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Georgia Tech Football: 2015 Position Previews - Special Teams

Jamal Golden looks to revert to his 2012 form in the kickoff and punt return games.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Overall this unit returns most of its key players after a year of up and down performances. Leading the way in the return game is Jamal Golden who looks to rebound in his last season on the Flats after a somewhat disappointing year in 2014. Specialists Ryan Rodwell, Harrison Butker, Sean Tobin, and Trevor Stroebel return with another year under their belts and look to build upon their performances from last year.

The Good

Last year Georgia Tech blocked six kicks, which tied them for first in the country and put them in great company alongside teams such as Notre Dame (one call from upsetting #1 FSU), Nebraska, and Eastern Michigan (only lost 10 games). Additionally there were two blocked punts including this one by Matt Connors that essentially sealed the Tulane victory. Expect to see much of the same aggressive attitude next season by these units.

The Not So Good

Whenever the special teams weren't blocking kicks, they were struggling to get much going in the return game. Jamal Golden averaged 23.7 yards on 30 kickoff returns and 4.1 yards on 11 punt returns; a far cry from 2012 where he averaged 28.3 yards on kickoffs (with 2 TDs) and 14.6 yards per punt. However, many of these issues can probably be attributed to a lack of depth, leaving younger players (most of which lacked any special teams experience) to be forced into action. Looking forward, Golden’s numbers should significantly improve as others around him gain more confidence and experience in their blocking roles.

Who's Gone?

Roberto Hinojosa will make the typical change from kicker to A-back. Punter Alec D’Urbano has left the program. Many other key contributors on special teams such as Tremayne McNair, Corey Dennis, and Special Teams POTY Matt Connors have graduated and moved on to the real world. Coaches Ray Rychleski and Tim McGrath will have their work cut out for them in fall camp trying to replace those leaving with younger guys and getting them up to speed in their schemes.

Who's New?

We can pretty much say that the key components of the special teams units probably will not change that much if at all. Harrison Butker will return as the place kicker and kickoff specialist and hopes to build upon the success he had later on in the season. Punter Ryan Rodwell averaged 40.1 yards per attempt last year and it should be his job to lose. Tech’s all-time leader in kickoff-return average Jamal Golden will be back to return kickoffs and punts. Joining him may be track star Broderick Snoddy and potentially Qua Searcy for punts.

Coach Ray Rychleski likes to cap players off at only two special teams duties except in desperate game situations. This will certainly give the incoming freshmen plenty of opportunities to get on the field early. It’s hard to say right now which, if any, of the freshmen will get any chances as many other factors such as burning a redshirt year come into play. If I had to guess, it would be whoever is wearing the prestigious #51 jersey.

Projected Depth Chart

Position 1st String 2nd String 3rd String
K Harrison Butker Shawn Davis (we're going for it at this point)
P Ryan Rodwell Grant Aasen (let Justin Thomas do Justin Thomas things)
LS Sean Tobin Trevor Stroebel Casey Wilson
KOR Jamal Golden Broderick Snoddy Shamire Devine
PR Jamal Golden Qua Searcy Freddie Burden
Holder Ryan Rodwell Tim Byerly (just pick anyone with hands)

What's Expected

Like I mentioned in my earlier article, this unit should be pretty solid. Butker, Rodwell, Tobin, and Stroebel have multiple years of experience under their belt. While Golden did struggle in the return game, he was recently named to the Paul Hornung Watch List, an award given to the most versatile player; certainly a nod to his defensive and return prowess. The team should focus heavily on the return game in fall camp to help improve its starting field position.

How do you feel about his group? Over/under on blocked kicks?