With Navy set to take on Arizona State in the Fight Hunger Bowl on December 29th it's time to start looking at the threat that the Sun Devils present. The offense and defense are already in the book so it's time to check out the ASU special teams.
Punting Unit - B
The Sun Devil punt game looks bad when you consider they are 98th in the country giving up 10 yards per return. This is somewhat negated, however, by the fact that punter Josh Hubner is third in the country in punting at 45 yards per attempt. Hubner is not your average punter, he stands at 6-4, 238 pounds and he can kick the leather off of the football. He has 19 punts downed inside the 20 this year and has 20 punts of 50 yards or more. He is that rare punter who can change the game with his ability to manufacture field position.
The unit would be ranked as an A if it wasn't for the fact the return game is nothing special, it just 80th in the country, averaging just 7 yards per return.
Kickoff Unit - B
Arizona State are in the middle of the pack in return yards (52nd) bringing the ball back at 22 yards a clip. The unit has one touchdown from Rashad Ross and the timing of the score is notable. Ross returned the second half kickoff against upset minded Colorado 100 yards for a score, turning the momentum and instantly killing any thoughts of a Buffalo surprise. On the return, which was blocked to perfection, Ross showed great speed down the sideline. The Mids will have to work on keeping their lanes and contain his big play ability. The Sun Devil kick unit, on the other hand, has not been scored on all year.
Field Goals - D
As good as the Arizona State offense is, and it is very good, the field goal kicking is not up to scratch. The Sun Devils kickers have combined to go 15-of-23 which is a 65 percent conversion rate. Interestingly long field goals are not an issue when taking on the Sun Devils. Alex Garoutte missed the only attempt taken from over 50 yards all year, and the long for the team is just 43 yards. If Navy can create some fourth downs in this area of the field ASU would have to break type to put instant points on the board.
Penalties - A
Arizona State is the 10th least penalized team in the country giving up just 4.5 penalties per game for 36 yards. As good as this is Navy is actually better, they are the second least penalized team behind Air Force, giving up an average of 3.5 penalties for 28 yards each time out.
It makes sense that on a team as solid as Arizona State the special teams would be solid. Outside of the issue with long field goals, which may be a coaching philosophy as much as anything else, there are no weaknesses here. Watching a future NFL punter do his thing will also be interesting to see.
Bowl Game Prep: Arizona State Special Teams
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