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OU mid-season report: Special teams

Special teams at midway point for OU features some good and some, well, still waiting.

Oklahoma is halfway through the regular season. The 4-2 record is not what fans were hoping at this point of the season, but the Sooners appear to be getting back on track as winners of their last three games.

It’s the midway point, which means it’s time to evaluate how OU has fared in the first half of the season. Sooners Illustrated will examine the offense, defense and special teams all this week.

Bob Przybylo/Scout

Special teams

MVP: K/P Austin Seibert

As a field goal kicker, maybe Seibert doesn’t get the nod. As a kickoff guy, perhaps Seibert hasn’t been able to deliver all the time. But add in those two roles and punting, and Seibert still remains an integral part of what the Sooners do in all phases of the game. Seibert, though, is going to have to eventually hit a 50-yard field goal or a major field goal to start a game. He has been able to connect on pressure ones vs. TCU and Texas but neither was a long attempt. Both were well within his range and that of any quality kicker at this level. Bob Stoops keeps praising Seibert to keep the confidence level high, but Seibert is going to have to deliver a big one sometime this season.

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Breakout performer: Curtis Bolton

Maybe jumping the gun on this one, but it has felt like Jay Boulware has been searching for that spark on special teams all season. Not necessarily in the return department, but in terms of the coverage unit. It was Stanvon Taylor, but he’s hurt. It was Kahlil Haughton, but he went down. Curtis Bolton has stepped in as the guy right now and fared very well against Kansas State. He had three tackles in that aspect of the game and showed a great ability to be the guy who gets down the field first and makes the hit. Being the gunner isn’t an easy job, but Bolton made it look rather routine. If he can continue that the rest of the way, Boulware will definitely be smiling.

Biggest surprise: Lack of punt return game

It’s just not there. Nine returns for 44 yards with a long of 15 this season. Factor in the muff by Joe Mixon against Texas, and you just scratch your head at why the Sooners cannot get anything going in this department. Mixon will be put on the sideline from now on because he’s too valuable in his other roles and the depleted depth at running back. So now Dede Westbrook is going to get the chance to try to make something happen. It’s just odd after the rash of good returners that OU hasn’t been able to find the right combination the last two seasons with Sterling Shepard and now what has gone on through the first half of this year.

What to watch: Seibert’s conditioning

Absolutely. As a freshman, Seibert was blunt about admitting he wore down toward this stretch of the season. It’s not any easier this time around so the hope is Seibert has adjusted to it all. But he’s also doing kickoffs this season, which he didn’t have to do last year. Kickoffs are going to be crucial because you figure OU’s offense is going to continue to rack up the points. He’s going to have a lot of opportunities to boom the ball, but his success rate hasn’t been too stellar. Less than 50 percent of his kicks (21 of 43) have been touchbacks. So far the average starting position is good at the 25, but he’s going to need to not tire down this stretch run.

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