The importance of special teams should not be discounted. Stanford has been excellent in that phase of the game ever since coach Pete Alamar's arrival two years ago. About a month ago, we dedicated an entire article to the analysis the advanced statistical performance of the Cardinal's special teams unit (the team ranked second nationally in special teams efficiency behind only Alabama last year). For your convenience, the Football Outsiders' special teams efficiency numbers are re-posted in the table below. Our extensive podcast discussion, who also analyzes this phase of the game in detail, is embedded right here:
Some key points from the show with R.J. Abeytia:
- Kicker Jordan Williamson may have a bad reputation that's unfairly following him around at this point, nearly three years after the Fiesta Bowl. To be fair, Williamson did struggle a bit in 2012, but he's been excellent since. In 2013, Williamson connected on 18 of 20 field goals shorter than 50 yards, an excellent clip -- especially in the college game. He's been even more valuable on kickoffs the past two years. The Cardinal have ranked in the top 15 nationally in terms of kickoff efficiency the past two seasons. A huge reason behind that: Williamson nailed 24 kicks into the corner of the field bounded by the goal line, sideline, five yard line, and hash marks in 2013. That's a testament to superb leg strength, accuracy, and consistency.
- Stanford has seen surges in both kick and punt return efficiency under Alamar. The team finished ranked No. 1 nationally in kick return efficiency in 2013 (Ty Montgomery won the Jet Award for those efforts) while also earning its highest Harbaugh-Shaw era finish in punt return efficiency (No. 29). That's a testament to extraordinary athleticism and schematic attention to detail. Fans may be in for an interesting treat in 2014, as David Shaw has announced that Montgomery will see punt return action along with Barry Sanders and possibly even Christian McCaffrey.
- As you can see, Stanford's punting efficiency numbers haven't been terrible, but they haven't been great either. This means that the coverage unit there can improve, because punter Ben Rhyne made tremendous strides in 2013. A year after booting two touchbacks in only nine punts, Rhyne hit the end zone only twice in 55 punts -- obviously a significant reduction in touchback rate, a good thing for a punter. Stanford fans should never forget the importance of this position, particularly after Daniel Zychlinksi's fantastic effort in 2012 was a major reason for victory at Autzen Stadium.
Stanford Special Teams Efficiency: Through the Years
*OFGE isn't factored into total Special Teams Efficiency. Best marks of Harbaugh-Shaw era in green, worst in red.
- STE: Special Teams Efficiency, the composite efficiency of a team's Field Goal Efficiency (FGE), Punt Return Efficiency (PRE), Kickoff Return Efficiency (KRE), Punt Efficiency (PE), and Kickoff Efficiency (KE), measured in terms of points per game. In an average game, a team is expected to attempt 1.54 field goals, punt 4.61 times, receive 4.61 punts, kick off 4.84 times and receive 4.84 kickoffs.
- FGE: Field Goal Efficiency, the scoring value per field goal attempt earned by the field goal unit as measured against national success rates.
- PRE: Punt Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent punt earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
- KRE: Kickoff Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent kickoff earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
- PE: Punt Efficiency, the scoring value per punt earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
- KE: Kickoff Efficiency, the scoring value per kickoff earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
- OFGE: Opponent Field Goal Efficiency, the scoring value per field goal attempt earned by the opponent's field goal unit as measured against national success rates. OFGE is not factored into total Special Teams Efficiency.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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