- Special Teams -
- The good -
While the Beavers may have one of the top linebacking groups in the nation,
OSU certainly has one of the best special teams units in the country. The squad
loses just one person, gunner Sabby Piscitelli, while returning both kickoff
returners, the kicker, both punt returners, and the punter.
The electric Sammie Stroughter is one the stars of the squad as he set single season school records for punt return yards (470) and punt returns for touchdowns (3), just one shy of the Pac-10 record. He averaged 15.7 yards per return, good for second in the conference, with a long of 70, which resulted in a touchdown against USC.
He was named a finalist for the inaugural Randy Moss Return Man of the Year Award, named an AP third team All-American and also made the Pac-10's second team. Anytime Stroughter fields a punt, he is a threat to score.
Backing up Stroughter is the fearless Taylor Kavanaugh who returned two punts for 10 yards. Kavanaugh will field almost anything, even if that means he is going to pay the price. As a unit the Beavers averaged 15 yards per return, second in the conference and sixth in the nation.
Although the punt return game got plenty of press, the kickoff game didn't do too bad either as they averaged 22.6 yards per return, fifth in the Pac-10 and 25th in the nation.
Coye Francies led the charge with his north/south type running averaging 22.4 yards per kick, good for sixth in the conference. He racked up a conference high 493 yards returning 22 kicks with a long of 37.
Senior Gerard Lawson, another north/south type runner, ran 100 yards to pay dirt against Hawaii making OSU one of two teams in the conference to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Lawson returned 13 kicks for 350 yards for a 26.9 average.
The ever reliable Alexis Serna continued to assault the record books making 22 of 29 attempts (.759), including a 58-yard boot against California, the longest in the nation in '06, as he was named to an all-conference team for the third consecutive year.
Serna has made 106 consecutive extra points, breaking the school record, and enters the 2007 season as the nation's active leader in career field goals made (62) and career field goal percentage (.805). He is the school's second leading scorer with 292 points, 74 points behind Ken Simonton.
The former walk-on also handled kickoffs where he notched 36 touchbacks, third highest in the Pac-10.
True freshman Kyle Loomis was dead last in the conference in punting early the season averaging less than 40 yards a boot. But Loomis improved in the later half of the year averaging 46.2 yards per punt in the last six games raising his season average to 41.3, good for seventh in the conference.
Of his 62 punts, 14 landed inside the 20, eight were touchbacks and eight were fair caught.
None of the above could have been possible without a dedicated group of blockers and gunners. Gerard Lawson has always been a standout gunner while Greg Laybourn turned in a solid effort.
- The bad -
The only "bad" that can be mentioned are the growing pains that the unit will go through with a new coach. But, as Riley states below, because of the player's experience, the squad will overcome that obstacle quickly.
- The question -
Can the unit pick up where they left off with a new coach?
- Riley says -
Overall - "Special teams is exciting to me. The only guy we lose on
the big four – punt, punt return, kick, kickoff return - is Sabby. We have a lot
of returning special teams players so we feel that we can make an impact there."
On Serna - "There is not much more to say than Alexis is a tremendous weapon and someone we have full confidence in. He has proven that he is reliable in big games, in bad weather and in hostile stadiums. We take him for granted sometimes."
On a new coach – "There will be some growing pains. We congratulate Bruce for what he did for OSU. He was a very loyal, hard working nice guy who did a nice job with our teams. There will be some growing pains – the learning of terminology, coaching style, but because our experience we will overcome that quickly."
- BF.com says -
Bruce Reed did a nice job getting the players to buy into his system.
They took pride in what they did and they did it well. Dave Ungerer's has
an excellent foundation that will make his job easier.
Yes, there will be some hiccups, but those will be worked out early in April and will not be a factor once fall camp rolls around.
- Keep your eye on -
Kyle Loomis. His improvement for the start to the end of the year was impressive. He's got the height and length down, now it's time to work on accuracy.
- The roster -
SR Alexis Serna – automatic from 40 yards in…has the leg to kick the big ones though…43 of 48 from 39 yards or closer…earned Player of the Week honors twice in 2006…a school record 106 consecutive extra points…school's second leading scorer…nation's active leader in career field goals made (62) and career field goal percentage (.805).
RFR Justin Kahut – will take over from Serna in 2008.
SO Kyle Loomis - first true freshman to start at Oregon State in almost 25 years…strong leg…averaged 41.3 yards per kick, seventh in the conference…14 kicks inside the 20…eight touchbacks…working on accuracy.
SR Jon Strowbridge – backup punter and holder
SR Sammie Stroughter – a threat to score every time he fields the ball…school record 470 punt return yards and three punt returns for touchdowns…averaged 15.7 yards per return, second in the conference.
SO Taylor Kavanaugh – small, but daring…returned two punts for 10
SR Gerard Lawson – north/south runner with excellent speed…100 yard kickoff return against Hawaii…averaged 26.9 yards per return.
SR Coye Francies – north/south type of runner…averaged 22.4 yards per
kick, sixth in the conference…a long of 37.
SR Jon Stowbridge – excellent hands…does a nice job of fielding the snaps off of the turf or brining them down to the field…a big part of Serna's success.
RFR Alex Linnenkohl - redshirted in 2006
- Special Teams -