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State of the Program: Special Teams

Another unit with a wealth of experience.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the summer, we will be taking a look inside the state of the Texas Tech football program. We will analyze each position as a whole and look at the players that have left the team, the current starting players, and how each position is set up for the future. This week, we look at the third side of the ball.

Past

Dating back to the Leach days, Tech has been known to take risks when it comes to fourth downs. The kicking game was not a priority for the Red Raiders as Leach was famous for literally taking a student from the crowd and turning him into a kicker.

Kingsbury has placed more of an emphasis on the kicking game despite being just as risky. Bringing in all american Clayton Hatfield in 2014 was an example of that focus. Hatfield has proven to be a solid kicker hitting 90% of his field goals for the past two seasons. With this marksmanship, Hatfield was mostly remembered last season for missing the game tying extra point in the Oklahoma State game. He will have some making up to do with Tech fans.

As far as the return game, Tech spent most of last year trying to find Jakeem Grant’s replacement. Reginald Davis took on most of the kick return responsibility, but averaged less than 20 yards per return. Cam Batson had punt return duties and despite putting up a quality performance in the first game against SFA, didn’t have more than 22 return yards in a game for the rest of the season.

Present

Hatfield returns as one of the nation’s best kickers and will look to make sure last season’s Oklahoma State game never happens again. Punting duties will likely be split between spring breakout star John Delagarza and newcomer Dominic Panazzolo who is known to be accurate on and off the field.

Batson will need to improve in the return game this season if the Red Raiders are going to have their first return touchdown since 2015. He will likely be the main returner in both the kick and punt game. Coutee will likely also be in the end zone returning punts as he helped last season, and with his speed and elusiveness can be a boost.

Future

Hatfield & Panazollo should both be with the program in 2019 which will give the team a big boost in the kick game for the next two seasons. Redshirt freshman Delagarza will likely be next in line for either duties afterwards. Predicting future returners can be a difficult task but with Quan Shorts speed, he’s sure to be a candidate moving forward.

Special teams will need to make a difference this season in order to give this Red Raider team the advantage they need.