Special teams often go under-appreciated, but they can affect a game in a number of ways. As a result, Saturday Down South is giving the SECs special teamers the credit they deserve in the weekly Special Teams Index.


There wasn’t much separating the SEC’s best kickoff return units in 2014, as the top four teams in the conference all closed the year with return averages within 1.4 yards of one another. Arkansas led the way with an average of 25.3 yards per return, but Missouri was 0.2 yards behind and Tennessee was just 0.6 yards behind.

Eleven of the SEC’s 14 teams finished with an average of at least 20 yards per return, and only South Carolina failed to reach at least 19 yards per return by season’s end.

As far as touchdowns are concerned, there was little correlation between productive return units and high touchdown totals in 2014. Of the eight kickoff return touchdowns in the SEC this season, only three came from teams ranked among the top six in kickoff return average. Three more came from teams ranked ninth or worse in return average in 2014.

As far as covering kickoffs was concerned, no one in the SEC was better than the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who held opponents to just 17.9 yards per return this season. Four teams in the SEC held opponents to fewer than 20 yards per return while all 14 teams in the conference held opponents to fewer than 24 yards per return.

It’s worth noting a touchback would place the ball at the 25 yard line, making the SEC’s kickoff coverage numbers look all the more impressive.

In this case there was indeed a correlation between the best kickoff coverage units and the number of return touchdowns allowed this season. The 14 SEC teams allowed a combined seven return touchdowns this year, all of which were allowed by teams ranked eighth or worse in the conference in kickoff coverage.

Here’s a complete rundown of every SEC team’s numbers on kickoff returns and in kickoff coverage this season:

Team Kickoff Returns Yards per Return Return TDs
1. Arkansas 22 25.3 1
2. Missouri 21 25.1 2
3. Tennessee 32 24.7 0
4. LSU 24 23.9 0
5. Texas A&M 44 22.9 0
6. Kentucky 37 22.8 0
7. Georgia 27 22.7 2
8. Alabama 39 21.0 0
T9. Auburn 32 20.3 0
T9. Mississippi State 24 20.3 1
11. Vanderbilt 55 20.2 2
12. Florida 37 19.4 0
13. Ole Miss 26 19.3 0
14. South Carolina 37 18.8 0
Team Opp. Returns Yards per Return Allowed Return TDs Allowed
1. Mississippi State 56 17.9 0
2. Texas A&M 30 18.2 0
T3. Tennessee 48 19.6 0
T3. Georgia 56 19.6 0
T5. Ole Miss 41 20.2 0
T5. LSU 25 20.2 0
7. Vanderbilt 26 21.6 0
T8. Auburn 31 21.8 0
T8. Alabama 54 21.8 1
10. Florida 44 22.2 1
11. Kentucky 39 22.5 2
12. South Carolina 30 23.0 2
13. Arkansas 45 23.6 1
14. Missouri 29 23.9 0


There was a much wider range of success throughout the SEC when it came to the conference’s punt return units. Auburn led the conference with an average of 17.8 yards per return, thanks to two long return touchdowns by Quan Bray early in the season that padded the Tigers’ numbers in the return game for much of the year.

Seven of the 14 SEC teams averaged at least 10 yards per return, and those seven teams ran back a combined seven punts for touchdowns this season. Seven more teams mustered fewer than 10 yards per return and combined to return just one punt for a touchdown.

As far as punt coverage is concerned, Arkansas and Tennessee boasted the best coverage units in the SEC, allowing just three yards per return on the season. Ole Miss and Georgia joined the Hogs and the Vols as the only teams in the conference to allow fewer than five yards per return.

Kentucky had the worst punt coverage unit in the SEC in allowing more than 12 yards per punt return this season. The Wildcats ranked 115th out of 128 FBS teams in punt coverage in 2014. LSU was the only other team in the SEC to allow more than 10 yards per return this season.

SEC teams allowed just five punt return touchdowns all year, four of which were allowed by the conference’s three worst coverage units — Kentucky (2), LSU and Florida. The fifth was allowed by South Carolina, which actually ranked fifth in the conference in punt coverage at season’s end.

Here’s a full rundown of every SEC team’s numbers on punt returns and in punt coverage this season:

Team Punt Returns Yards per Return Return TDs
1. Auburn 17 17.8 2
T2. Florida 25 13.0 1
T2. Texas A&M 21 13.0 0
4. Missouri 24 11.4 1
T5. LSU 25 10.8 1
T5. Georgia 30 10.8 2
7. Alabama 22 10.1 0
8. Tennessee 21 9.6 1
9. Arkansas 21 8.5 0
10. Kentucky 27 6.9 0
11. Vanderbilt 17 6.5 1
12. Ole Miss 22 6.4 0
13. South Carolina 19 5.4 0
14. Mississippi State 23 4.3 0
Team Opp. Returns Yards per Return Allowed Return TDs Allowed
1. Arkansas 15 3.0 0
2. Tennessee 21 3.1 0
3. Ole Miss 17 3.5 0
4. Georgia 10 4.7 0
5. South Carolina 13 6.9 1
6. Mississippi State 14 7.2 0
7. Alabama 10 7.3 0
8. Vanderbilt 23 7.7 0
9. Auburn 18 8.2 0
10. Texas A&M 12 8.3 0
11. Missouri 19 8.8 0
12. Florida 22 9.1 1
13. LSU 19 10.2 1
14. Kentucky 20 12.7 2


Evan Berry closed the year with the best kickoff return average in the SEC at better than 29 yards per kickoff return, but he also had fewer return opportunities than any other player ranked in the top 5 in the conference this season. Seven players averaged at least 24 yards per return and 11 averaged at least 20 yards per return in 2014.

The only player among those 11 with a return touchdown in 2014 is Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims, who ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns on the year. He also had more return opportunities than anyone else in the conference with 31 returns in 12 games.

Bray’s two touchdowns allowed him to lead the SEC in punt return average with four more yards per return than any other player in the conference. Georgia’s Isaiah McKenzie was the only other player in the conference to return multiple punts for touchdowns, and he closed the year ranked fourth in the SEC in punt return average.

Florida’s Andre Debose proved himself to be the SEC’s best all-around returner in 2014, finishing the year as the only player ranked in the top 5 in the conference in both kickoff and punt return average.

Here’s a full rundown of the SEC’s best individual kickoff and punt returners this season:

Name Team Kickoff Returns Yards per Return Touchdowns
1. Evan Berry Tennessee 14 29.5 0
2. Boom Williams Kentucky 19 26.9 0
3. Andre Debose Florida 21 24.7 0
4. Christion Jones Alabama 27 24.6 0
5. Darrius Sims Vanderbilt 31 24.5 2
Name Team Punt Returns Yards per Return Touchdowns
1. Quan Bray Auburn 15 18.1 2
2. Andre Debose Florida 23 14.0 1
3. Speedy Noil Texas A&M 14 12.7 0
4. Isaiah McKenzie Georgia 19 12.1 2
5. Marcus Murphy Missouri 24 11.4 1

Florida’s Francisco Velez and Texas A&M’s Josh Lambo tied as the most accurate kickers in the SEC after both made 12 of 14 field goal attempts on the season. Four SEC kickers made at least 80 percent of their attempts, and 10 kickers with at least 10 attempts made at least 70 percent of their kicks in 2014.

Mississippi State’s Evan Sobiesk rose to No. 3 in field goal accuracy at season’s end, but he also missed three extra points in 2014. He entered last week’s Egg Bowl having made 9 of 10 kicks on the year, but suffered a crucial miss in the loss to Ole Miss.

Alabama freshman JK Scott closed the year as the SEC’s best punter, averaging more than 47 yards per punt in 2014. No punter in the SEC had as big an impact on field position as Scott, although 11 SEC punters averaged at least 40 yards per punt this season.

Florida and Texas A&M closed the year with the best collection of specialists, as the Gators and Aggies were the only two teams in the conference with one of the SEC’s five most accurate kickers as well as one of its five best distance punters. Florida’s Kyle Christy and A&M’s Drew Kaser each averaged 44.5 yards per punt  this season, tying for third in the conference.

Here’s a complete rundown of the SEC’s best place kickers and punters this season:

Name Team Field Goals Made Field Goals Attempted Percentage
T1. Francisco Velez Florida 12 14 85.7
T1. Josh Lambo Texas A&M 12 14 85.7
3. Evan Sobiesk Mississippi State 10 12 83.3
4. Daniel Carlson Auburn 17 21 81.0
5, Austin MacGinnis Kentucky 21 27 77.8
Name Team Punts Yards Per Punt
1. JK Scott Alabama 45 47.2
2. Jamie Keehn LSU 68 45.0
T3. Drew Kaser Texas A&M 56 44.5
T3. Kyle Christy Florida 56 44.5
5. Will Gleeson Ole Miss 49 43.0


The Georgia Bulldogs lost their regular season finale to arch-rival Georgia Tech on Saturday, but they did execute the special teams play of the day with a fake field goal in the fourth quarter of the loss.

The Dawgs passed on a 48-yard try early in the final quarter and instead elected to run the fake, which involved an over-the-head lateral to kicker Marshall Morgan, who went streaking down the right sideline for a gain of 28 yards before being pulled down at the 2 yard line. Take a look at the play here:

Georgia was unable to punch the ball into the end zone following the fake and was forced to settle for a much shorter field goal when all was said and done.