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October 8, 2009

Return to form?

Media and people alike have always commented on how Jim Tressel puts such an emphasis on the role of special teams and the battle for field position. Throughout the years the numbers have been pretty good and the Buckeyes have been strong when it comes to flipping the field in the punt return game.

But for one reason or another, the numbers have not been there as of yet for the Buckeyes. Ray Small made just about every All-Big Ten list at punt returner and several All-American teams as well. The Buckeyes however have only mustered 4.64 yards a return and it seems that there have been an inordinate amount of punts that have either be left alone of fair catch.

Punt return drought?
Year Rank Avg. TDs
2009 98th 4.64 0
2008 12th 13.0 2
2007 58th 8.91 1
2006 42nd 10.20 1
2005 34th 11.19 2
2004 4th 16.27 1
"We haven't had a chance to catch one with a whole bunch of space and go," Tressel said.

On the flipside the Buckeyes have found more success in the kick return game than in past seasons and the team ranks 21st in the nation with 26.15 yards per return. But the numbers on punt returns are a different type of beast according to Tressel and one can't put too much stock into the numbers for telling the whole tale.

"I think that punt return statistics are a little bit misleading," Tressel added. "If you break one long one and then all of a sudden you are in the top-10 in the nation. And you might have had 11 "shakies" and to me that is the difference between what we have been fortunate to have in years past and what we have right now."

Has it been a matter of the Buckeyes receiving a lot of "shakies" or possible more of a personnel problem in the eyes of the coaches?

"Their coverage has been good," Tressel said. "But we have haven't had a bunch of good punts. If you go back and the number of punts that have been un-fieldable or so-short, that our what we call DSA, Drive Start Analysis, after people's punt is pretty good."

And the problem with numbers is just not limited to punt returns with this week's opponent having much of the same issue on kickoffs.

"(Wisconsin's) statistics, kickoff return-wise, are not wonderful," Tressel said. "You watch their film and they have had one called back, they have had this and that but they are pretty good. Fundamentally they know what they want to do and we have got to make sure we fundamentally (we do it)."

So short of making personnel changes, which the staff said is not necessary, is there something that they can do differently to help the average for one but more importantly help out the fortunes of the team?

"Yeah, take a long one back," Tressel joked.




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