Toledo 2008 Special Teams Preview

Toledo had one of the best punters and kickers in all of college football last season, but punter Brett Kern is now playing in the NFL for the Denver Broncos. Has Toledo found a replacement? Who will return kicks now that Jalen Parmele is also in the NFL? Read on to find out.

Toledo has one of the most accurate kickers in NCAA history in junior Alex Steigerwald. He is 20 of 21 for his career (95.2 %), including 13 of 13 last season. He was a 2nd Team All-MAC performer in 2007 as he also connected on 44 of 47 extra points.

His career long is a 44 yard field goal against Purdue last season. The only miss in his career was a 36 yard attempt against Ball State as a freshman in 2006.

Backup quarterback DJ Lenehan is the holder on field goal and extra point attempts, with Opelt listed as his backup on the most recent depth chart.

Steigerwald handles the extra points and field goals, but sophomore Brett Brodbeck is expected to handle the kickoffs this year.

Brodbeck averaged 51.7 yards per kickoff last year, kicking off 27 times. The graduated Mike Krispinsky handled most of the kickoff duties last year with 48 kicks averaging 51.7 yards.

Another kicker on the roster is redshirt freshman Andrew Weber from Perrysburg, OH. Weber is not likely to play this year, unless there is an injury.

Toledo has a huge hole to fill at punter. Last year Brett Kern finished 2nd in the nation in punting average and was one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award that is given to the nation's top punter. He has recently been named the starting punter for the Denver Broncos in the NFL.

Right now redshirt freshman Bill Claus is listed #1 on the depth chart at punter. Claus has done well in practice, but needs to be more consistent.

Claus played his high school ball at St. John's High School right here in the Toledo area. He was First Team All-Ohio as a senior punter in 2006, averaging 43.4 yards per punt. He redshirted at Toledo last season.

Behind him on the depth chart, and providing the biggest challenge, is true freshman Zack Cooper from Nease High School in Jacksonville, FL.

Bret Brodbeck handles the kickoff duties and is Steigerwald's backup on extra points and field goals, but he could also punt if needed.

The long snapper position has Rocket fans spoiled. Senior Jeremy Mack is entering his 4th season as the long snapper for Toledo. It is unusual for a player to be recruited and offered a scholarship just to be the long snapper, but his abilities led to just that four years ago and he has been very consistent over his first three years at Toledo. Backing him up is tight end Tom Burzine.

Jalen Parmele was a serious threat to return a kickoff for a touchdown at any time last season for Toledo. Now that he is in the NFL the Rockets will look to another running back to replace him. That player is redshirt freshman Adonis Thomas. Thomas has very good speed (4.45 forty) and was a very good kick returner in high school at Weeguahic High School in Newaek, NJ.

Next to him deep on kickoffs will be sophomore defensive back Greg Harris. Harris also has very good speed, running the forty yard dash in 4.43 seconds. He returned 7 kicks last season, averaging 10.9 yards per return.

Others that could find themselves on kick returns are running backs DaJuane Collins and Morgan Williams, wide receiver Stephen Williams, and redshirt freshman quarterback David Pasquale.

Toledo's punt returner from last season is back in senior wide receiver Nick Moore. He averaged 6.9 yards per return last season. DaJuane Collins is listed as the backup punt returner again this season. He averaged 6.0 yards per punt return last season.

It is also possible to see Stephen Williams or Morgan Williams return punts if needed.

Defensively speaking, Toledo blocked one punt last season and opponents were just 6 of 11 on field goal attempts. You can credit an attacking special teams unit for those numbers.

The key to great special teams play for Toledo in 2008 is going to be the punting game. Replacing a guy like Brett Kern is going to be difficult to do. If either Claus or Cooper can settle into the job and be consistent, the Rockets should have a solid special team unit.

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