Midseason Gradebook: OSU Special Teams

Through six games, there's been plenty to like and plenty to complain about from the Ohio State special teams. BuckeyeSports.com tries to make sense of it all in this midseason gradebook. See the grades given out by BSB for the kickers, punters and return men and voice your opinion on our message boards.

For a team that puts a lot of emphasis on them, Ohio State's special teams were especially disappointing in 2007.

The squad had four field goals blocked, saw punter A.J. Trapasso put together another solid but not outstanding season and struggled in the return game, especially in kick returns, where the team was third to last in the nation.

Things have improved in 2008, led by Trapasso's breakout campaign. In addition, the punt return group has a touchdown and the field-goal team is satisfactory despite a couple of misses early in the campaign.

"I think we're doing a decent job," Trapasso said of the team's special units. "We have a lot of things we could work on and a lot of things we are going to work on as far as just being more consistent."

Buckeye Sports Bulletin's midterm grades for the special teams follow.

Kicking
Placekicker Ryan Pretorius hasn't exactly reminded people of Mike Nugent, but he was performing at a level that would leave many Division I programs envious. Pretorius has made 11 of his first 14 field goals on the year for a solid percentage of 78.6.

Of course, the South African wishes he were more than solid.

"I wanted to be perfect," he said. "I missed a 53-yarder. Most people do. The (other) two off the right hash I should have had in my back pocket, but it happens to every kicker. I've been consistent other than that. I've been happy, but obviously you always want to be perfect, so I'm mad I'm not."

So far, he has missed a 53-yarder against Ohio, a 46-yarder against USC and a 43-yarder against Minnesota. The common theme among his misses is that all have come from beyond 40 yards; he's a perfect 9 of 9 from inside the distance.

A positive sign was the lack of blocked kicks. Four of Pretorius' five misses last year were blocked, and Ohio State's kickers had their fair share of trouble getting the ball in the air during the fall kick scrimmage. But through six games, the team had not had a field-goal try blocked.

Ohio State also is second in the Big Ten in net kickoff yardage, and kickoff man Aaron Pettrey had booted nine touchbacks.
BSB Midterm Grade: B

Punting
Throughout his career, Trapasso, a fourth-year starter, often has said that he's been in search of consistency. After topping 40 yards with his punt average each of the last three years, he's stepped it up in 2008, averaging 44.9 yards per punt to place 11th in the nation and No. 1 in the Big Ten.

Most importantly, Ohio State is second in the league and is eighth in the nation with a net punting average of 40.1 yards per try.

"I think over the years I've tried to change certain things that I shouldn't be changing, especially at certain times that I shouldn't be messing with things," he said. "This year I've been trying to keep it really simple, and it's been working out."

He's had his fair share of big moments so far. Against Troy, he pinned three second-half punts within the 10-yard line, and against Wisconsin he had a 67-yard punt that is tied for the league's longest this year and another that netted the squad 60 yards. Three times he has been OSU's special teamer of the week.
BSB Midterm Grade: A-

Returns
If there was a focus on kick returns before the season given the unit's woeful performance a year ago, the results have not been evidenced on the field.

Brandon Saine and Boom Herron have been the primary choices to return kicks while fellow running back Maurice Wells has earned the chance at spot duty. Saine has averaged only a middling 18.4 yards on his team-high seven returns, while Herron is right behind with four tries for 73 yards, an 18.2-yard average. Perhaps the best return man has been Wells, who has two returns for 50 yards, including a 35-yard return against Wisconsin that is the team's best of the season.

Overall, the unit is averaging 18.7 yards per kickoff return, good for just 99th in the country and 10th in the Big Ten. As a result, the team could be making changes in the return men as soon as Saturday's game against Purdue.

Things have been better when it comes to punt returns, mainly thanks to a game-sealing 69-yard punt return touchdown by Ray Small against Ohio. Through six games, Ohio State is atop the Big Ten with an average of 13.1 yards per punt return. Small leads the squad with 11 returns for an average of 16.5 yards and the touchdown
BSB Midterm Grade: C


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