July 5, 2011

Trends: Special Teams





In their first season under the guidance of special teams coordinator
Eddie Gran, the Florida State special teams unit experienced
some growing pains.


Kicker Dustin Hopkins and punter Shawn Powell had
tremendous seasons. Hopkins made 22 of his 28 field goal attempts
(78.6 percent), and also netted a career-high 41 touchbacks.



Powell experienced the best year of his career averaging 44.3 yards
per game and a net of 39 yards per game. And for the second straight
year, he didn't have a punt blocked.


As the kickers excelled, the returners struggled. FSU averaged just
20.5 yards per return, which ranked No. 88 in the country.


Greg Reid (23.9 yards per return) and Lamarcus
Joyner (20.6 yards per return) showed flashes at times, and each
had at least one return of 42 yards or more. But for the most part the
duo never seemed to get it going. It looked as if both players want to
receive every kick and when they didn't, they didn't do a good job of
blocking for the other returner.


One year after leading the nation as a true freshman with 18.4 yards
per punt return, Reid averaged just 10.1 yards per return in 2010.
While some of the lackluster returns were a product of Reid not being
able to break free, it had more to do with the fact that teams often
kicked the ball away from him.


In the season opener, Samford kicked its first two punts out of
bounds. After the third punt was blocked they inexplicably decided to
kick to Reid on their fourth attempt. Much to the delight of everyone
in Doak Campbell Stadium, Reid put on a show as he returned it 74
yards for his only punt return touchdown of the year.


Despite the decreased average, there is little doubt that Reid is
still one of the most dynamic returners in all of college football.
With his talent it is hard to imagine he won't improve his punt return
and kickoff return averages in 2011.


The most improvement under Coach Gran came from Powell. Powell no
longer tried to kick it as far as he could - instead he tried for
higher hang times to force a fair catch - and his average improved
three yards in 2010. He only punted the ball into the endzone for a
touchback six times, had 18 punts of 55 yards or more (including a
career-high 66-yard boot against Virginia), and 16 times his punts
were downed inside the 20-yard line.


As Powell employed Rugby-style punts (rolling out to his right with
the ball and punting it), he was able to improve his directional
accuracy and limit the other teams' return chances. FSU's 39-yard net
average on punts was the 15th best average in the country.


Powell also serves as Hopkins' holder. In just his second season as
the FSU kicker, Hopkins was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award
last season. Not only did the Texan convert 78.6 percent of his field
goal attempts, he also was a perfect 53-of-53 on PATs.


What should get FSU fans fired up the most about Hopkins is the mental
toughness he showed in 2010. Just one week after missing a 40-yarder
as time expired against North Carolina, he drilled a 55-yard game
winner against Clemson.


The miss against the Tar Heels was the type of play that traditionally
has the ability to ruin a kicker's psyche, but just one week later and
from further out, Hopkins' confidence never wavered.


As he kicked for both teams in the spring game he put on show going
5-of-5 on his attempts with makes from 41, 32, 33, 35 and 60 yards
(which had more than enough distance).


"It's definitely good going into the summer to know that I made that
kick," Hopkins said about the 60-yarder. "It adds a little fuel to the
fire so definitely it will be a good memory for me."


With the growing pains out of the way in 2010, FSU should have one of
the better special teams' units in the nation in 2011


Six-year breakdown of FSU's Special Teams


2010


Kick Retrun Avg/Opponents Avg: 20.5/21.5


Punt Return Avg/Opponets Avg: 9.9/6.8


Punt Avg/Net: 44.3/39.0


Field goalsmad/attempted: 22/28 (78.6 percent)


2009


Kick Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 20.7/21.4


Punt Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 17.0/8.0


Punting Avg/Net: 41.5/36.1


Field goals made/attempted: 19/27 (70.3 percent)


2008


Kick Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 24.2/20.2


Punt Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 8.7/8.6


Punting Avg/Net: 40.2/36.4


Field goals made/attempted: 25/30 (83.3 percent)


2007


Kick Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 18.7/21.0


Punt Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 10.9/7.5


Punting Avg/Net: 40.9/35.9


Field goals made/attempted: 27/34 (79.4 percent)


2006


Kick Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 18.7/24.4


Punt Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 9.1/11.6


Punting Avg/Net: 40.2/35.2


Field goals made/attempted: 14/20 (70 percent)


2005


Kick Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 20.1/20.7


Punt Return Avg/Opponents Avg: 14.8/5.5


Punting Avg: 38.6


Field goals made/attempted: 17/24 (70.8 percent)


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