Friday, March 25, 2011

How big a difference can a special teams player make?

Everyone knows the impact that a punter like Butler, a kicker like Walsh or a returner like Boykin can make, but what about the thankless job that the blockers on the kick return team, or the gunners on the punt coverage team? How big an impact can those guys make? To the best I could figure out Georgia kicked off 82 times, its opponents kicked off 56 times, Georgia punted 50 times, opponents 66, Georgia had 24 field goal attempts and opponents had 10. That is roughly 288 special teams plays available for someone to make an impact on the team. Offense and defense combined for roughly 1642 plays last season. Add them together and that makes 1930 plays. So special teams offers a player a chance to play about 15% of the total plays of the team. That can have a huge impact on the game. For example Georgia averaged getting 17 yards per game in the punt return game while giving up 5.1 yard per game. That is a first down every game for the team. If a player on special teams can create a fumble, punt, or field goal block for a team it can directly win a game(think AJ Green against Arizona State 2 years ago) or a huge change in momentum (try to block out the fumble by Smith against UK that same year).
So many games for UGA were close games last year that had the special teams been able to come up with 1 big play per game it could have turned around not only the game but the season. It is great for starters to play on special teams but often it is a back up that just wants to get on the field anyway they can that makes the difference. I am hoping that guys like Richard Samuel will fight not only to get snaps at LB by competing with the likes of Ogletree and Robinson but try to earn time on the field playing special teams. A guy with Samuel's build and speed would be a perfect fit for kickoff return and coverage, that alone would have put him on the field for 138 plays last year. That is ten chances a game to help out the team, ten chances a game to make a play, ten chances a game to help the team get back to where it belongs.

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