Making the Grade: Special Teams

With the 2016 season in the books, we’ve been taking a look back at each position group — as well as handing out final grades. We wrap it up with the OSU special teams.

Wins

Nick Porebski turned in another great season, averaging 41 yards per punt, which ranked in the top half of the Pac-12. Seven of his punts went 50+ yards, including a long of 66 yards.

While passing yards were hard to come by this season, Victor Bolden made up for it in the kickoff return game. He finished fifth in the Pac-12 in return yards (642 yards) and fourth in average yards per return (23.8). His best performance came against Boise State, when he returned four kicks for 206 yards, one of which a 99-yard touchdown return.

Once Adley Rutschman took over kickoff duties, he averaged 59.5 yards per kick, 20 of which were touchbacks. His kicks, on average, were about three yards longer than Garrett Owens’. So, the Beavers benefited from Rutschman’s slightly stronger leg.  

Opportunities

The Beavers should be in good hands with Porebski back for his season year. However, Garrett Owens decided to graduate early and plans to transfer to another school. Will Jordan Choukair hold onto the starting job he earned following Owens’ struggles last season? 

Choukair is highly regarded, but only attempted one field goal last season, a 20-yarder that he made. The roster as of now shows him, Rutschman, Daniel Rodriguez, and Zach Standish as the Beavers’ kickers. So, there could be a fun competition come spring and fall. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard good things about Rodriguez, but we will see. Expect Rutschman to continue handling kickoff duties.

The bottom line is the Beavers need to get better in the field goal game. They made 11-18 attempts last season, and leaving that many points off the board, especially for a team that struggled offensively, was killer. The good news, the Beavers won’t lack options to choose from this spring/fall. Plus, the fact that the coaching staff hasn’t recruited a kicker this year, must means they have faith in their current group of kickers.

One last question is who will replace Bolden as the special teams playmaker? Easy money would be on Trevon Bradford, who possesses the kind of speed, explosiveness, and agility that Bolden does. Or maybe one of the incoming receivers or defensive backs will turn out to be dynamic on special teams.

One final win here is that I thought Beavers’ coverage on kickoffs and punts was solid all season, as I am not recalling any major plays against them. That said, I’m prepared to be called on something. 

Final grade: C

While the punting and kickoff return games were solid (at times strong) for the Beavers, the field goal struggles unfortunately bring this unit’s grade down. Needless to say, it will be important for that to improve in 2017. But two of three things should be in good hands next year, so that’s a start. 


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