NoleGameday

2017 Spring Preview: Special Teams

The first to get criticism and the last to get credit, special teams has been an up-and-down affair for Florida State over the past couple of seasons. Aside from the run of amazing kickers they had from Graham Gano to Roberto Aguayo, special teams play at Florida State has been pretty average. Punting has been average to bad, punt return has been nonexistent and the kick return game is still living off of the hype from Kermit Whitfield’s return in the 2013 National Championship Game. This year, Florida State will hopefully find some consistency at all levels of special teams as they hope to rebound and return to national championship form.

At the kicker position, Ricky Aguayo (sophomore) looks to build off of his freshman season. The younger brother of Roberto went 19 of 26 on field goal attempts on the season, a good start but hardly living up to the high standards that his brother set. He was perfect within 39-yards (13-13), but struggled mightily beyond that range (7-14 of 40+ yards). Aguayo was also nearly perfect on PATs on the season (51-52). While there is no reason to think his job as the kicker is in any jeopardy, it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff gives more reps to Logan Tyler (sophomore), who has a bigger leg but might not be as accurate.

Speaking of Tyler, the athletic sophomore will enter 2017 as the clear-cut option at punter with Jack Steed moving on. Tyler had his highs and lows as a true freshman, averaging 40.3 yards per punt with a long of 57 yards. He also contributed slightly in the kicking game, hitting a long 53-yard field goal versus Boston College. While he will likely retain his punting duties, do not be surprised to see him trot out there if they attempt longer field goals in 2017.

The conversation at kick and punt return duties is where things start to get interesting.

Gone are Kermit Whitfield and Bobo Wilson, two mainstays in the return game for the past couple of seasons. Florida State has a plethora of talented athletes to choose from, but they have not yet figured out who is going to be playing which role.

One of the only returning contributors is Nyqwan Murray (junior), who stepped in at punt returner after Wilson went down with an injury. Murray looked anything but reliable at the position, muffing two crucial punts versus Florida and Michigan. There is no doubt that the junior receiver is an explosive athlete, but perhaps the job at punt returner is not right for him.

A player that has proved to be an elite punt returner is Levonta Taylor (sophomore), who was an explosive return man in high school. Perhaps with another offseason under his belt and the trust of the coaching staff he could see more time back there. Another option is D.J. Matthews (freshman), whom we will not see this spring but will enroll this summer. We know that Jimbo Fisher values consistency catching the ball at punt returner, so perhaps the younger guys will have to wait their turn while a veteran fields punts on game day.

At kick returner, it seems that Keith Gavin (sophomore) has cemented his spot after his 66-yard kick return in the Orange Bowl that set up the game-winning touchdown. At 6-3, 225-pounds, Gavin has breakaway speed and is a tough man to bring down. Beyond him, other players who could contend for a spot would be Amir Rasul (sophomore), Ryan Green (redshirt senior), and George Campbell (redshirt sophomore).

Overall, there is a lot to be excited about on special teams. Aguayo and Tyler return as the unquestioned starters at kicker and punter. Another offseason under their belt should see a spike in their production as well. At the returner positions, Florida State has a plethora of talented athletes to choose from. They just have to decided who goes where.

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.



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