BSB Midterm Gradebook: Special Teams

The open week comes at the midway point of the season for Ohio State, which means it's a perfect time to break down the Buckeyes' performances for the first six games. BuckeyeSports.com staffers take a look at the kicking game in the final part of our exams.

Ben Axelrod, Ryan Ginn, Matthew Hager and Jeff Svoboda break down how the Ohio State kicking game has done through six games.

Punting
Axelrod: Cameron Johnston might have been hailed as an athletic freak by the OSU coaching staff, but he sure looked like a punter during his failed fake attempt in the Buckeyes' win over Northwestern. That aside, Johnston has been steady, and OSU has allowed only 3 return yards on the season. That's a positive for the Buckeyes, and all you could honestly ask for from a freshman in his first year of American football. A-

Ginn: As a late addition to the roster, Johnston got off to a slow start in Columbus but has made up for it with a stellar showing in his last three games. His 10 most recent punts have all been downed inside the opposing 20-yard line, and only one punt has been returned all year – for a grand total of 3 yards. For someone advertised as a relatively athletic punter, however, the fake against Northwestern could not have gone any worse. B+

Hager: It's hard to be disappointed in the performance of Johnston. The freshman Aussie averaged 40.1 yards per punt, and more impressively, 14 of his 21 punts were downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Johnston's first six collegiate games have been solid. His fake punt run wasn't pretty, but that was really his only blemish. A-

Svoboda: What's not to like about Johnston? The Aussie is always smiling and has adapted to American football quite well, dropping an inordinate amount of punts inside the 20. That's somewhat a function of field position, but it still requires execution, and Johnston has been doing it well. The coverage team has also been excellent. B+

Kicking
Axelrod: Drew Basil hasn't missed a kick this year. That's big. Meyer doesn't value the field goal in the same way that Jim Tressel did, but Basil's proven to be valuable when called upon. That will need to continue throughout the second half of the season, as one game this season could very possibly be decided by the Chillicothe, Ohio, native's leg. A

Ginn: Although used sparingly due to an incredibly efficient red-zone offense, Basil has not missed a kick this season. He's a perfect 31/31 on PATs and has also drilled five field goals in as many attempts. Only one of those kicks was longer than 40 yards, but he's made everything put in front of him. Even if by design, the kickoff tactic of landing the ball just short of the end zone is irksome. Basil has produced just 12 touchbacks in 45 kickoffs, with two landing out of bounds. A-

Hager: Basil hasn't been asked to do that much through the first half of the season. Still, he has performed well. The senior has made all five of his field goal attempts, including a 45-yard boot against Wisconsin. He also made all 31 of his extra points and hasn't had a kickoff returned for a touchdown. There's not much to find fault with in Basil's game. A

Svoboda: OSU is among the worst teams in the country when it comes to kickoff distance, one of the few issues here. The Buckeyes are covering kicks pretty well given all the returns, and Drew Basil hasn't given any reason to complain while making all 36 of his kicks – 31 extra points, five field goals – but his kickoffs could use a bit more leg at times. OSU likes to kick it high to allow its athletes to make tackles inside the 25, something that has worked considering the average start for opponents is the 24, but that also brings the potential for a return into question. B+

Returns
Axelrod: Dontre Wilson has shown burst and the Buckeyes have generally kept solid field position this season, but that's not good enough for Urban Meyer. The Ohio State head coach wants touchdowns on special teams, and the Buckeyes are yet to provide one from the return game. It's only a matter of time before Wilson breaks a big one, but until then, it's hard to grade this unit any higher than a B.

Ginn: Ohio State's official statistics list Bradley Roby's block against Northwestern as a punt return for a touchdown. That seems a tad misleading, but credit does belong to the punt return unit for producing a score. The Buckeyes have been otherwise solid but not spectacular, averaging 23.45 yards per kickoff return and 13.46 yards per punt return. B

Hager: Ohio State ranked in the top 35 in both punt and kick returns through the first half of the season, but there has yet to be a dynamic, memorable return by either group. The odds are there will be on in the second half, especially with Wilson averaging 25.9 yards in his first eight kickoff returns. Corey Brown has averaged 16.1 yards on nine punt returns. Even so, the big breakthrough hasn't happened yet. B-

Svoboda: Ohio State hasn't gone the distance this year with a return, and Meyer has spoken of wanting more explosiveness in this realm, but things aren't all bad here. OSU is in the top 35 in the nation in both punt and kick returns, and the two blocked punts have helped immensely as well. Hitting a big one would help the numbers, but this hasn't been bad for OSU. B


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