Sunday, August 28, 2016

Special Teams Preview

The last element to look at is special teams.  Here is how things looked last year, MAC games only.

10th in kickoff coverage
12th in punt returns
2nd in punting
11th in FGs
9 in kickoff returns

This is, you know, not great.  In fact, well below average.  Some of it matters more than other things.  When you're scoring 47/game and getting 7+ per play, you can afford to play it safe on punt returns...and BG had only 6 punt returns for the entire MAC season.  Why kill yourself for 6 yards, the rough average in the MAC on a returned punt.  Same with kickoff returns.  You start on the 20, you start on the 25, it really isn't a significant issue.

Now, you lose Matt Johnson, Travis Greene, Roger Lewis, Gehrig Dieter, Ryan Burbrink, you might start to care a little bit more.

Anyway, the coverage was also not great on kickoffs, which we did a lot.  BG kicked off 65 times, most in the MAC.

After a great junior season, Tyler Tate really struggled as a senior.  Now, granted, FGs weren't a big deal for BG's offense...they tried only 8, made 5.  (Just for perspective, BG scored 52 touchdowns and the next team in the MAC had 40).  So, even with Tate struggling, BG has an enormous question mark at PK.  They're not likely to score 52 TDs again, and it could be more important and everyone is untried.  They are having the dreaded open competition.  Anyway, this is something to closely monitor.

You don't have to expect much.  If you can make 80% inside 40 yards and your extra points, you're in good shape.

Oh, speaking of extra points, BG missed three, second most in the MAC, and 10th in PAT% even when you consider the 52 TDs.  9 of the 13 teams in the MAC did not miss one PAT.

The one strength for BG that will continue is punting.  BG has a great punter.  He was second in the MAC in net punting last year and the top guy from WMU graduated.  Davidson is just a punting machine and only a junior.  That position is very solid.

Phil Steele ranks us 8th in special teams and my guess it will be about right.  I think our kickoff coverage should remain about the same and punting was so good it will be hard pressed to improve much.  Given the number of fast WR types we have, I don't understand why we aren't better at kickoff returns.  Finally, punt returns are just a small part of the modern game.  Teams are going out of their way to prevent returns and it is working.

Punting is a question mark and PK isn't likely to turn into a strength.  These guys must be all about the same or there wouldn't be an open competition, and presumably they aren't all great.

Just this point.  The offense covered a lot of sins last year, and below average special teams is probably one of them and maybe the biggest of them.  BG does have a dedicated special teams coach this year, so perhaps that will improve things as well.

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