Captain's Corner: Special Teams Emphasis

Jim Tressel's teams have become known for their outstanding special teams play. Is it excessive having the team's best players out on the field for special teams? Not at all, says Jerry Rudzinski, who addresses the importance of special teams emphasis in this edition of the Captain's Corner.

Are special teams really that special? Is it really one-third of the game? Shouldn't the starters be catching their breath on the sidelines instead of blocking for a punt?

I would answer the first question "yes." I would answer the second question "at least." And I would answer the third question with, "If they need to catch their breath, take them off offense or defense, but they WILL be out there for that punt."

AJ Hawk was a top five NFL pick. He blocked for punts…not as a freshman backup, but as a decorated senior All-American. Antoine Winfield won the Thorpe Award. He also played special teams. I still remember Mike Vrabel blocking punts on his way to sack records at OSU. Simon Fraser congratulating Mike Nugent after successful field goals is vivid in my mind. Simon was put in for protection purposes on field goals.

Sure we want to see the dazzling highlights on special teams. Who knows how that Michigan State game would have turned out had we not scored the touchdown late in the first half. Ginn needs to pop a few. I'd love to see these new kickers boom field goals of 50+. Also, how about some of the punts that are downed at the 1 yard line.

Equally important though is the damage control. OSU needs to protect their kickers. They need to get off blocks and cover. They need to nail every long snap. They need to have return men show sure hands every time. They need some "boring" special teams at times.

I almost hope our fans argue every once in awhile, "Special teams are not one-third of the game. They are so uneventful in this stadium." There is nothing wrong with that. That means no blows in our protection. That means we kick into the end zone for a touchback. If we don't have a touchback, the opponent has a simple return to the 20 yard line. Let's get real boring.

It is no different than the way we strategize with this sport. We need offense (Ginn return for touchdown, blocked punt, 52 yard field goal, big hit causing a fumble on the opponent's return man, downing a punt inside the 5, etc.). That offense will be the difference in a few games. We also need defense (good snap, good protection, good hands catching the ball, players staying in their lane on coverage, etc.). Playing great defense means you don't beat yourself.


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