Special teams often has a profound impact on big games in the SEC.

We asked members of our SDS staff for their thoughts on the top performer in the kicking game after seven weeks of the season.


Jon Cooper (@JonSDS): Andre Debose, Florida ATH

Special teams is one area where players haven’t really emerged to be great assets this year. However, one that has stood out — and has been Florida’s biggest weapon — is Andre Debose. Seems like Debose has been at Florida since 1997, but the sixth year senior has been a major asset to Florida. Debose returned a punt for a touchdown against LSU, and he nearly returned another one later in the same game. Why Florida doesn’t direct snap the ball or use him as a bigger weapon on offense I’ll never know. Debose is the biggest weapon on special teams in 2014.

Jordan Cox (@Jordan_Cox): Quan Bray, Auburn ATH

Quan Bray. The Auburn senior has made a huge impact on special teams this season for the Tigers. He’s averaging 25 yards per return and has two touchdowns already this season. Last season was Bray’s first handling the punt return duties for Auburn and he struggled back deep at times. He fair caught most every kick, and turned the ball over a couple of times. You can visibly notice his confidence this season back there and it’s paid off with very good production.

Jason Hall (@JasonHallSDS): Darrius Sims, Vanderbilt ATH

It may come as a surprise to many– given Vanderbilt’s struggles– but Darrius Sims is the best special teamer through the midway point of the season. Sims leads the SEC in both kick return yards (431) and touchdowns (2). If anything, the Commodores struggles should make Sims’ performance all the more impressive. He managed to single-handedly keep a struggling Vanderbilt in striking distance in two losses and should see an increased role in the offense.

Christopher Smith (@csmithSDS): Drew Kaser, Texas A&M P

I’m going off the grid here. I gave strong consideration to Marcus Murphy and Speedy Noil as kick returners and South Carolina placekicker Elliott Fry. No, Kaser may not win the Heisman, and he’s not even in the top three in the SEC in average yards per punt, but the first-team All-America and Ray Guy finalist will win more awards in ’14. He’s pinned 11 of 27 punts inside the 20, allows 0.8 return yards per punt and has been much more valuable lately, including six punts for 50.7 yards against Ole Miss on Saturday.

Drew Laing (@DLaingSDS): Darrius Sims, Vanderbilt ATH

Vanderbilt’s got to have some good news at some point this year right? Sims may have racked up most of his production against South Carolina, but he’s provided arguably the most excitement all season for the Commodores. He currently leads the SEC in kickoff return yards, average yards per return and is one of five players nationally with two kickoff return touchdowns. Sims may play on Vanderbilt, but he’s definitely an exciting player with the ball in his hands on special teams.

Ethan Levine (@EthanLevineSDS): Elliott Fry, South Carolina K

South Carolina’s Elliott Fry has been the best place kicker in the SEC through seven weeks, and without him the Gamecocks might be worse off than they already are. Fry has drilled 10 of his 11 field goal attempts this season, with his lone miss coming from 54 yards in a Week 1 loss to Texas A&M. He’s been a perfect 10 of 10 since, and South Carolina has needed every kick to stay afloat with a 3-3 record. Without his 4 for 4 performance in a 33-23 win over East Carolina, South Carolina might be 2-4 this season. And without his field goal in a 38-35 win over Georgia, the Gamecocks might have lost that game, too. Fry has been automatic as the star of South Carolina’s special teams, and although kickers rarely receive the respect they deserve, it’s tough to argue against Fry’s impact on the current Gamecocks season. He’s the best special teamer in the SEC, and might be the best kicker in the nation in 2014.