OU non-conference eval: Special Teams

Sooners Illustrated breakdowns and grades Oklahoma's three units, ending with special teams

The non-conference season is in the rear-view mirror, and now it’s time for nine-straight games (no bye weeks) as Oklahoma trudges its way through the Big 12 season. Over the next three days, Sooners Illustrated’s Justin Hite will take a look at what we’ve learned about Oklahoma, what we still need to find out and who some of the top performers have been.

It finishes with special teams.

Unit grades

Punting - A-

When freshman Austin Seibert got the job to do both kick field goals and punt, there was some hesitation. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops had never relied on a freshman to do both jobs during his time with the Sooners.

If it’s been tough, Seibert hasn’t showed it. Punting-wise: He’s placed six of his 16 punts inside the 20-yard line (with one touchback) and gotten fair catch on 50 percent. His 45.8-yard average is just solid – not great but solid.

Kicking- A+

Not much more you can ask for from a kicking game than a 100-percent make rate and 12 touchbacks on 21 kicks – with a net yardage of more than 40.

Nick Hodgson and Seibert have been excellent.

Return game - C-

There’s nothing to see here. Sterling Shepard has been better as a punt return, actually much better, this season. He’s averaging 10 yards per return on nine tries when last year he finished the season with 11 – and an average of 6.6 yards.

Still, he’s made a lot of bad decisions.

And wait, has anyone seen Alex Ross yet? He’s averaging 13.8 yards per return – nine tries. His long of 18 yards this year is 13 yards shy of his average from last year.

Best player - Seibert’s been the best special teams contributor, really no question. Hodgson has been really good, too.

Needs-improvement player - No really, has anyone found the player formerly known as Alex Ross. Blocking has something to do with it, but he’s been a pretty consistent no-show through the first three games.

Biggest surprise - Knew Seibert would be good. Didn’t know he’d be this good, this early.

What needs to change? - Shepard needs to clean up the punt return. He’s had a few big ones called back, but if he can just improve his decision-making, then Oklahoma will have a pretty skilled punt-return unit.

What needs to stay the same? - Seibert needs to keep making kicks – keep doing what he’s doing.

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