Position Preview: Special Teams

Football season is just around the corner and that means the PS staff will break down each position group before fall camp begins. Today we take a look at the SMU special teams.

There will be quite a few changes for the SMU special teams unit next year.

After the unexpected graduation of starting punter Matt Stone, all indications point to true freshman Derek Longoria to take the starting reps in 2012.

Longoria, from Brownwood (TX), contributed in all three facets of the game in his high school years playing linebacker, running back, and punter.

As a linebacker, Longoria finished his senior season with 115 tackles and three interceptions returned for touchdowns.

On special teams, where he'll mostly play at SMU this season, Longoria averaged 41.8 yards-per-punt and earned a 2nd team All-State selection.

He was offered a chance to walk on at Texas, but instead chose to accept his scholarship.

Meanwhile, Stone had 56 punts on the year and averaged 37.7 yards-per-punt for the Mustangs in 2011. Also lost to graduation was sparingly used kicker Brad Namdar.

Deep snapper Mark Voosen returns as the deep snapper so Longoria should have no problem handling snaps.

Kicker Chase Hover, who won a junior college national championship with Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton in 2009, was ranked 7th in the nation in NJCAA kicking/scoring for Blinn in 2010 and transferred to SMU in 2011.

Hover, now a junior, played 11 games for the Mustangs last year making 8 of 10 field goals and 38 out of 40 extra points. But length strength came into question as his longest of the season was a 34-yarder against TCU.

On kickoffs, sophomore Mike Loftus will be the returning starter. In 2011, Loftus finished the season averaging almost 65 yards per kickoff and boomed 13 touchbacks. If Hover struggles, he could see time taking field goals.

SMU did land a transfer in Air Force's Cody Rademacher, but he will have to sit out the 2012 season. Rademacher did not see game time last year, but was an all-state selection with Austin Westlake.

There will also be a number of changes in the Mustang return game as well. Cornerback Richard Crawford and wide receiver Cole Beasley have both left the Hilltop and leave a considerable vacancy for in the punt return game.

Additionally, leading kick returner J.R. Richardson looks to move into a starting role as a defensive back for the Mustangs in 2012 and could be forced to cede kick return time to some one else, despite his decent season.

Crawford averaged close to 12 yards a punt return highlighted by a stunning 92-yard touchdown return against UCF. Richardson averaged just over 21 yards a kick return on the year, which included a 54-yard scamper against Houston.

There is a good chance that Richardson will retain his spot as a returner because of the numbers he produced as a freshman. It's up in the air as of now but there are a number of athletes with punt return experience.

A few names to keep an eye on would be true freshman Daijan Stewart, redshirt freshman Rodney Hubert, and junior Kenneth Acker, who has returned kicks in the past but will continue to start opposite of Richardson at the corner spot.

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