Sunday, August 30, 2009

Preseason breakdown: Special Teams

Part VI of the previews. For this preview I grouped all the special teams folks in one post.

Consensus heading into the season
New regime, new schemes. Under the two previous regimes, the special teams provided endless frustration, plenty of excitement and very little consistency.

Roster Reminders
Returning Starters
Steve Aponavicius
Jack Geiser
Ryan Quigley
Backups and Hopefuls
Nate Freese
Billy Flutie

Aponavicius is ahead of Freese on FGs in practice. Considering Freese was brought in to contribute it's somewhat surprising that he is being beaten out by the consistent but limited Aponavicius.

The Real Question
Can the special teams generate as many big plays as we saw last year? Multiple punt blocks, fake field goals and surprise onsides all contributed to big wins. We have no idea if the team will be as aggressive this year. The other question that I didn't even want to ask is whether Jeff Smith can ever reclaim his freshman year form. Smith's speed and upside is so so tantalizing...yet his desire and injuries has meant we've never approached the impact of his 2006 season. Harris or one of the younger guys will probably be our main kick returner, but I hope Smith uses his last season as a showcase for his raw talent.

My Bold Prediction
Rich Gunnell will have more than 200 punt return yards. I don't know if he can pull off another TD, but I think he'll increase his productivity per return and in total.

What keeps me up at night?

An injury to Geiser. We've been spoiled with having a long snapping specialist the past four years. Does anyone remember some of the adventures in snapping we had just a few years ago. Let's hope we find a good backup LS and land a LS recruit.


Mike Dawson has never been a special teams coach. That scares me a bit, but I don't expect Special Teams to be a major issue. We know what we've got in each unit and they should all be adequate. Even if they are not as aggressive as Jags/Yano, we have enough young talent that they should be fine.

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