Special Teams Index: Week 11 update
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.
Tennessee faced one of the best kickoff coverage units in the SEC in South Carolina, which did a decent job against the Vols last Saturday. Tennessee only had two returns for an average of 24.5, well below UT’s season average of 40.4 entering the game. However, now the Vols get to face North Texas, which is 115th in the FBS by allowing 25.1 yards per return. Tennessee is still 1st in the FBS with an average of 38.8, and it has more return TDs (3) than the rest of the conference combined (2).
This week, Mississippi State (4th with 22.8 yards per return) faces Alabama (5th with 19 yards allowed per return) meet in a battle of teams ranked in the top five. Auburn, which ranks 2nd behind Tennessee with 28.8 yards per return, faces a Georgia team that ranks among the bottom five in the SEC by allowing an average of 21.4 yards.
Georgia, LSU and Missouri all rank among the bottom five in both categories. Mizzou, which ranks dead last in both categories, struggled to defend Mississippi State in Week 10. The Bulldogs averaged 34.7 yards on three kick returns with a long of 69.
Here’s a complete rundown of every SEC team’s numbers on kickoff returns and in kickoff coverage this season:
|TEAM||YARDS PER RETURN||KICKOFF RETURNS||RETURN TDs|
|3. South Carolina||24.3||23||1|
|4. Mississippi State||22.8||21||1|
|5. Texas A&M||21.3||24||0|
|11. Ole Miss||17.6||24||0|
|TEAM||YARDS PER RETURN ALLOWED||OPP. RETURNS||RETURN TDS ALLOWED|
|1. Texas A&M||17.4||22||0|
|2. Mississippi State||17.6||33||0|
|4. South Carolina||18.9||13||0|
|7. Ole Miss||19.2||31||0|
There weren’t any return touchdowns of any kind, and there weren’t any allowed at all in Week 10. Texas A&M (19.5) is 2nd only to Virginia (26) in average yards per punt return among FBS teams. However, the Aggies are one of 10 FBS teams to return multiple punts to the house. Three SEC teams are among those 10: Texas A&M, Georgia and Tennessee.
Florida and Mississippi State are the only two SEC teams that rank among the top five in yards per return and yards per return allowed. The Gators took over the top spot from the Rebels this past week in punt coverage, allowing an average of just 3.6 yards.
Punt returns may play a big factor in Baton Rouge as the 3rd-ranked return team (Arkansas) faces an LSU team that ranks dead last in the FBS by allowing 24.4 yards on punt returns, including one score.
Here’s a full rundown of every SEC team’s numbers on punt returns and in punt coverage this season:
|TEAM||YARDS PER PUNT RETURN||PUNT RETURNS||RETURN TDs|
|1. Texas A&M||19.5||15||2|
|4. Mississippi State||12.7||15||1|
|11. South Carolina||7.29||7||0|
|14. Ole Miss||4.6||24||0|
|TEAM||YARDS PER PUNT RETURN ALLOWED||OPP. RETURNS||RETURN TDS ALLOWED|
|2. Ole Miss||4.0||12||0|
|5. Mississippi State||8.0||7||0|
|8. South Carolina||9.0||9||0|
|10. Texas A&M||9.9||15||0|
Evan Berry wasn’t able to break loose against the Gamecocks this past Saturday with a long of 33 yards on his two kick returns.
The SEC still owns the return game this season. Berry still leads the FBS by a wide margin on kick returns (40.6). The next-best player, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, averages seven fewer yards per return. Meanwhile, the top two punt returns in the FBS both hail from the SEC: Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk (22.7) and Tennessee’s Cameron Sutton (19.5).
There will be some good return men on the field in Starkville when Alabama visits Mississippi State. The Bulldogs’ Brandon Holloway (kick returns) and Fred Ross (punt returns) along with Alabama’s Kenyan Drake (kickoff returns) all ranking among the top five in their respective categories. MSU’s duo has reach taken one back for a TD.
Here’s a full rundown of the SEC’s best individual kickoff and punt returners this season:
|NAME||TEAM||YARDS PER KICK RETURN||KICK RETURNS||TDS|
|1. Evan Berry||Tennessee||40.6||18||3|
|2. Brandon Holloway||Mississippi State||29.0||12||1|
|3. Shon Carson||South Carolina||23.8||13||0|
|4. Speedy Noil||Texas A&M||22.5||10||0|
|5. Kenyan Drake||Alabama||22.1||13||0|
|NAME||TEAM||YARDS PER PUNT RETURN||PUNT RETURNS||TDS|
|1. Christian Kirk||Texas A&M||22.7||12||2|
|2. Cameron Sutton||Tennessee||19.5||16||1|
|3. Antonio Callaway||Florida||14.4||20||1|
|4. Tre’Davious White||LSU||11.4||9||1|
|5. Fred Ross||Mississippi State||11.0||12||1|
Trent Domingue stayed unblemished on the season with a 39-yard field goal against Alabama, making him 10-for-10 on the season. He’s one of only two qualified kickers in the FBS with a perfect mark along with Arkansas State’s JD Houston (8-for-8).
Like the return game, the SEC now owns the monopoly in field goal kicking and punting among all FBS teams. Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser surpassed San Jose State’s Michael Carrizosa with an average of 47.9 yards per punt, just edging Carrizosa’s average of 47.8.
Missouri’s Corey Fatony deserves props for maintaining a high average of 44.1, which ranks 3rd in the SEC, despite being called on 61 times to punt. That total ranks as 5th-most among all FBS punters.
Here’s a breakdown of the top individual kickers and punters in the country.
|NAME||TEAM||FG PERCENTAGE||FG MADE||FG ATTEMPTED|
|1. Trent Domingue||LSU||100%||10||10|
|T2. Daniel Carlson||Auburn||85.7%||18||21|
|T2. Austin MacGinnis||Kentucky||85.7%||12||14|
|4. Gary Wunderlich||Ole Miss||83.3%||15||18|
|5. Westin Graves||Mississippi State||81.8%||9||11|
|NAME||TEAM||YARDS PER PUNT||PUNTS|
|1. Drew Kaser||Texas A&M||47.9||41|
|2. Trevor Daniel||Tennessee||46.3||44|
|3. Corey Fatony||Missouri||44.1||61|
|4. Johnny Townsend||Florida||43.7||49|
|5. JK Scott||Alabama||43.4||43|