ASU Football 2002 Report Card - Special Teams

DevilsDigest.com takes an in-depth look at special teams, grades this unit position by position, as well as awards an overall grade for the team.

Kicker grade – A minus

Senior Mike Barth once again showed he could be relied upon to put points on the board, despite mid-season struggles. Six of Barth's ten total misses for the season came in a two-game stretch. The senior missed four FG attempts in the loss to UNC and two more against OSU. However, he only missed four attempts in the other twelve games, all from 50 yards out or greater. He was also perfect on PATs, hitting all 49 of his attempts.

The only reason Barth has the "minus" attached to his grade is because his four misses in the UNC game contributed a huge amount toward the Sun Devils' most embarrassing loss of the season. Otherwise, he gets an "A plus."

Punter grade – A

Junior Tim Parker did a very good job, garnering a 42.7-yard per punt average. Of his 79 total punts, 27 were downed inside the 20 yard line and Parker's longest punt of the year traveled an impressive 75 yards. After a shaky start in the Nebraska game, Parker was solid, if not excellent.

Kick Return grade – B minus

The stats show the kick return game to be solid. The Devils averaged 20.8 yards per return, including a 55 yarder by Hakim Hill and a 42 yarder by Josh Golden. However, the return crew also put the ball on the ground fairly often. It seemed that almost every good return ended with a defender punching the ball out of the carrier's hands at the end of the run. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but the fumbles and mishandles keep the grade from staying at a solid "B."

Punt Return grade – C

The punt return team was not spectacular at all, averaging only 8.2 yards per attempt. Additionally, the longest return of the season was 31 yards, with no punt returns going for TDs (although Miller recovered a blocked punt for a TD). Much like the kick return squad, this group seemed to put the ball on the turf a lot, especially toward the beginning of the season. Additionally, there was no real game-breaking threat to put points on the board.

Kick Coverage grade – B plus

This group held opponents to 18.9 yards per return while yielding no TDs and a long return of only 45 yards. Additionally, senior Greg Pieratt was consistently kicking the ball into the endzone toward the end of the season. A few more kick-offs resulting in touchbacks toward the beginning of the season would raise this grade.

Punt Coverage grade – B

This group held opponents to only 8.8 yards per return, with a long of 41 yards. No punt returns resulted in TDs for the opponent, although two punts were blocked for TDs. This group was solid all season and did not make too many mistakes.

Overall Special Teams grade – B

The return teams were shaky at times, but the punting/kicking and coverage teams were solid. Game breakers in the return game would really help this grade.

Overall Team GPA: 2.92

If this team's grades were relative to pre-season expectations, the GPA could be in the 3.5 range. When compared to last season's 4-7 record and the ninth place conference finish predictions, 8-6 and third place in the Pac 10 look outstanding. However, when looking at the season objectively, it is easy to say that the Devils would have been 10-4 by eliminating the losses to UNC and Cal. Also, the team did not fare well in the two "big" conference games late in the season against WSU and USC, although the performance against KSU in the Holiday Bowl was very impressive.

A couple less turnovers by the offense that put the defense in a bad position and/or a couple more stops by the defense against UNC would definitely raise the GPA into the 3's. Adding a running game would move that grade even higher. The most important factor to look at when assessing the 2002 squad is the improvement over last season. The GPA last season would have been somewhere in the 1.5 range. If the 2003 squad can show anywhere near the same improvement over this season, Sun Devil fans are in for a very fun 2003 season!

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