nizialek said. “It’s been good to get back out and start punting live in games again.”

Under special teams coordinator Mark Criner, the Legends have honed into a unique approach. The punt team features primarily backs and receivers.

The Legends will rotate receivers on the outside and running backs to protect in the interior.

The skill players know how to get off the line of scrimmage and block downfield. As a result, it’s helping the team flip the field position on fourth downs.

“Our hold-up (at the line) has been terrific,” Criner said. “Punt teams aren’t getting past the line of scrimmage in three seconds. I think we have done a good job at that.”

This season, the unit has put on a show. They have been consistent in coverage and built walls for the returners.

According to Criner, he wants the unit to average one first down per attempt.

“We are punting and kicking the ball very well,” Criner said. “We do need to improve in our return game. We haven’t had the returns we would’ve liked, but I feel good right now about what we are doing and our plans for the upcoming game.”

The Legends will rely on a trio of returners against the Birmingham Iron. Receivers Ervin Philips, Justin Thomas and Montay Crockett have gotten reps in practice. Criner expects one player to establish themselves and lead the unit.

Nizialek agrees. He feels the unit has gelled and built chemistry since the beginning of training camp.

“I think we have come a long way from the first time that we have come together,” Nizialek said. “It takes a lot of time to put together a punt team with looking at different pressures. From where we started to where we are now, it’s definitely been a big improvement.”

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