Just how special are special teams?

How special are teams anyway? In recent years past, LSU special teams have played a unique role in their success.

In 2001 it was special teams that made the difference between LSU and Auburn when Nick Saban's Tigers started the game with an onside kick and grabbed the momentum for the remainder of the evening.


That play rewarded the Tigers with a Southeastern Conference Western Division championship and an eventual SEC Championship.


Then came Skyler Green.


Green returned punts and kickoffs for the Tigers, and amazed the LSU faithful with his sharp cuts and blistering speed. He managed four career punt returns for a touchdown with 1,064 yards on 77 attempts.


On kickoff, Green never found the end zone but did add 792 yards on 38 attempts.


With Green returning kickoffs, punts and playing receiver, LSU won two SEC Western Division championships, two SEC championships and a national championship.


With Green gone due to graduation, LSU special teams greatly misses personal like the Westwego, La. native.


LSU has reaped the benefits of good special teams and have seen just how important it plays into big games. Auburn's John Vaughn missed five field goals and cost his team a victory in 2005, while in the same year LSU managed a pair of touchdowns by special teams in the second half off a blocked field goal and a blocked punt, each returned for touchdowns. 


Missed field goals haven't been a problem for the Tigers this season, but return yardage has.


So far this season, LSU has gathered only 136 yards on kickoff return on eight attempts. On punt return, the Tigers have gathered just 123 yards on 18 attempts.


Going into week seven of the season, LSU has more interception return yards than punt or kickoff return. In fact, last season the Tigers finished with 14.1 yards per punt return. Currently they average 6.8 yards per punt return.


Against Florida on Saturday, LSU special teams had a blocked punt, a muffed punt, a missed field goal, a punt return fumble and a kickoff return fumble that resulted in a safety.


"I think special teams is a serous issue," LSU head coach Les Miles said following Saturday's game. "We had a punt blocked. We have some work to do."


In years past, the LSU offense needed extra yardage provided by return teams to help jump start the offense at times. Today, LSU's offense is much different. The Tigers currently lack a rushing attack, but quarterback JaMarcus Russell and company bring a different offensive attack.


When the offense is wide open, Russell and company have had no problem moving the ball down field in their first five contest of the season. However, against Florida, the LSU offense could have used the addition of a helpful return team, especially with five turnovers.


"You can't expect to win with five turnovers," senior receiver Craig "Buster" Davis said. "The gameplan was fine. I didn't think they could stop us. We were driving the ball down the field."


Chevis Jackson has returned punts throughout the 2006 season, and had a horrible day at Florida with negative 10 yards on three returns including a fumble. On kickoff, the Tigers returned four kickoffs for 65 yards including a fumble for a safety.


"I took my eyes of the ball for one split second and it caused me to drop the ball," Early Doucet said. It's tough. I just want to move on and not drop anymore."

Thirty-Six of those yards came on one return by Doucet from deep into the end zone.


"Everything that wasn't supposed to happen, happened," senior receiver Dwayne Bowe said.


After the Florida debacle, special teams should receiver a thorough examination by Miles and his coaching staff. Formation evaluations should occur, as well as personal.


LSU's punt formation could be the first item adjusted. Currently they conduct a spread punt formation with three blockers in the backfield. Throughout the season, the formation has had many close calls, and against Florida, the formation did not stand a chance on one punt that resulted in a block.


Punt return will also likely look to try additional players at returning punts. Jackson has struggled throughout the season, and the Tigers need to get better at returning. Even though Doucet fumbled the kickoff that resulted in a safety, he seems like the most likely successor. 


Chris Jackson's missed field will not result in any changes; he has been a constant throughout his collegiate career.


In both LSU's losses this season, the opponent's punter averaged over 40 yards per punt.

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