While none of the guys I'm about to talk about really did much with the return unit, each of these three guys did get returns on two separate occasions, so I believe they are worth mentioning. First up is former B-back Matt Connors. Connors was a special teams extraordinaire for the Jackets last season. In addition to his three returns (one punt, two kicks), Connors also added in a blocked punt, the first of his career.
And now for a couple of less experienced returners that aren't returning, we've got former A-back Deon Hill and former linebacker Anthony Harrell. Each had two kick returns, with Hill totaling up 19 yards and Harrell totaling up 25.
Looking through Tech's 2015 recruits that will actually be with the team this season, I saw two potential names that I could see returning kicks and/or punts for the Jackets, though neither of them are likely to do that this season. The first of those is fan (and Michael Carvell) favorite Brad Stewart. Stewart joins the Jackets from Benedictine Military Academy in Savannah, GA. Watching his highlight film, you see a few of his returns that I would say worked out pretty well for him. With some added coaching from Ray Rychleski plus being able to watch and learn from Jamal Golden, and Stewart could definitely become a much better kick and punt returner.
The other guy I had in mind was another receiver: Christian Philpott. I would say at this point, Philpott would be very raw as a return man, but with his potential and his speed, he could very well become a dynamic returner. He just needs some coaching up there. The coaching staff may also opt to keep him solely at receiver and to focus his attention there.
Projected Depth Chart
|Position||First String||Second String|
|Kick Returner||Jamal Golden||Broderick Snoddy|
|Punt Returner||Jamal Golden||Broderick Snoddy|
What Should You Expect?
Jamal Golden is going to continue to be a good returner. What will make him a great one is the blocking in front of him. From what I was able to tell last season, that was a major factor in why Golden could never seem to break off a huge return. Even so, Golden still managed to do pretty well with his average kick return (23.7 yards/return), though his punt return average was putrid (4.1 yards/return). Because of this, I do think we'll see a little bit more experimentation with the punt returner this year. Right now, I'd say one of the main candidates would be Broderick Snoddy, if for nothing else than experience. He's the only other player on the roster right now that has returning experience.
I also wouldn't be too surprised to see one of the Austin twins or one of the redshirt freshman A-backs (Qua Searcy perhaps?) get an opportunity at some point this season. While yes, we do need some help returning this season, we're going to need a lot more next season when Golden is long gone, so I think we'll see a few different guys get their feet wet with both the kick and punt returns so we won't be forced to go into next year with no experience at the position.
How do you feel about our return game? Other than Golden and Snoddy, who do you see taking a step up as a returner?