This special teams group provided us with some head-scratching moments in 2014, but always seemed to come through in the clutch. With all four starters returning from an overall solid year, we should expect this group to be the least of all our worries next season.
Well, yours truly, for one. But more noteworthy, redshirt-senior Roberto Hinojosa will make the switch from kicker to A-back. He will provide depth to a very depleted position group that has lost most of its key players from last year’s Orange Bowl team. Physically, he should make the transition well as he was voted one of the strongest players by his fellow teammates and played division 1 soccer at North Florida. And lastly, punter Alec D’Urbano is no longer with the team.
Special teams Coach Ray Rychleski returns to his second season on the Flats, where he has brought in walk-on kicker/punter Shawn Davis. He chose Tech over offers from Air Force and Wofford as well as a preferred walk-on spot at Georgia Southern. Davis will initially focus on kickoffs and punts but will more than likely add field goals to his duties later in the season. Like teammate D.J. White, Davis hails from McDonough, Georgia and attended Union Grove High School. He made a school record 50 yard field goal his senior season. We could also expect someone to walk-on later when school starts in August.
Last year Harrison Butker made a mere 11/18 (61%) of his field goal attempts, including a puzzling 2/7 from 30-39 yards. However it is worth noting, that had he been an inch or two to the left or right on two clunkers off the uprights against Wofford and Virginia Tech he’d be a more respectable 13/18 (72%) on the season. Fans should not worry about his ability, as he showed his great potential when made this one kick. Butker also had an outstanding year kicking off where 52 of his 87 kickoffs went for touchbacks.
From the punting side of things, Ryan Rodwell returns as the starting punter. He punted for an ACC low 32 punts where he averaged 40.1 yards each. You might mostly remember him from this play last season, which yielded a crucial first down in a close game and hilarious Vines all across the internet. This off-season Rodwell has added back the 40 pounds he lost since his arrival at Tech, with the aim of being a candidate for the B-back role. He will also continue to serve as the holder to Harrison Butker. Ideally we would like to keep him off the field with the exception of just holding duties for extra points. Redshirt-freshman Grant Aasen and true freshman Shawn Davis should vie for the backup position.
For the five of you out there that care, long snapping duties will be taken care of by Trevor Stroebel and Sean Tobin. Stroebel was thrown into the fire versus Virginia Tech in 2013 where he subbed for an injured Tobin. He played in six games in 2013 and served as the team’s field goal snapper all of last season. Tobin is entering his last season on the Flats and will take all the punt snaps where he can utilize his former linebacker skillset from his glory days in high school. These two will more than likely back each other up, but don’t count out former top long snapping recruit Casey Wilson out.
We can probably expect to see a slight improvement in the kicking game. With another year under their belts, Rodwell, Tobin, Butker, and Stroebel are seasoned vets at their respective positions and should be a solid group to watch next season. Assuming Butker can figure out the 30-39 range we can finally see him live up to his full potential.
Projected Depth Chart
|Position||1st String||2nd String||3rd String|
|LS||Tobin (P)||Stroebel (FG)||Wilson|
- The short streak of kicker and punters only being industrial engineering majors has ended with the addition of kicker Shawn Davis.
- Ryan Rodwell averaged 10 yards per carry last season. This was only good for 3rd best on the team.
What do you readers expect of our special teams unit this season? How many rushing yards will Rodwell have this year? Who will fulfill the prestigious roles of backup kicker and punter???