Saturday, June 10, 2006

Position Analysis: Special Teams

Like last year, this offseason I will roll out a series of position reports to give you my analysis, expectations and hopefully point out something you did not know. This installment covers Special Teams. (Read Part I: WRs and TEs here, and Part II: Running Backs here, Part III: Defensive Line here).

Projected Starters
K -- Ryan Ohliger, JR, 5’9, 197 lbs
P -- Johnny Ayers, JR, 6’0, 186 lbs
R -- Dejuan Tribble, JR, 5'9, 189 lbs

Other guys who should see time
P/K -- Billy Flutie, FR, 6'2, 175 lbs
R -- Brandon Robinson, SO, 5'11, 191 lbs

Special teams will suck this year. (How is that for analysis?) Unfortunately as I have said many times, our special teams have been inexcusably bad for many seasons. We are the opposite of Beamer Ball. We’ve had bad coverage, bad kickers, bad snappers and bad luck. What can we expect this year? More of the same.

Ryan Ohliger will start the season as our place kicker. The good news is that he still has a pretty strong leg and will knock his share of kickoffs into the endzone. The bad news? He is a total head case and I cannot count on him to make even the simplest kick. I’ve read about his distance issues in some preview. I don’t agree. I’ve seen him kick the ball a long way. He just cannot do it under pressure. Ever since the 2004 Wake game where he missed some chip shots, he’s been all over the place. He lost his job at one point last year only to regain it when our walk on wasn’t much better. Let’s hope some offseason practice and an upperclassman’s perspective will make him a better kicker this season.

Johnny Ayers improved greatly from his Freshman to Sophomore years. However, our coverage around him did not. As CFN mentioned “the Eagles finished 102nd in the nation in net punting and 11th in the ACC.” Unacceptable. This must improve this year.

The brightspot of our special teams will be the returns of Dejuan Tribble. He is replacing BC’s most productive return man in Blackmon, but Dejuan has shown great ability and has returned punts for scores before. While not as dynamic as Blackmon, I still think he’ll give us good field position throughout the season.

Billy Flutie can supposedly kick and punt. If either veteran falters, it will be nice to see him come off the bench and try to win some games. And if the ability to perform under pressure is genetic, than we want him out there when the game is on the line.

Final Prediction
This year will be better than last, but still not great. I would be happy if we finish in the middle of the pack statistically in the different special teams categories.

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