Position Preview: Special Teams

Hatts previews SMU's special teams in the latest Pony Stampede position preview!

Returning players: Deion Sanders Jr., Darius Joseph, Horace Richardson, Jackson Koonce
New Additions: James Proche, Xavier Jones, Kevin Johnson, Braeden West, Kevin Thomas.
Departed Players: Der’rikk Thompson, Cody Rademacher, Daijuan Stewart

2014 recap: It was a long season on all sides of the ball last season and the special teams group was no different. Although later in the season, Deion Sanders Jr. did have a couple of big returns to spark drives for SMU, the only consistent bright spot of the group was Jackson Koonce. Sanders Jr. continued to struggle with knowing when to take the ball out of the end zone and a couple times returned the ball from almost 9 yards deep in the end zone. SMU lost a couple of players from this group as well including Der’rikk Thompson and Cody Rademacher. Thompson did not have a huge impact on special teams but was back on a couple of punt and kick returns before Sanders Jr. took hold of the position. After a solid season the previous year from Chase Hover, SMU also said goodbye to Cody Rademacher who had a disappointing season only going 9/17 on the year.

Despite the long year there is no doubt the star of the group was Jackson Koonce. The freshman had an average of 40.8 yards a punt while having a long of 60 yards. Koonce also had 14 punts land inside the 20-yard line, which was a big step up over previous SMU seasons. The hope is that Koonce will not have to punt as much next year, but when he is called upon, coach Morris knows he can count on Koonce to switch the field position.

2015 Preview: Jackson Koonce will be back as SMU’s punter for a couple more seasons and should continue to improve this year. Koonce will also get a crack at taking over the placekicking duties in 2015 however he will be battling with incoming freshman Josh Williams for that role. With some better coaching, Deion Sanders Jr. might be ready to be a consistent threat in the return game that should provide a big boost next season on the offensive side of the ball if they can begin with better field position. The incumbent Sanders Jr. will also face hefty competition from a couple incoming players in James Proche, Xavier Jones and a number of other guys.

The starters: Jackson Koonce is going to be penciled in as SMU’s punter for years to come however I don’t believe he will be the kicker when SMU opens their season against Baylor in September. That role will likely go to Josh Williams, one of the top rated kickers in this year’s class by Scout.com. The return game will likely be a rotation between Sanders Jr. and James Proche, but expect Proche to grab a hold of that job early on in the season due to his explosive potential.

The rest: Behind Proche and Sanders Jr. sits Xavier Jones, Darius Durall, Kevin Johnson and Kevin Thomas. Of these options, Jones and Johnson provide the biggest boost for SMU in terms of home run potential, and certainly could see some time back returning kicks during fall camp.

Unknown to watch: Lurking behind Proche and Sanders Jr., is Kevin Johnson, a late commit to SMU but one who could provide a big impact for SMU in the return game. Johnson is a former track athlete whom was clocked running a 4.42 laser-timed 40-yard dash. Johnson will still have to improve in some of the decision-making areas of being a return man but has the speed to make a difference.

2015 Depth Chart
Punter- Jackson Koonce

Kicker- Josh Williams

KR1- James Proche KR2- Deion Sanders Jr. KR3- Kevin Johnson

PR1- James Proche PR2- Deion Sanders Jr. PR 3- Kevin Johnson


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