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.

KICKOFFS

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:

TEAMYARDS PER RETURNKICKOFF RETURNSRETURN TDs
1. Tennessee37.3162
2. Auburn29.4190
3. South Carolina26.0191
4. Kentucky24.8120
5. Texas A&M21.3170
6. Mississippi State21.0161
7. Vanderbilt20.9160
8. Arkansas20.6160
9. Florida19.0170
10. LSU18.9120
11. Alabama18.2210
12. Ole Miss17.5180
13. Georgia15.6220
14. Missouri15.0170
TEAMYARDS PER RETURN ALLOWEDOPP. RETURNSRETURN TDS ALLOWED
1. Vanderbilt16.1170
2. Texas A&M17.3190
3. South Carolina17.8110
4. Mississippi State18.0250
5. Tennessee18.4220
6. Ole Miss19.1260
7. Alabama19.9230
8. Florida20.1160
9. Kentucky21.3240
10. Georgia22.4270
11. Arkansas22.9221
12. LSU24.5261
13. Auburn26.040
14. Missouri27.2120

PUNTS

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:

TEAMYARDS PER PUNT RETURNPUNT RETURNSRETURN TDs
1. Texas A&M21.1142
2. Arkansas17.670
3. Tennessee16.3161
4. Georgia14.6202
5. Mississippi State13.4131
6. Florida12.5151
7. LSU11.491
8. Kentucky10.650
9. Alabama9.3261
10. South Carolina9.060
11. Auburn7.540
12. Vanderbilt7.1140
13. Missouri6.4161
14. Ole Miss5.5160
TEAMYARDS PER PUNT RETURN ALLOWEDOPP. RETURNSRETURN TDS ALLOWED
1. Ole Miss3.980
2. Florida4.6140
3. South Carolina5.360
4. Missouri7.1120
5. Mississippi State8.060
6. Alabama8.9141
T7. Auburn9.030
T7. Kentucky9.0100
9. Georgia10.2111
10. Vanderbilt12.891
T11. Arkansas13.080
T11. Texas A&M13.0100
13. Tennessee14.6121
14. LSU32.851

INDIVIDUALS

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:

NAMETEAMYARDS PER KICK RETURNKICK RETURNSTDS
1. Evan BerryTennessee39.3142
2. Johnathan FordAuburn30.680
3. Kerryon JohnsonAuburn29.970
4. Shon CarsonSouth Carolina25.2110
5. Sihiem KingKentucky23.3100
NAMETEAMYARDS PER PUNT RETURNPUNT RETURNSTDS
1. Christian KirkTexas A&M25.1112
2. Cameron SuttonTennessee16.0110
3. Antonio CallawayFlorida14.8121
4. Fred RossMississippi State11.5101
5. Tre’Davious WhiteLSU11.491

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.

NAMETEAMFG PERCENTAGEFG MADEFG ATTEMPTED
T1. Westin GravesMississippi State100%88
T1. Trent DomingueLSU100%77
3. Austin MacGinnisKentucky88.9%89
4. Gary WunderlichOle Miss81.8%911
5. Andrew BaggettMissouri76.9%1013
NAMETEAMYARDS PER PUNTPUNTS
1. Drew KaserTexas A&M49.524
2. Trevor DanielTennessee47.633
3. Johnny TownsendFlorida44.339
4. Corey FatonyMissouri44.045
5. Kevin PhillipsAuburn43.523