Freshman kicker, 'lightning' fast return man lead charge for ASU football's special teams

With the offense in question, special teams will play a vital role in the 2017-18 season

Despite fans usually coming to Sun Devil Stadium for the offense and defense, this season the forgotten side of the ball may matter more than they realize.

For more than two full quarters of the Sun Devils’ scrimmage at Camp Tontozona the score was six to zero — the six points coming from freshman kicker Brandon Ruiz.

“The first time I really got to see him kick we did a game winner from 58 yards and he nailed it,” said senior running back and longtime special teamer Jacom Brimhall.

Ruiz was a highly-valued recruit after a video surfaced of him hitting a 72-yard field goal while practicing.

“I mean, I’d heard people tell me he had a YouTube video of him kicking 70-plus yards,” Brimhall said. “You always hear hype about that with kids coming out of high school, but when you see them kick a 58-yard field goal like it’s nothing you got to be impressed.”

A 72-yard field goal may be impressive, but even more was his 55-yard field goal on turf that had been soaked from overnight rainfall in Saturday’s team scrimmage.

“Manny took that (snap), and I remember looking at him because he’s only held a few times, like maybe twice in practice so far. So we get out there, and he’s a little different than (Sleep-Dalton on his hold). He gave me straight laces on the ball, so that kind of threw me off a little bit,” Ruiz said. “But I hit it clean, and if you hit it clean it’s going to go in.”

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver and punt returner Ryan Newsome is competing with Brimhall for the starting punt returner job. However, Brimhall said he believes Newsome will end up getting the starting spot.

“I mean the guy is lightning,” Brimhall said.

Newsome's teammates consider him one of the fastest on the team, and he wants to showcase his quickness at every given opportunity.

“I could do a little bit of everything man,” Newsome said. “Speed is definitely an asset I don’t take for granted. God has blessed me with it.”

Newsome got plenty of reps returning punts during Saturday’s scrimmage as the offense was forced to punt seven times.

ASU’s defensive units racked up seven sacks during the game, which seemed to give the offense no other choice than to continue kicking to Newsome.

Despite several opportunities to return the punts, Newsome decided a fair catch was in his best interest. He said he is still perfecting his ability, and his choice to fair catch was more of a safety decision.

However, Newsome said fans will see much more than him waving his hand in the air when the New Mexico State Aggies come to town on Aug. 31.

“I’m really just soaking up all the knowledge that I can, but I really feel I can really do something special on punt return, kick return as well and wide out,” Newsome said. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.

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