Here we are, back again for the second installment of the Penn State special teams preview series. This time we’ll be focusing on kick and punt returns.
The punt/kick return squads didn’t perform quite at the same level, not to say they had a bad year. Both sides did a respectable job but failed to find the end zone even once. Adding a couple here and there will let the somewhat over-powered offense rest a bit longer while humiliating Penn State’s opponents.
There aren’t many things better than starting off a game by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. It’s huge for any team to lurch the momentum to their side immediately.
In 2016, Miles Sanders took 33 of Penn State’s 49 kick returns for a total of 688 yards. With an average of 20.8, the ball always ended up around where it would have if it had ended in the endzone. Sanders’ longest return went for 48 yards.
Nick Scott was given six chances as well, taking them for an average of 23 yards. His longest return went for 30 yards. Both Sanders and Scott will be back in 2017. They are expected to continue their duties, but new recruits could end up platooning as well.
Both have shown their ability, they just need the occasional downfield block or some broken coverage before they can start racking up the points.
This is what a good Penn State kick return looks like. Not sure what was up with the Irc Charles return later in the game. pic.twitter.com/ESWCAGjFry— Greg Pickel (@GregPickel) November 13, 2016
Above I wrote about there being very little more exciting than a kick return touchdown. Punt return touchdowns may be just a step above based on rarity alone.
Nowadays, punters and their coverage teams have become so fine-tuned that blocked punts are really the only feasible way to get good field position for an offense. Once or twice, John Reid managed to get fans out of their seats in 2016.
Despite not finding the Promised Land, Reid ran 22 of Penn State’s 30 punt returns for an average of 7.5 yards. That doesn’t sound impressive, but considering how many punts end either out of bounds or as fair catches, his success rate was above average. Reid’s longest return went for 59 yards in 2016.
Reid will not be back in 2017 due to a knee injury that might keep him out this season. In his place could be one of a handful of players. Four returning players each took one punt return, with only Juwan Johnson finding any success. Johnson took his one return for 20 yards.
Currently it is unknown who will take the punt return job, but whoever it ends up being will be looking to create a Happy Valley Miracle or two – not that we want any game to come down to that.
The only player on the team I can pretty much guarantee won’t be given a shot at returning a punt will be Amani Oruwariye who returned one last year. His return went for a whopping negative 26 yards. Ouch.
Check back for the final article in this special team’s series later this week.
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