With a 12-10 victory over the Panthers of Chapman last night, the Michigan Men's Lacrosse team advanced to tonight's MCLA Championship game against Arizona State.
Coming into the game, Chapman was the highest-ranked team that Michigan had yet to face this year. The Panthers lost only two games all year, claimed one of the leading candidates for MCLA National Player of the Year (annoying though he may be), claimed the #4 seed in the tournament, and were out for revenge after consecutive championship game losses to the Wolverines.
Sixty minutes of lacrosse later, Chapman had their third loss, Connor Martin was held to two goals, #1 was still left standing, and Michigan has the chance to finish a third consecutive national championship. MCLA greatness has been defined by Michigan victories over Chapman for the past three years, but the Panthers are just another stop on the journey this season. The Sun Devils are the final hurdle in 2010.
After Chapman drew first blood, Michigan came back with four goals, and led the rest of the way. Chapman's powerful offense was left searching for answers (most of their goals came in transition until the end of the game), and Michigan showed that they can play poorly and still win. There were plenty of mistakes on both sides, part of which can be attributed to the wet turf, but Michigan's higher levels of overall talent and fitness won out. While Chapman eventually fired many more shots, they were unable to get enough quality looks to come away with the win. Michigan can win without production from Trevor Yealy: MCLA, look out.
Aside from the inability of Con Bro Chill to do... much of anything, perhaps the biggest story in the game was Mark Stone's struggle. Early in the game, he allowed a few goals that should have been turned into easy saves, and his lackluster player gave Chaptown a chance when a couple more snuck in late. I'm at a loss as to what Michigan is doing with the goalie rotation, but you have to assume that Andrew Fowler at least gets a look in the pregame, seeing as how he's outplayed Stone at least as often as the opposite has been true.
[Arizona State preview and a liveblog for tonight after the jump]
Michigan (29-18, 10-8)
Northwestern (21-27, 10-8)
Friday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
|Alan Oaks (4-5, 3.75 ERA)||vs||Eric Jokisch (4-5, 4.59 ERA)|
|Stats||Audio (WCBN)||BTN.com ($)|
Notes: Michigan is 108-27 all time, Last year: 1-2 series loss. Jokisch
is a LHP.
Saturday 1:05 ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
|Bobby Brosnahan(5-4, 4.64 ERA)||vs||Francis Brooke (5-3, 4.28 ERA)|
|Stats||Audio (MGo)||BTN.com ($)|
Sunday 1:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
|Stats||Audio (MGo)||BTN.com ($)|
|Notes: Could see Katzman or Sinnery.|
It's the first round of Big Ten Elimination as we've reached the final two weeks of regular season Big Ten baseball. Michigan faces one of the three other teams tied for the Big Ten lead in the Northwestern Wildcats, a team with a solid pitching staff and a surprisingly decent offense that came together just in time for conference play. This is also a series for revenge as Northwestern was the team to knock Michigan out of the Big Ten Tournament in 2009. Vengeance must be had.
Quick look at the midweek game against Michigan State, as well as a preview of Northwestern after the jump:
UPDATE: Due to popular demand, there WILL be a CoverItLive chat for tonight's game. Find it here.
With a 16-11 victory over rival BYU, the Michigan Wolverines have advanced to the semifinals of the MCLA National Tournament, where they'll face the #4 seed Chapman Panthers.
The game against BYU started with the Cougars controlling the run of play early, though they were unable to earn a substantial lead. Midway through the first and into the second, Michigan's faceoff specialist David Reinhard took over the game, winning several consecutive faceoffs (some of them procedure violations against BYU) and giving Michigan the vast majority of possessions. That led to a 9-5 halftime lead for the Wolverines.
[ed: Thrilling conclusion + Chapman preview after the jump.]
CEASE PANIC ONCE MORE. See, I do learn: the most recent twitter panic was a report from Devin Gardner that Denard Robinson had cut off his dreads, and I refrained from having requesting mass panic. MGoUser Raback Omaba stakes his hard-earned Dorsey-commit rep on this report that takes us down from DEFCON 2:
Reports of him shorning them and sporting a "lil boosie fade" were premature. Denard merely trimmed his dreads and styled them differently. However he maintains his trademark Denard Robinson dreadlocks. He did not get a fade, his dreads are still there. Significant amounts of dilithium remains hanging from his head, perhaps more effective than before. Let's worry about football now rather than carry on about hairstyles of future Heisman winners. Move on. Denard still has dreads
He has a fade and dreads? The magic of Denard is ever-expanding.
RESUME PANIC. These aren't happening but the asked-for horrifying new jersey mockups have arrived and are terrible enough to cause you to run around screaming:
These will happen someday, probably when we're flying around in jet cars and pushing a button at our jobs. You know, when Denard Robinson doesn't seem fast.
Jihadexpansion update. Mary Sue Coleman talked to a bunch of alumni at a function in Boston recently that a couple of MGoUsers report back from. Some small amount of detail on the second-to-last event in the NCAA whatnot:
Pres. Coleman stated that UM will be announcing its self-imposed sanctions by the end of the month. She indicated that there was cross communication between the coaching staff and the compliance people. The coaching staff thought they'd been given the green light, whereas the compliance people thought that a different question was being asked. She said that unlike reported in some places, at best the overage amount would amount to roughly 2 hours a week. She also predicted that many football programs across the US will be dropping compliance people to avoid danger of giving "coaching advice."
A later post in the thread gives the 24th as the date on which Michigan will send back the report and announce whatever they're self-imposing. If it's in line with previous violations of this nature Michigan will have to give back the hour overages two-to-one and may have to forgo the use of a coach for some period of time. Assorted minor items will be tacked on; the guess here is that no scholarship penalties will result except possibly a single one this year that's more symbolic than anything—Michigan won't be able to get up past 84 this year anyway.
An old guarantee. MGoVideo gets in on the WH gig by providing a youtube embed of the 1986 edition of The Game featuring Jim Harbaugh's famous guarantee:
Stick around afterwards for a quarterback comparison that Harbaugh dominates on completion percentage not not looking like Sloth.
Upset machine. Michigan alum Mike Cammalleri is rocking Eastern Conference heavyweights as the Montreal Canadiens go on the NHL's annual Cinderella playoff run, and putting his name amongst some of the sport's all-time greats in the process:
With seven goals in a seven-game series victory over the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Cammalleri equaled a team record for tallies in a single playoff series shared by Maurice (Rocket) Richard (1944 and 1958), Jean Beliveau (1956), Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion (1957), Guy Lafleur (1975) and Marcel Bonin (1959)�all of them but Bonin long established members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
How's that for company?
Impressive, rhetorical question guy. Impressive indeed. Here's Cammalleri's seventh and final goal of the Pens series, the eventual game-winner:
(HT: South Bend Wolverine, who we all feel for deeply.)
After a scary injury last year that saw Bree Evans lie motionless on the ground after a home-plate collision in an exhibition game against State, she's returned to the field hale, hearty, and hitting. She's now batting .365 as a sophomore, second-best on the team. The official site has deployed its feature machine in response:
The softball team is now 44-6, 16-1 in the conference, and is cruising towards another top seed in the NCAA tournament. This weekend's regular season finale at Iowa will be televised live by the BTN at 6 on Friday and 4 on Saturday.
Previously tackled: the forwards.
Senior Chris Summers. Summers was the captain and played 40 games, but finished with just 16 points (four goals and eight assists) and could only manage a +5. Though he'll be missed—first round draft picks who see out their eligibility at Michigan are rare indeed—his level of impact wasn't such that some combination of touted incoming freshmen and development from returning players can't pick up the slack. I'm not sure you'd be able to tell who the first-round pick was on Michigan's defense last year if you didn't know already.
That said, Michigan's most veteran defensemen are now Tristin Llewellyn and Chad Langlais. Neither are exactly defensive stalwarts. Well, Llewellyn is except when he's really not being a defensive stalwart. As we'll see below there is some uncertainty about who gets put on the ice when the opponent's danger lines are out.
Senior Steve Kampfer. Statistically, Kampfer was the best defenseman on the team. He led Michigan defensemen in +/- (+18) and points (3-23-26) last year. Those are rudimentary stats for defenders, but I didn't get the same feeling that he should somehow play better as I did with Summers. Kampfer also loosed "THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT" in the aftermath of ending Michigan State's season. That is what I am talking about.
Jon Merrill, USNTDP. Merrill's stock has dropped a little bit since his commitment at 15, but nowhere near as much as Moffatt's. Merrill's slid to a mid-to-late first rounder, but… hey… that's still pretty good. As a bonus, his game is highly cerebral and he should be able to step onto the second, or even first, pairing without much of a transition period:
"He's very intelligent on both sides of the puck, makes good decisions, and defensively is good about keeping himself in good position," USNTDP U-18 coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. "There are a lot of things to appreciate about his game, including his size (6-foot-3 1/4, 198 pounds) and his dedication in the weight room."
And I still remember the incredible back-and-forth cycling that drove Minnesota to national titles when Hobey winner Jordan Leopold was around, so I love this comparison:
"He plays the game a lot like Jordan Leopold," said Central Scouting's Jack Barzee, who specializes in U.S. prospects. "He plays weaving and diving, sneaking and thinking, gaining the zone and moving the puck ahead and right on the tape to a guy. He's skilled and he's really come a long way in his development."
After Merrill was one of the best players on the USA U18 team that destroyed all comers except Sweden, who they still beat for the gold medal, he moved up from a fringe first-rounder to what sounds like will be a solid selection in the 10-15 range. The praise was rapturous:
Jon Merrill, LD -- USA Under 18
Regarded as one of the best defenseman prospects coming out of the US this year, Merrill looks to have leapfrogged his competition and could be debated as being one of the top three best defensive prospects in the entire draft. Merrill was simply dominant in Belarus and his ability to play in all situations, including running the power play, certainly makes him all the more valuable. Merrill is explosive, gets the puck on net and creates lanes all over the ice. He is effective and reliable defensively and proves to be very difficult to win space against. Scouts are salivating at the chance to add Merrill to their rosters, as he is already a dominant player but still has a lot of room for improvement. This kid is for real.
Merrill should step right into the lineup and could be the team's top blueliner by midseason. He's the most highly-touted D to enter the program since JMFJ.
Mac Bennett, USHL. Bennett, who was drafted in the third round by the Canadiens in '09, is the rare Michigan recruit who comes to Michigan a full year after the NHL got a crack at him. The last player to do it was Kevin Quick, who lasted a few months before he stole Carl Hagelin's credit card and shuffled off to the CHL. Before that he was pretty good.
Anyway. Bennett's rep is a slick puck-moving offensive defenseman. Here's a scouting report from James Stachowiak, the Official Cedar Rapids Contact of MGoBlog:
Bennett has been in the top defensive pairing for the RoughRiders all season and his play earned him a spot on the USHL All Star team. Bennett is typically paired up against the top scoring line for the opposing team, often logging the most minutes of any defenseman, and he still led Rider defensemen and finished 8th in the USHL with a +17 plus minus rating. He is a very good defensive defenseman with good ice awareness and vision on the offensive end. Numerous times this year he has hit a forward in stride with a blue line to blue line pass that lead to a breakaway.
For much of the second half of the season he has been captaining what has been referred to as the 1A powerplay unit and his presence on that unit gave it a real spark. On the powerplay, he has been good at taking advantage of opportunities to crash the net from the backside and score. Although he can lay the big hit, he also plays incredibly smart defense. He has only taken 34 penalty minutes on the season. He will be physical when called upon, but is not an enforcer.
He doesn't have the hardest shot either. In an impromptu hardest shot contest at practice where each player got three shots clocked on a radar gun, he hot 86, 88, and 84 MPH, five other Riders were able to crack 90 MPH.
Bennett does a good job of keeping everything in front of him and to the outside, has enough speed to get back into the play on the rare occasion when he turns it over, and has the makings of a very solid defenseman for Michigan.
Solid defense would be a major step forward for Bennett, who entered his NHL draft year with a reputation as a gunslinger. Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief:
Woodlief said that he does not like Bennett’s “lack of discipline in the defensive end. He’s more like a forward playing defense.’’
Bennett is a strong skater –– he has “jets,’’ Woodlief said. “He’s able to create odd-man rushes with his wheels,’’ he said, and “he can handle the puck at high speed.’’
Meanwhile, USHR praised his college upside even before his USHL year:
5’11”. 170 lb. Hotchkiss defenseman and Michigan recruit Mac Bennett is a smooth skater who reads plays smartly, and excels in the transition game. He’s going to be an excellent college player. Smallish for a pro defenseman, but rates highly in every other are, so he will be drafted.
He should be as ready to step into the lineup as Merrill. Slight downer: Bennett makes no bones about his desire to jump to the NHL as soon as its feasible. Two years is your over/under on his tenure at Michigan.
Kevin Clare, USNTDP. Clare's stock dropped significantly over the past year. He went from 132nd in the CSB midterm rankings to entirely omitted; by the end of the year he was the only NTDP defenseman not to make the U18 World Championships team. He's mostly been skating with the U17s. None of these are good indicators.
Though the ISS's January mention of him as a "falling" prospect concerns itself with the sexual harassment incident he was involved in (it got Jacob Fallon booted from the NTDP), they also mention his falling offensive productivity. Why that would be a big deal isn't clear, though. Clare's rep is a purely defensive defenseman.
On the other hand, Clare ended up 31st on College Hockey 24-7's top 50 list, ahead of Moffatt and Fallon, and the CSB plunge is probably excessive given that people were talking Clare up as a potential late first-round pick a year ago and one of the guys who pays close attention to the NTDP was still suggesting he'd be off the board in the third as late as January. There's also some increasingly old fluff from the New York Daily News and USA Hockey.
We'll get a much better read on Clare's stock and prospects for playing time this fall by the NHL draft. Third round = serious contender. Not drafted = redshirt.
With just two defensemen outgoing and three incoming, Michigan will have a roster crunch. I'm not sure if Lee Moffie is going to get a regular shift next year and I think Michigan might actually redshirt Clare. Michigan hasn't redshirted a guy since Riley Olson way back in the day.
Three potential pairings, none of which seem that much better or worse than any other:
The idea of Llewellyn still gives me hives but he did play really well at the Joe and in the NCAA tournament and will be entering his senior year. He brings a physical element—and the penalties that go with it—that no one else except maybe Pateryn does. Paired with Merrill, he might get away with some of his unwise decisions—and if Hagelin's out there his backchecking could neutralize those. I'd still be more comfortable with Llewellyn out there against grinders and whatnot; we'll see how it plays out. Given his inconsistency he could be anywhere from the (very nominally) top pairing to the press box.
Merrill is a version of JMFJ minus the deranged genius. Michigan will lean on him heavily.
This pairing actually existed most of last year and seemed to work out fine, though Burlon did not make the impact expected given his excellent freshman year and status as a second-round pick. He still finished with a 3-11-14 and +12. He played ever game, blocked more shots than anyone except Kampfer, and took fewer penalties per game than any Michigan defender. It wasn't a lost season by any means; it was just something short of the pure breakout that Burlon hinted at in '08-'09.
Langlais is Langlais at this point: small, dynamic with the puck, clever passer, fairly responsible. I suggested he could move to forward since he's the best puckhandler on the team, but Derek Deblois coming in early would seem to put the kibosh on that idea. Hopefully he'll be less penalty-prone as a senior.
Pateryn is pretty boring when he's not sweeping down from the point to score a game-winning goal. Since his JMFJ-like pillaging of Northern Michigan remains the only goal of his Michigan career, that's most of the time. He racked up 1-5-6 in 33 games last year, finishing +8. That boredom has its uses, though. Pateryn had just 18 penalty minutes, which is a third of Llewellyn's total. Both played 33 games.
I'd like to see Pateryn tried out on against some top lines here and there: all of his scratches took place in the first half of last year, and from there he was a more-reliable version of Llewellyn. He's got tremendous size and seems to be on an upward track. If his skating isn't a problem he could move up to be the sensible guy next to Merrill.
As for Bennett, see above. He's a version of Langlais with enough size to draw NHL notice. His post-draft year of junior is unusual for a Michigan player; as a result he should come in ready to play. Hopefully that will be enough to knock Winnett off the power play.
The leftovers. I can't believe I can't find a spot for a kid who had 4-8-12 in just 29 games as a freshman but Bennett is definitely going to play and Merrill is definitely going to play and Llewellyn appears to have finally earned the coaches' trust. Injury, Llewellyn's inevitable game or three where he does something unfortunate and gets pulled, and maybe some of the same from others will see Moffie draw into maybe half of the games. It could be more if he shores up the defensive issues that got him benched despite his scoring tear.
As for Clare, we'll see how much his stock has actually dropped at the draft. I'd think someone gets redshirted this year just because Michigan can do it. If Clare does not have serious NHL prospects any more it will probably be him. If he does you're not going to get five years out of him anyway so you might see Moffie put in mothballs. It seems a waste of eligibility to have one of them play five games or whatever. I bet Michigan did not expect to hold on to Burlon this long.
As for Clare: Michigan has the luxury of redshirting him. Will they actually use it?
Was Tristin Llewellyn Re-Education Camp Happy Time as effective as it appeared? I don't think so. We've seen three years of Llewellyn's play and he was making some pretty mind-boggling decisions as late as the Munn Takeover—remember the boarding call when Michigan was already killing a penalty?—so his last four games only push the needle slightly towards reliability. It was just about pegged on the wrong end of that scale; he will be frustrating as per usual. At least Michigan has a lot of options should his processor short out this year.
How quickly can the freshmen be really good? Very. Merrill just got done pwning the world and has spent the last one and a half years going up against college kids—he got dragged up to the U18s late in his U17 season. Sometimes defensemen get picked high because of what they will be someday; Merrill appears to be something already. He's not going to spin around kids in the neutral zone and get away with it but he's not going to totally abandon decorum, either.
Bennett, meanwhile, is going to be 19 when he hits campus and has just spent a year being heavily relied upon by a USHL team. He might need a little while to get his defense up to a collegiate standard; an instant impact is still likely on the power play and against third lines.
Can someone already on the team improve radically? Three candidates:
- Burlon, who is one of those guys you're just waiting to go "click" and turn into a machine.
- Pateryn, who has an NHL-type frame at a long-armed 6'3" and 210 pounds and developed into a reliable guy in his own zone during his sophomore year.
- Moffie, who just needs to learn how to play defense.
All of these guys are not going to take major leaps forward; one might. I've got my money on Pateryn, a guy who quietly erased anyone who attempted to rush him last year.
Worries? There's no one you can look at and think "this is Miami's top line, let's put X and Y out." Merrill might be one of those guys; Pateryn could be the other. If it's not it might be Llewellyn, which will lead to Bad Things from time to time. Wither Jay Vancik?
In a recent forum post I put out a request for diary ideas and Brian requested a deeper look at special teams. So here goes.
As any good Michigan fan knows, punting from the opponents 35 yard line is excruciating to watch. But how painful is it?
As you can see above, net punting holds pretty steady in the 37-38 yard range all the way till around the 40 yard line. At that point it drops a couple yards into 35 yards per punt range. It’s when you get to midfield that the averages really start to tank. Over the next 15-20 yards of the field, the average drops from 35 yards per punt all the way down to 20. This is somewhat obvious as the field shrinks the longer punts turn into touchbacks where they would have been 50 yarders on the other side of the field.
But lets look at it another way. On average, where can you expect to start your defensive drive based on where you are punting from.
It’s a pretty linear relationship all the way to midfield and then it stops. On your side of the field, one more yard on offense takes one away from the opposition if you have to punt. You get to the other side of the field and that relationship disappears. At the 50, the other team will, on average, start their next drive at the 16. If you drive all way inside the opponent’s 35 and decide your punter is still the best call, the 16 becomes the 12. The 15-20 yards of offense only translate into about 4 yards of worse field position for the other team. A punt from the 37 should realistically only be expected to cover a net of 25.
All of this is accounted for in my special teams rankings. Punters evaluations on each punt are measured on gross distance, net distance and then compared to punts from that spot on the field. A punt from your own 20 yards that nets 35 is below average but a punt from the opponents 40 that has a net of 30 is above average.
Last year, Georgia led the nation in my measurements in gross punting, it was worth 8.2 points above average on the season. Zoltan came in 7th (1st in the Big 10) at 4.3 points above average.
Punt returners and coverage teams are evaluated in the same manner. A 50 yard punt that isn’t a touchback or out of bounds (but including fair catches and downed punts) will average 6 yards per return but a 30 yard punt should only expect a 2 yard return. Again, teams are only evaluated against the situation they are given, a 4 yard return on a 50 yard punt is a positive play for the coverage team and a negative one for the return team. A 4 yard return on a 30 yard punt is a negative for the coverage team and a positive for the return team. I don’t currently have a way to split the value between the punter and the coverage, so the coverage is a joint metric.
LSU led the nation last year, gaining 9.7 points more than average on their punt coverage. Michigan came in 28th, 3.7 point above average.
What ultimately matters is the total punting rating, the combination of the punt and the cover. Michigan’s combined value of 8.0 points above average was 3rd nationally behind only Oklahoma and Missouri.
Michigan was somewhat unique in that even when adjusting the coverage rating for distance of punt, there is a negative correlation between punt coverage and gross punting. Possibly meaning that the punters getting the most distance on their punts are doing so by kicking more returnable punts than their peers who aren’t kicking as far as consistently.
Michigan did not fare so well on the returning end of the punt game. Michigan averaged a mere 2.35 yards of return per punt (excluding touchbacks and out of bounds) and was 3.9 points below average on the season. LSU again led the nation with 19.3 points above average for their return team.
Kick - Offs
I approached the kick off in the same manner as the punt, with the obvious exception that almost all kick offs are from a fixed spot on the field.
Unlike punting, kick offs have a correlation between good kick offs and good coverage, even when adjusting coverage for kick length. Good kick off specialists provide a more coverable kick than when weaker kickers get a kick of the same distance.
Michigan had another strong showing out of their kick off teams. Ranking 16th nationally at 6.3 points above average. The coverage wasn’t as good, 1.6 paa and 49th nationally. The 7.9 paa was 25th overall in a category that was dominated by Nebraska. Nebraska’s kickoff team was worth 27.9 paa on the season. 50 of their 74 kickoffs either went for touchbacks or were stopped inside of the 20 yardline.
The Wolverine kick return team was a respectable 36th overall, 2.6 paa. Cincinnati dominated the country at 19.7 paa.
Field goal kickers have never really had a good stat with which to measure them by. So much depends on where you are kicking from. Leigh Tiffin from Alabama garnered All-American honors despite missing 4 extra points and making 24 of his 30 field goals from inside 40 yards. Meanwhile in the same conference, Blair Walsh from Georgia makes a nation leading 12 field goals of 40 yards or longer versus only one miss from the same distance and is perfect on extra points and doesn’t even sniff All-American. Walsh’s performance gave Georgia 21.6 paa where Tiffin providing a respectable but not that close 7.4 paa. So how do you evaluate kickers. The easiest way would be to put up a chart.
A nice straight line, right? Look closely at the attempts and something changes around the 30 yard line. With the 30 as a general benchmark, coaches become more and more reluctant to trot the kicker out from that distance or beyond. With this selection bias, the true field goal percentage of field goals from 47 yards and longer is almost certainly overstated. By only getting attempts from the better kickers, the percentage is artificially high.
So now it’s time for a new chart, right?
Using the assumed misses from coaches foregoing the field goal, the true field goal percent drops. The straight line out to the 25-30 yard line goes south fast as the distance is stretched.
Last year Michigan’s kicking game came in at 44th with 1.6 paa on the season.
In attempting to determine how much coaches were passing up field goals in “no man’s land” I did also produce one more interesting but not necessarily special teams chart. The 4th down decision chart.
Between the 3 and 25 yard lines its a consistent trend, 80-85% field goal attempt 15-20 % go for the touchdown. It rises to 60/40 at the 2 and flips to 20/80 at the 1. The going for it actually peaks between 30 and 35 as more coaches don’t really know what to do so they just go for it.
Final Thoughts and Notes
There are a couple of things not included in this analysis. Exception plays such as blocked punts and kicks and their returns, fumbled returns (not that those ever happen) and the like are all excluded. These play obviously have huge impacts on the game in which they occur but they are so rare and have little or no impact on other plays of that type that they are excluded . The very best teams in the country may block 4-5 kicks in a season and for all but a few teams, these plays have virtually no net effect.
In general, for any one special team unit, the difference between average and the best and worst is about 2 touchdowns in either direction over the course of the season. Being the best at special teams is worth about a half game a season versus the average team and a full game a season versus the worst team. If there is one unit to excel at, the opportunity is on the kickoff team where last year there was a 53 point differential between the best (Nebraska) and the worst (West Viriginia).