An Early Look At 2014: Special Teams

We break down what to expect from the special teams next season!

2013 Takeaways: It's no secret that people were not happy with the performance by SMU's special teams this past season. SMU struggled mightily all season long with kick returns and punt returns and special teams' coach Carlos Barocio-Leon caught some heat for just that.

As a team, the Mustangs averaged just over 19 yards per kick return and just under eight yards per punt return, which were both substantially below their opponents averages. Deion Sanders Jr. and JaBryce Taylor, two freshmen, saw their ups and downs returning the ball, but overall did what they could with the blocking that they got.

In the kicking department, Chase Hover, while consistent most of the year, had some untimely misses in the Cincinnati game, and after a botched fake punt by punter Mike Loftus, the coaching staff decided not to use the Southern California native anymore.

2014 Outlook: There is no question that Coach Barocio-Leon will have to make some major adjustments so he can improve on 2013. Barocio-Leon needs to work on finding a committed group of players that can help open up holes for Sanders and Taylor. The freshmen duo have the ability to be major special team threats, they just need the opportunity in a well-run system. His two biggest weapons will both have an offseason to get stronger and work on their return skills, so taking advantage of their speed and agility should be top priority.

With Hover graduating, it will be up to either Alex Faoro or Cody Rademacher to replace him. While Rademacher played in six of the final seven games this season as the holder, he and Faoro have yet to kick in a collegiate game. The two are likely to battle it out during the spring, but the best guess is that Faoro will take over as the field goal kicker. As a senior in high school, Faoro had 32 touchbacks on 44 kicks and was a first-team all-district kicker at Fort Worth Arlington Heights.

As far as punting goes, Loftus has the ability to be a good punter, but the coaching staff hasn't showed any signs that they want him punting again. The only other punter on the roster is freshman Daniel Chaparro, who hasn't seen any playing time, but was first-team all-district in high school at North Dallas. While Chaparro is one option, sophomore linebacker Derek Longoria could be another. The Brownwood native averaged nearly 42 yards per punt in high school and was even asked to walk on at Texas. Longoria could get looked at during spring ball.

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