Special teams gets all the pressure. Most fans know college kickers are far from a guarantee, but as a fan you expect any kick within 40 yards to be an automatic 3 points. if they don’t deliver it inevitably leads to fans yelling at their tv screens. This has happened plenty to GT, last year we were 64% on FG conversions which doesn’t inspire much confidence.
With numbers like that you hope for a decent punt and return game. GT has done better there, but we are nothing spectacular. That said we have a new starting kicker coming back and some returning talent at punter and long snapper that may be able to help use improve on punting and returning. Let’s get into it.
I talked about Gavin in one of my earlier articles in the off-season. Gavin is going to have a chance to prove himself as a talented kicker this year. He hasn’t done great in the chances he has seen in college, but he has a huge leg and can be in range as far as 52 yards out. Gavin will need to show improved accuracy, but should be reliable as the season goes on.
David was the starting punter last year and did a pretty good job at the position. Shanahan averaged around 41.5 yds per punt, which is around average for the ACC. For comparison the leading punter in the ACC last year hailed from NC State and averaged about 45 yds per punt. David did have some problems keeping his kicks inside the opponents red zone. Shanahan only kept 26% of his kicks inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. Some of the low red zone pinning percentage that can be attributed to poor field position, but David does need to make this a part of his game to improve upon going into the upcoming season.
I don’t know much about long snappers or what it takes to be a good one. I do know Cade Long has been our only long snapper the past 2 years, so I trust him moving forward. Hopefully his familiarity with the position and with the players he is snapping to will help keep things consistent moving forward.
Nothing is certain when it comes to Kick Returners, but Nate appears to be the front runner for being our kick and punt returner. Nate is fast and has good hands. Nate hasn’t had much of a chance at the receiver position, but he has shown bursts of speed that could benefit the special teams game. I’m looking forward to seeing what he will do.
Who’s Above the Line?
There’s not a ton to say here. unless there are injuries or something unusual occurs then the players listed above will be the starters on special teams. Nate McCollum could get shifted out as things keep going, but I expect Gavin, David, and Cade to be starters all season long. I’ll be excited to see what they can do on the field.
What Special Teams Player do you have your eye on?