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What can we expect from special teams?

This unit can really change the bad mood that surrounds it

Texas Tech v Oklahoma State Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images

Special teamers are people too, so here’s a preview for them as well. All joking aside, this unit is always important for a team, as it obtains wins and losses exactly like offense and defense. Consequently, it deserves the same analysis and the same critics for a bad 2016 season. Some numbers were ugly, some others decent, but in general people noticed the Red Raiders special teams for the bad things and not for the good ones.

KICKING

In 2016, Clayton Hatfield had an odd year, as he converted more than 92% of his field goals, ranking sixth in the FBS, but then missed five extra points, including a costly one against Oklahoma State.

His not-so-powerful leg cost him the spot on kickoffs, as late in the season punter Michael Barden emerged as a strong leg who could manage the duties with more efficiency. The comparison among the two is merciless, as Hatfield had 37% of touchbacks, while Barden had 68.9%, ranking ninth in the country. The division of the work should continue in 2017.

PUNTING

Barden was the starting punter too. but things were not good for him in 2016. Texas Tech punted 46 times and he averaged 38.2 yards per punt, ranking 116th in the country.

For this reason, the Red Raiders brought in transfer Dominic Palazzolo, an Australian punter who was named second-team JUCO All-American in 2016.

He is an accurate player who can punt both traditional style and rugby style, and this is an important addition because the latter allows placing the ball away from the most dangerous returners. Panazzolo is a noticeable addition that possibly will solve the problems that recently affected this unit.

RETURNING

Texas Tech hasn’t scored a special teams touchdown since 2015. That’s a matter that needs to be addressed by special teams’ coordinator Joe Robinson, who joined the staff in 2016.

The punt returner is always Cameron Batson and he is a safe choice, as he averaged 9.5 yards per return, ranking 39th in the FBS. He is fast, elusive, and with some better blocks, he can further improve his numbers.

The problems come in the kickoffs, where the 16.9 yards per return ranked fourth from last in college. Reginald Davis III took the biggest part of the job, and he’s gone. Occasionally Keke Coutee also returned some punts, but his results weren’t good.

In addition, it’s not suitable that the best wide receiver on the team risks injuries in these situations. Probably some young player will be requested to stand up in this position.