It would be difficult to imagine Brian Polian teaching history.
A classroom would seem a little claustrophobic for the energetic Texas A&M special teams/tight ends coach.
"Everybody is wired their own way and that is how I'm wired, up tempo and loud," Polian said. "When you coach special teams the coach has to bring the energy to the period."
Energy isn't all the 16-year veteran, who recently coached at Notre Dame and Stanford, brings to the Aggie practices and meeting rooms.
"He's a real fiery guy and he's funny also, brings a lot of jokes into meetings," said safety Steven Terrell, who is on both kick coverage units. "Scheme-wise, I really like what he's brought to the team."
Polian's style is somewhat of a dichotomy. He's going a mile a minute while trying to keep the players calm.
"I try to mess with them and that goes back to my background as a teacher," Polian said. "If I wasn't coaching ball I'd be teaching history somewhere and all the teachers I really enjoyed, and in my athletic career the coaches, were guys that engaged you, kept you interested and kept it light. I think when you can keep it light and they can laugh a little bit, I think that sometimes helps in the learning process. I just think it helps the atmosphere a little bit if they know it's not going to be all drudgery."
The demeanor for A&M's special teams couldn't have been much higher in the first few weeks of the season, with Dustin Harris breaking A&M and SEC punt return records, Ryan Epperson averaging nearly 50 yards a punt and Taylor Bertolet consistently finding the end zone on kickoffs.
With Bertolet -- who has been kicking with an ankle injury -- missing two mid-range field goals and an extra point in the last two games, and Harris not finding any room to roam lately and muffing a return near the Aggie goal line, some of the shine as disappeared.
"The perception doesn't bother us one way or the other," Polian said. "The bottom line is we need to make our kicks, and that has to improve and I believe it will. It's never going to be perfect and whatever the issue is we try to get it corrected as soon as possible. We have to not do anything that causes us to lose a football game. We have to cover kicks first and foremost."
The last part of Polian's statement has been made easier by Epperson -- who is eighth in the nation in punting at 46.1 yards an attempt and first in net punting at 45.5 -- and Bertolet, who has booted 27 of his 40 kickoffs for touchbacks.
Epperson's numbers are particularly impressive considering he was fighting for his job nearly until the day of the first game.
"Ryan was in a heated competition [with Drew Kaser] in training camp, to the point that we had to extend it four or five days longer than we wanted to originally," Polian said. "He has kept a cool head, calm demeanor, which is exactly what we need from those guys. Being a specialist is like being a closer in baseball: Every once in a while, one is going to go bad and you have to come back the next kick with a clear head."
Bertolet shook off what at the time appeared to be a big miss against Arkansas and made his next three kicks.
He is 5 of 8 overall, though, and the wide extra point at Ole Miss could have played a major role at the end.
"One thing people forget now is we lost the Lou Groza Award winner [Randy Bullock], the best in the country, and we replaced him with a very capable young man, but he's played five college football games," Polian said. "I think sometimes people lose sight of that. We hold guys to a high standard, but we understand nothing replaces game experience."
It's been a solid team effort, though, with the coverage teams only allowing 2.75 yards a punt return (14th) and 18.3 yards (21st) a kick return.
"Special teams, you only have one chance," safety Tony Hurd Jr. said. "There is no second or third down on special teams. He teaches you detail and to be really fast at all times."
A change in scheme has also made a difference, according to the players.
"We went back to a more traditional punt (rather than a rugby kick), more like what you see in the NFL, and I think it's been very successful," Terrell said. "It's just straight forward and I think it's been really successful for us."
As he did last season, Harris showed his speed against South Carolina State, capping his record 246 yards on eight punt returns with a 96-yard touchdown run that started with his back to the opposing goal line.
Harris hasn't been as fortunate in SEC games, averaging -2 yards on six returns and setting up one of Ole Miss' touchdowns with a fumble.
"On the field we are always going to be positive. I'm not going to get after anyone and then he and I had a chance to visit in private and we talked about what we needed to talk about. We still have confidence in Dustin and it's not an issue that can't be corrected. One of the things we talked about was to be able to make that mistake and to learn that lesson and still win the football game, because in our world you don't get those opportunities very often."
One team Polian believes has made great strides since the opener is kickoff return.
Freshman Trey Williams has worked his way up to 42nd in the nation at 24 yards a return.
With the importance of special teams, the Aggies have a lot of starters doing double duty. Running back Ben Malena is one player A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin spotlighted, while Polian mentioned linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart and Terrell.
Polian believes it's a two-way street when offensive and defensive starters help on special teams, pointing to the experience it gives the player, which aids in making an NFL team.
Still, there is a fine line, and the more the younger players step up and gain the coaches' confidence, the better for A&M.
"A guy in the last two weeks that has really played well on teams is [backup sophomore linebacker] Donnie Baggs, and we need Donnie Baggs to play well," Polian said. "Justin Bass, a walk-on [linebacker], had his best week last week. We are having to maneuver a bit because we are not real deep. That's the hand we were dealt. We got little guys coming out the woodwork, it's the 240-pound guys with speed that we're not real deep with."