Meet the New Mids: Special Teams

Navy's excellent kicking game was the difference in wins over Air Force, Wake Forest and SMU last season. With seniors Joe Buckley, who was an All-East kicker, and punter Kyle Delahooke returning-- the Mids kicking game is in good hands this year. However, this year's class produced two new kickers who hope to emerge as their heir apparent next spring.

Where the new Mids can make a difference is immediately is on the coverage and return teams. Despite Navy's excellent team speed the Mids were below average on kickoff and punt returns. With punt returner Mario Washington separating from the Naval Academy this spring the punt returner job is wide open. In the last of its series takes a look at the new Mids on Navy's special teams.

Ken Niumatalolo's staff landed a terrific placekicker in direct admit Stephen Picchini. Picchini chose Navy over offers from Air Force, Army, Cornell, Pennsylvania and San Diego and the chance to walk on at a number of other FBS programs. Picchini who is 6-0, 172 pounds and hails from southern California. In 2009 Picchini was selected as all-Southern California. During 2009 he hit 7 of 9 field goal attempts, converted on 57 PATs and finished with 78 points. Picchini. proved to be clutch as he connected on field goals from 48, 46 and 45 yards in his team's playoffs. During his junior year Picchini hit 11-of-15 field goal attempts. Stephen is a very talented kicker; he has a good leg and makes kicks with great consistency. He was regarded as one of the better field goal kicker recruits out West.

Brynmor Hughes kicked and at times punted last year for the Naval Academy Prep team. Like Picchini, Hughes is a native of southern California. The San Diego native is 5-9, 165 and possess a good leg . While also listed as a punter on the official Navy 2010 recruiting class list, Hughes is more of a placekicker. There were no punters who were direct admits this year. Due to the high winds at the NAPS Rhode Island home field he didn't receive many opportunities to kick field goal attempts last year. Hughes was named to the California All-State team as a junior.

With the reliable Mario Washington leaving the program the punt return job is wide open. One of the incoming Mids who could help right away is Matt Aiken. Aiken is a 6-foot, 190 pound wide receiver who runs well and has excellent acceleration. He was the punt returner last year at NAPS team and demonstrated the ability to consistently make the first man miss. Aiken possesses excellent hands and is reliable. Aiken was a second team All-State performer at Hidden Valley high school in Virginia his senior year.

Returning players Alexander Teich and slot back Bo Snelson are expected to be the kickoff returners this fall. Last year Navy averaged an abysmal 18.5 average on 46 kickoff returns. The Mids were tied for 116th in the nation for the worse return yardage. While we don't expect any plebe to contribute this year, Darius Staten might in the future. Staten is a 5-5, 186 very well built runner who is explosive with excellent feet, quickness and acceleration.. Staten did a nice job as the USNAPS kickoff returner. Ryan Hill also returned kickoffs at the prep school. Hill is an undersized but strong 5-7, 185 slot back with good speed who demonstrated a North- South running style on returns.

Navy's coverage teams struggled at times last year. The Mids allowed 22.9 yards on kickoffs returns and one touchdown return. Navy allowed 8.5 yards on punt returns and gave up one touchdown. This incoming class from NAPS offers tremendous athleticism especially at linebacker that could help to eventually improve the coverage on special teams. Top Stories