Special Teams Index: Week 8 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.
Thanks to a bye week, Tennessee is still tops in the FBS in kickoff returns with 37.3 yards per return, and is joined by Duke and Rutgers as the only Power 5 schools with multiple kickoff return touchdowns.
Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas A&M rank in the top 5 in the SEC in returning kickoffs and covering kickoffs.
Alabama and Georgia are the only two teams to get a crack at 20 or more kickoffs, and the Tide (11th) and the Bulldogs (13th) have not capitalized. Meanwhile, Missouri is dead last in both average yards per kickoff return (15.0) and average yards allowed per kickoff return (27.2).
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||26.0||19||1|
|5. Texas A&M||21.3||17||0|
|6. Mississippi State||21.0||16||1|
|12. Ole Miss||17.5||18||0|
|TEAM||YARDS PER RETURN ALLOWED||OPP. RETURNS||RETURN TDS ALLOWED|
|2. Texas A&M||17.3||19||0|
|3. South Carolina||17.8||11||0|
|4. Mississippi State||18.0||25||0|
|6. Ole Miss||19.1||26||0|
Texas A&M joined Georgia as the only two SEC schools with multiple punt return TDs this season when Christian Kirk took one back 68 yards to the house against Alabama. That’s significant because there are only three other Power 5 schools to accomplish that so far this season (Illinois, Maryland and Utah).
Florida returned its first of the season when Antonio Callaway raced 72 yards for a score against LSU, the second straight season the Gators have taken one back against the Tigers despite losing both games. Florida has 15 punt return TDs over the last 10 years, which is the most in the SEC over that span. Coincidentally, the team with the 2nd-most is LSU with 14.
Speaking of LSU, that was only the fifth punt return it’s had to defend, but the Bayou Bengals have allowed 32.8 yards per return, which is last in the FBS by a wide margin. Callaway’s return didn’t even skew those numbers as the Tigers also ranked last in the SEC before last week.
Ole Miss is still living on both ends of the spectrum in the punting game. The Rebels are leading the SEC by only allowing 3.9 yards per return, but they’re also last in the SEC in averaging just 5.5 yards on their own returns.
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||21.1||14||2|
|5. Mississippi State||13.4||13||1|
|10. South Carolina||9.0||6||0|
|14. Ole Miss||5.5||16||0|
|TEAM||YARDS PER PUNT RETURN ALLOWED||OPP. RETURNS||RETURN TDS ALLOWED|
|1. Ole Miss||3.9||8||0|
|3. South Carolina||5.3||6||0|
|5. Mississippi State||8.0||6||0|
|T11. Texas A&M||13.0||10||0|
Once again at the top of the list in kickoff returns, which is where he’s been practically all season, is the Vols’ stud return man Evan Berry. That doesn’t change with Tennessee enjoying a bye. The only other two SEC players to average 30 yards per kick return both play for Auburn with Johnathan “Rudy” Ford (30.6) and Kerryon Johnson (29.9) at that threshold.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk proved why he’s maybe the most dynamic player in the SEC with that aforementioned punt return TD against Alabama last week. His 25.1 yards per return leads the FBS.
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||39.3||14||2|
|2. Johnathan Ford||Auburn||30.6||8||0|
|3. Kerryon Johnson||Auburn||29.9||7||0|
|4. Shon Carson||South Carolina||25.2||11||0|
|5. Sihiem King||Kentucky||23.3||10||0|
|NAME||TEAM||YARDS PER PUNT RETURN||PUNT RETURNS||TDS|
|1. Christian Kirk||Texas A&M||25.1||11||2|
|2. Cameron Sutton||Tennessee||16.0||11||0|
|3. Antonio Callaway||Florida||14.8||12||1|
|4. Fred Ross||Mississippi State||11.5||10||1|
|5. Tre’Davious White||LSU||11.4||9||1|
Yet another week goes by and Mississippi State’s Westin Graves and LSU’s Trent Domingue remain perfect on the season kicking field goals. Graves extended his unblemished mark to 8-for-8 with an easy 26-yard make against Louisiana Tech last week. The only other Power 5 kickers this season that are still perfect on field goal tries this season are Duke’s Ross Martin (12-for-12) and Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert (10-for-10).
Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser (49.5) saw his yards per punt average dip from last week (51.0), but it’s still enough to lead all Power 5 players. The only Power 5 player preventing Kaser and Tennessee’s Trevor Daniel (47.6) from ranking 1st and 2nd in that department is Utah’s Tom Hackett (47.9).
Here’s a breakdown of the top individual kickers and punters in the country.
|NAME||TEAM||FG PERCENTAGE||FG MADE||FG ATTEMPTED|
|T1. Westin Graves||Mississippi State||100%||8||8|
|T1. Trent Domingue||LSU||100%||7||7|
|3. Austin MacGinnis||Kentucky||88.9%||8||9|
|4. Gary Wunderlich||Ole Miss||81.8%||9||11|
|5. Andrew Baggett||Missouri||76.9%||10||13|
|NAME||TEAM||YARDS PER PUNT||PUNTS|
|1. Drew Kaser||Texas A&M||49.5||24|
|2. Trevor Daniel||Tennessee||47.6||33|
|3. Johnny Townsend||Florida||44.3||39|
|4. Corey Fatony||Missouri||44.0||45|
|5. Kevin Phillips||Auburn||43.5||23|
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