Punting and Kicking
Junior Chase Hover returned for another year and head coach June Jones was confident going into this season that Hover had progressed enough to start trying longer field goals from 40+ yards, something he only tried once as a sophomore. Hover made 14 of 18 field goals from 29 yards or less, but from beyond 40 yards, he only made two field goals while missing six. Hover missed two extra points on the year out of 44 attempts so he was not a liability there.
Punting the ball, Hover averaged less than 40 yards per punt before being replaced by sophomore Mike Loftus, who averaged just over 42 yards per punt, but had better hang time than Hover did. Loftus also served as the kickoff man and recorded 28 touchbacks on the year, or 40.58% of the time he kicked off. Loftus only put one kick out of bounds all year and was extremely consistent in this role.
Grade: B for Loftus and B- for Hover
Kick and Punt Returners
SMU had a tough blow at the beginning of the season by losing J.R. Richardson, who was an explosive player that SMU could have used in its return game this season. During fall camp, Richardson was expected to be the man returning kicks and punts, but was lost to an ACL tear. Instead, Kenneth Acker served as punt returner most of the season and was pretty successful doing so, averaging 14 yards a punt return. Acker is an impressive athlete that made some big plays for the Mustangs.
SMU has never had a true threat back to return kickoffs this season, but Der'rikk Thompson's speed was back there during the second half of the season and he averaged nearly 26 yards a kick return while serving as kick returner. During the first part of the season, Cole Loftin was the deep man, but Thompson's speed eventually stood out to the coaching staff and was inserted into the returner role.
It all depends on how Richardson recovers, but with Richardson having an entire season and offseason to recover, he will be 100 percent going into fall camp and will be expected to step back in for the Mustangs as kick returner. Richardson will have to battle Kenneth Acker for the role as punt returner, but if Richardson returns to form, his shiftiness will be tough to ignore for the coaches.
Loftus and Hover return for their junior and senior season respectively and Loftus was a nice surprise as the kick off man and Hover is going to have another offseason to strengthen his leg and refine his form. SMU will have to replace Mark Voosen as deep snapper and without another true deep snapper on the team, SMU will likely have a freshman starting at deep snapper next year. Don't worry though, Voosen started day one as a freshman and will set an SMU record for games played along with Aaron Davis and Ja'Gared Davis on Christmas Eve.
Position Review: Special Teams
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