Monday, August 1, 2011

Taking Inventory: Special Teams

Some fans might think that special teams is simply a chance for younger guys to get a little playing time and for fans to go get a drink or to the bathroom, but these overlooked parts of the game have played a large part in many of the Frogs' wins- and some of their high-profile losses. The advantage they've afforded TCU in the field position battle has undoubtedly turned some potential L's into W's, and some potentially hard-fought games into laughers. On the other hand, who can forget the special teams meltdowns that caused the losses at Utah in 2009 and against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl?

The senior duo of placekicker Ross Evans and Anson Kelton both return in 2011 for their fourth years as starter at their respective positions. Evans was 11-13 on field goals last year, and is 42-51 (82.4%) for his career. He's hit 178 of his 191 career PAT attempts (93.2%). Kelton has thankfully not had to be used too much in his time at TCU, but averaged a career-best 41.6 yards per attempt last year and had over 40% of his punts downed inside the opponents' 20.

Evan's primary backup will be redshirt freshman Ryan DeNucci, and Kelton's will be junior Cale Patterson (no relation...that I know of). Evans has not been counted on for kickoff duties, so it is yet to be seen whether he, Kelton or one of these reserves will handle that job this fall. There will probably also be a few new walk-on kickers and punters added to the roster once practice starts.

In the return game, TCU will be replacing a legend as Jeremy Kerley has moved on the the NFL. Kerley was always a threat to take a kickoff or a punt to the house, and had over 900 return yards in 2010. The main candidates to replace him are senior Greg McCoy and junior Skye Dawson, both of whom are consistently listed as the fastest players on the roster and have some return experience. McCoy averaged 33.4 yards on the 5 kickoffs he fielded last year, and he took one to the house against Wyoming in 2009. Dawson totaled 112 return yards last year on 3 kickoffs and 1 punt fielded. There's no shortage of athleticism on the team right now, so just about any skill-position player is a possible candidate to contribute in this area, but other names batted about as potential kick and punt returners are senior Antoine Hicks and sophomores Elisha Olabode and Josh Boyce. There are a number of explosive younger players, but Patterson has usually liked to have an older, trusted player back there- which may lend a bit of validity to the twitter-based rumor that Ed Wesley may also factor into the return game. The main determining factor may be the player whose name fits best with the Cory Rodgers/Brian Bonner/Jeremy Kerley chant cadence.

As former Horned Frog and friend of Spit Blood Clif Alexander will attest, deep snapper is perhaps the most underrated position on a football team. If they aren't doing their job well, the punting and field goal units will just not work. Junior Daniel Shelley returns for his second year handling these duties, and he had no major errors that I recall from last season.

The past few recruiting classes have been long on athleticism, and kickoff and punt coverage will benefit from the depth at a number of positions- most notably linebacker and safety. Guys like Greg Burks and Kris Gardner will get the chance to deliver even more big hits this year, but it's yet to be seen exactly who will be leading the pack in this regard in 2011.

So who do you think will get the majority of the touches in the return game this fall? How will the crowd fit their name into a chant...or will they abandon that practice? Who will handle kickoffs? Can Evans and Kelton beat their stats from their previous three seasons, and how badly will fans overreact if Evans misses a kick? Who will be the guys making the most tackles in kick coverage? Let your thoughts be heard (seen) in the comments section...


Wendy Peffercorn said...

Bran-don Car-ter
Great chant. Freak athlete. Kerley junior.

Travis said...

Followed quickly by thank-you, O-U!

NurseFrog31 said...

Just put me down as one of the fans that will overreact if Ross Evans misses a field goal. Before Tank blocked that 2pt conversion at the Rose, I could seriously see us losing on a shanked field goal. I'm 22 years old I'm pretty sure I was having a heart attack at the very thought that he might have to kick to win us a game.

I know, I know. I'm a bad person. Oh well.

BigFrogBall said...

I heard Texas Hammer still has a year of eligibility. He is ready to shed a few pounds and strap it on.

VikingFrog said...

I'm still planning on going to TCU for my MBA, taking my NCAA eligibility and joining the squad as a backup kicker.

Then legally changing my name to

Then quitting when Patterson asks me run a quick slant over the middle in practice as a member of the practice squad.