January 14, 2010

Offseason Outlook: Work needed on special teams

Texas A&M's special teams were underwhelming to say the least in 2009 with it culminating in a terrible display in the Independence Bowl where the Aggies allowed a kick return for a touchdowns, a blocked punt that set up another, a blocked field goal and a snap over punter Ryan Epperson's head that set up another Georgia touchdown. In all, it was a hideous end to a season to forget for special teams.

Heading into the offseason, the Aggies obviously have a lot of things to fix. The only one that is pretty much guaranteed a starting job next season is placekicker Randy Bullock. Other than Bullock, however, everything is up for grabs.

At punter, neither Epperson nor Ken Wood proved to be head and shoulders above the other. Wood averaged 38.8 yards per punt with a long of 55 and down seven inside the 20-yard line in 30 tries. Epperson, who punted the final six games of the season, averaged 35.2 yards per punt with a long of 45 and downed six of 25 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Both punters will head into the offseason on equal footing.

As far as coverages go, the punt return unit was actually the one bright spot of the special teams, holding opponents to 6.5 yards per return. The kickoff coverage unit, however, was a totally different story.

The Aggies ranked No. 91 in the nation in kickoff return defense by allowing 23.07 yards per kickoff return. A&M was also tied with South Carolina for the national lead in kickoff returns allowed for a touchdown with three. It's imperative that the Aggies work extra hard, and get the right people on kickoff coverage units during the offseason.

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