As fans know, football teams have three phases: offense, defense and "we-fense."
At least, that's the way new University of Wisconsin tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Jay Boulware refers to it.
"I think the key, when playing "we-fense" is what we call it — where you combine offense and defensive players together — it's a team game in its purest sense," Boulware said.
"Other coaches on the staff, you just have offensive kids or defensive kids. When you're special teams coordinator, you have them both. Now, that's a time when kids can come together and play with each other."
Boulware spent the past four seasons coaching tight ends and special teams at Auburn, where he presided over some of the best special teams units in the country. Auburn's punt coverage team last season ranked No. 2 nationally, allowing only 4 return yards on 70 punts. The kickoff coverage team was No. 3, allowing 16.6 yards per return.
The previous year, Auburn led the SEC in kickoff return yards (1,264), kick return touchdowns (two), kickoff coverage (546 yards) and fewest punts returned (10).
Boulware's coverage teams have been so good, he does not like the new rule that brings the ball out to the 25-yard line after touchbacks on kickoffs.
"Our average starting point the last of couple years has been about the 22- or 23-yard line, for three years running at Auburn," Boulware said. "That's significant. I don't like to concede the 25.
"Sometimes touchbacks now aren't very good. At the same time, sometimes it's necessary when you're running against a very good returner."
Boulware grudgingly concedes any yards in special teams, because of the correlation of starting position and scoring drives.
"The percentages of scoring go way down when you're starting behind the 20-yard line," he said.
In addition to what is often times referred to as "hidden yardage," Boulware knows special teams can provide a big emotional lift for a team.
"The biggest thing we look for from special teams players is energy (and) enthusiasm," he said. "We want them to play all out all of the time. The guys that run fastest on the sprints are the guys we play with. The guys when you make a big play, it excites the crowd.
"We like to give our football team energy. We think special teams play can carry over to offense and defense."
During one of the first staff meetings last week, head coach Gary Andersen outlined the importance of special teams.
"Coach Andersen said it in a meeting, 'If you're not preaching special teams in your position group meeting, then you're really selfish and you don't fit on this staff,'" said secondary coach Bill Busch, who coached special teams under Andersen at Utah State and will also help in that area at UW. "That won't happen. There are going to be a lot of special teams emphasis by everybody and everybody will be coaching some phase and some part of it."
In addition to leading special teams, Boulware is excited about coaching tight ends at a school that heavily utilizes the position. He expects tight ends to figure just as prominently in the offense as they have in the past.
He said he has heard from contacts he has in the Midwest, after coaching stops at Northern Illinois and Iowa State, about the caliber of players he is inheriting at that position.
"My buddies across the Big Ten ... they were all calling me and saying, 'You have some phenomenal players at the tight end position,'" he said. "That's firing me up, when guys are giving me information unsolicited."