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100 Days to Kickoff: Position Previews - Specialists

Yesterday, we had the kickers and punters, but today, we’ve got everyone else

Georgia Tech v Virginia Tech
The holder has a very difficult job
Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

Days to Kickoff: 41 Days

As the 100 Days to Kickoff series passes the midway point, this week will feature a series of position previews across the roster. These articles will go position-by-position to look at players that have departed, players that return from a year ago, new faces at the position, and the overall outlook for the 2017 season. The overall goal is to examine what the depth chart will look like next season and look at realistic expectations for each position group.


Departures

Thankfully, we didn’t really lose much in terms of specialists. Unfortunately, the specialist that we did lose was really good at what he did. And that was holder (and occasional punter) Ryan Rodwell. As a position, the holder is very often overlooked. All he does is hold the ball for a field goal, how important could it possibly be? Well, very.

Much like the relationship between quarterback and center, the relationship between holder and kicker needs to be a good one. There is a certain technique for placing the ball after you catch the snap which, if you don’t know how your kicker prefers it, could result in some very poor kicks. You can learn more about field goal holding in the below video.

Returnees

So the good thing about only losing one player from a position group is that it means the rest of them are coming back. Most notable in returning are Tech’s two main return men: Brad Stewart and J.J. Green.

With Stewart returning punts last year, the Yellow Jackets finally had a decent threat for a good return for the first time in a while. Stewart took all but one of the opportunities and turned it into an 11.5 yard average, which is definitely solid.

Returning kicks, J.J. Green was one of a few different guys to get opportunities, with Nate Cottrell and Lance Austin also getting some. Green, by far, stood out among the group, though. Most of it probably comes from this (for your health, skip to 0:22), but Green averaged a healthy 24.6 yards per return, while also adding in a touchdown.

Joining these guys in returning is long snapper Casey Wilson.

Newcomers

While there are certainly some of this past year’s commits who could contribute as specialists (mostly kick and punt returns), I think it’s pretty unlikely to see them there with the established players we have there, so I’m not going to mention any names here.

The Yellow Jackets did add another long snapper to the roster for the upcoming season in the form of walk-on Jerrod Abee.

Projected Depth Chart

Specialists

Position First String Second String
Position First String Second String
Kick Returner J.J. Green Nate Cottrell
Punt Returner Brad Stewart Qua Searcy
Holder Pressley Harvin III
Long Snaper Casey Wilson Lucas Patelles

What to Expect

So there’s not necessarily a whole lot that’s different here from last year, with the only difference being in holder. That being said, I think that we’ll more than likely see some consistency carried over from last season. Stewart and Green are now both in their second seasons starting at their respective positions, while Casey Wilson is in his third. I expect they’ll either stay about the same or, if anything, we’ll see a little bit of improvement out of them.

The one wildcard here is with the holder position. Right now, I have Pressley Harvin III penciled in as the holder, as it’s typically a punter’s job. Other people that can be used here are typically back-up quarterbacks, but I’ve noticed that punters tend to be the guy here. We can’t really know what we’re going to get here until the season starts and we see for ourselves.

Can the specialists take a step forward this year?