Arriving at Sam Houston State as a walk-on football player, Matt Powledge played on a lot of special teams and saw how those units could affect football games.
Now as a coach, special teams have become Powledge’s specialty.
After coaching special teams at Louisiana (Lafayette) for the last two seasons, Powledge has the same role on new Baylor coach Dave Aranda’s staff.
Powledge likes what he sees at Baylor. One of the major reasons the Bears finished 11-3 and earned a Sugar Bowl berth last season was tremendous special teams play.
“I’m extremely excited about it, I couldn’t be more fired up to be the special teams coordinator here,” Powledge said. “We’ve got really good specialists. We’ve got unbelievable team speed. We’ve got some guys with a knack for blocking kicks or returning kicks or returning punts.”
Kicker John Mayers is back after hitting 16 of 19 field goals last season along with punter Isaac Power who averaged 40.3 yards on 69 punts. Like those two players, Noah Rauschenberg will be a sophomore this fall after nailing 34 of 56 kickoffs for touchbacks.
Meanwhile, Josh Fleeks is coming into his junior year after averaging 22 yards on 11 kickoff returns last season. The Bears also blocked five kicks last season.
Besides his special teams duties, Powledge will also coach Baylor’s safeties. Though starters Grayland Arnold, Chris Miller and Henry Black are gone, younger players like JT Woods, Christian Morgan and Jairon McVea have considerable experience.
“I’ve watched a good number of games from last season and kind of looked at some profile tapes of the guys that played last year and I’ve been impressed,” Powledge said. “It’s a talented young group with a lot of speed and athleticism.”
After working under defensive coordinator Ron Roberts the last two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Powledge is glad to back with his mentor at Baylor.
“I think Coach Roberts is an unbelievable teacher and a great motivator and gets young men to play extremely hard,” Powledge said. “He has a great teaching style and it’s not always the same. The ability to adapt based on maybe what that young man’s learning style is what I think is really unique. So I’ve learned a lot from him over the last couple of years and I’m really excited to be working with him here in Waco.”
During his playing days at Sam Houston State from 2005-09, Powledge not only performed on a variety of special teams but also worked his way into playing safety, linebacker, tight end and running back.
Since he was a graduate of Huntsville High School, Powledge didn’t have to leave town to attend college.
“I didn’t get heavily recruited out of high school,” Powledge said. “So funny story, I walked on there in the summertime and started summer workouts when really the walk-ons weren’t supposed to show up until the fall. But being a local kid, I just showed up and made my way onto the team.
“I made a lot of impact on special teams throughout my career. But I ended up starting as a sophomore, all-conference as a junior. I was named team captain my senior year which I was really proud of.”
After taking graduate assistant positions at Southeastern Louisiana and Kentucky, Powledge returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach where he developed superb special teams units for the Bearkats in 2014-15.
In his next coaching stop, Powledge served as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator for Louisiana-Monroe from 2016-17 before his two-year stint at Louisiana where he coached outside linebackers as well as special teams.
“I have known Matt for several years through camps in Louisiana,” Aranda said. “I have great respect for his intelligence and his work ethic. He is a great recruiter as well as a great developer of special teams. I was impressed with what he was able to do at Louisiana-Lafayette, turning their special teams unit into the best in the conference and one of the top in the nation.”
Powledge likes being back in Texas because of the wealth of recruiting opportunities in high schools throughout the state.
As a former college walk-on, his ability to spot promising talent will be an asset to Baylor’s staff. He can’t wait to see the quality of players he can recruit to a Big 12 school and then get a chance to coach them.
“You grow up in the state of Texas, especially like I did in the 90s, Big 12 football is everything,” Powledge said. “So this opportunity to coach in this league, in this conference, especially with what they’ve done over recent years is really exciting.”