Noles Special Teams Are Special So Far
Posted by William Kristoph
Something that I constantly have on my mind regarding FSU football is the play of special teams. Over the years, FSU had plenty of great kickers although not always clutch ones. Big legs that were generally accurate. Each time when I think I’ve seen the best (Janikowski) another rolls along that does one or two things just a little bit better (Gano). Last year, Dustin Hopkins took over for Graham Gano and did a solid job. This year he’s even better, and I’m still not hearing enough about him.
The Good News:
Through 3 games Hopkins has missed a Field Goal only once and has pounded kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks at an amazing rate. Against fellow FBS competition he’s prevented a kickoff return 80% of the time. Toss in FCS opponent Samford when he had to kickoff 10 times in one game and the total is still 70%. Making an opponent start at the 20 yard line is fantastic, especially for a Noles defense that is spending the year getting schooled in the Mark Stoops system.
On the other side of Special Teams is punter Shawn Powell who is averaging 43.8 yards per punt. Over 40% of his punts have been 50 or more yards. Not too shabby. Jimbo Fisher’s decision to let anybody and everybody play on special teams has greatly helped coverage down field. Last year FSU was 2nd worst in the nation on punt coverage, giving up 17 yards of field position every time they punted the ball. In 2010, opposing teams average only 9.2 yards per punt return.
The Bad News:
While preventing opponents from doing much against the Noles, the All-Star special teams haven’t done a lot with their own returns. Florida State is dead last (#120) in the nation on kickoff returns, averaging only 12.5 yards per kickoff return in 2010 vs. 20.7 yards (abysmal at #84 in its own right) last year. Also down so far is the return yardage for FSU’s punt return team. The squad was #2 in the nation last year with 17 yards per punt. This year, 12.1 yards per punt return is only good for #30 in the nation.
The Good News Part 2:
It’s early in the season. Some of the current leaders are obscenely high because of the limited number of games played so far. The extremes will normalize over the next few weeks and then we’ll really see how good or bad the FSU return teams are against other FBS teams.