Why I am so happy we have a special teams coach now

Submitted by msoccer10 on January 19th, 2011 at 12:42 PM

So Brian referred to our new Special teams/tight ends coaching position as esoteric. I don't know about tight ends but I am extremely happy we have special teams coach right now.

Rodriguez was accused of ignoring the defense to devote more attention to the offense. If that is true I believe it is doubly so for the special teams. I don't know what else he could have done given the limitations of the athletes he had at his disposal, but having a dedicated coach seems like a reasonable place to start.

Now let's look at some statistics (all courtesy of ESPN)

We had the 8th most yards per game on offense. Pretty good especially considering some of our tough competition. But the complaint from most people is that we didn't score enough points. We tied for 24th most points per game. Why?

Well, a large part of that has to do with field goals. To start, we were dead last in both field goals made and field goal percentage. We were 4/14 and that was without attempting a single kick beyond 50 yards. Because of our inability to kick, we passed on what should have been a guaranteed 3 points in several situations, once or twice a game, to go for it on fourth down. We succeeded a few times but failed to score on most of those attempts.

So, we never kicked a long field goal, should have made most of the ones we took and skipped out on attempting easy ones a little more than once a game. I estimate we could have scored 6 more points per game. That puts us at 38.6 ppg and 11th overall in scoring. That looks much better and explains a big portion of the discrepancy between points and yards.

Punting was also not great, finishing 87th in average yards per punt. I couldn't find statistics on kickoffs (like touchbacks) but ancecdotally we sucked. We were middle of the pack in return yards per kickoff (67th) and return yards per punt (also 67th, weird). We had a punt blocked and didn't manage to return a single kick for a touchdown.

So in summary, if having a dedicated special teams coach makes a difference, improvement in special teams performance is another reason to be optimistic about 2011 and beyond. It is also an indication that Brady Hoke gets it and is addressing the needs of the football team. I am cautiously optimistic.

Go Blue!



January 19th, 2011 at 5:20 PM ^

I agree we need to have better special teams, but hiring Brady Hoke and having a coach who has, as part of his overall job, responsibility for it (which we had last year) won't necessarily make a difference. I posted this a few days ago, but since we're starting to get carried away, here it is again:


SDSU special teams stunk last year. "San Diego State is averaging just 19.7 yards on kickoffs (107th place; UM was was 67th) and 6.7 yards on punts (93rd place; UM was 67th). And the Aztecs have been very shaky on kickoff coverage, giving up 26.1 yards per return."

They did have a good field goal kicker last year - so what?  U of M had a good/decent FG kicker in 2008 and 2009.  We also had a great punter in 2008 & 2009 and a good punter (after some early freshman yips) last year. Unless you have some story from Hoke on how he specifically coaches kicking, I'm afraid head coaches have little to do with kicker's success.


It's good to be excited, but we haven't hired Frank Beamer.  Special teams is not a reason to be excited about our new coaching staff (based on past results).

Indiana Blue

January 20th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

and be safe using NCAA rankings.  However when you quote "return yardage" its a different story.

Return yards are more dependent on he individual player returning punts and kickoff ... and doesn't truly reflect special teams coaching. Opponent return yardage is also a function of how effective your indvidual kicker is .. . but does offer some credible comparative data. 

If we can find a Desmond, Charles or Stevie B. type player to return kicks for us ... our stats & ranking will improve, and having a ST's coach can't hurt either.

Go Blu !


January 19th, 2011 at 12:54 PM ^

Is Lou's brother a better special teams coach?  Someone in another thread on here showed some stats that SDSU's ST was not that impressive.  I remember asking can't be worse than ours last year, but someone showed the stats that stated that they were just as bad, if not worse. 

I listened to the interview from SDSU's website and Lou's brother seems to focus quite a bit on it, so I am hopeful. 


January 19th, 2011 at 12:55 PM ^

Punting should be a lot better this year. Hagerup started out rough, but started to hit his stride once B1G season rolled around. Another year of workouts and some more practice should help him become more consistent and greatly increase his average.

FTR, Tony Gibson was our special teams coordinator under RR. Just because we will have a guy dedicated to it, doesn't mean we will dedicate time to it.


January 19th, 2011 at 4:09 PM ^

I looked at the numbers the years that he was a ST coach and the NCAA had data for. That was basically 1999 Cal, 2000 USC, and 2009-2010 SDSU. I also looked at the previous year and following year where applicable. Basically, nothing stood out as good and when it did it continued after him or existed before him. All he's going to be able to coach is kick and punt coverage. Everything else is solely dependent on the players, so I don't think that the numbers are necessarily representative of what we will see next year. If they are, then we won't see much of an improvement.


January 19th, 2011 at 3:31 PM ^

Since at least two of our FG kickers kicked well in practice, it shows that they can do the physical part of it. In this case "all the coaching in the world," or maybe just some sports psychology, could be enough to fix the problem. But, since I don't like the "could" and "maybe" in my sentence above, I agree that we should continue to recruit another kicker.


January 19th, 2011 at 1:23 PM ^

I would be interested in seeing score outcomes if we made at least 80% of our FG attempted and also the times we went for it on 4th down instead of kicking one.



January 19th, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

but I suggest two things. First, it would be 17 not 20 all else being equal. then you also have to take into consideration the improved field position. Not saying our kicker will magically improve or our defense will be able to stop people better with 25 more yards but that special teams needs to be an area of focus if we truly want to be elite. I am happy that we have a coach who's main job will be special teams. ( I assume it won't take more than half his time to coach tight ends. I could be wrong)


January 19th, 2011 at 1:28 PM ^

Let's say we sign a kicker this year and he arrives this summer/fall.  We now have 2 kickers on scholarship - is this normal?  Does Gibbons get released from his scholarship?  Who knows, maybe with an experienced ST and or kicking coach he will develop into a good kicker. 

Michigan Shirt

January 19th, 2011 at 1:29 PM ^

I am not sure why everyone is all of a sudden happy about getting a ST coach as we have had 2 ST coaches these last 3 years in RichRod and Tony Gibson. I just hope this guy puts more effort into coaching ST this year, as you can make the argument the other guys were too busy.


January 19th, 2011 at 2:33 PM ^

No offense OP, but this is why I hate most all fans right now.   SDS was worse than Michigan in defending kick offs, kick off returns, punt returns and defending punt returns.   They were better at fg's obviously.  So 1 key phase out of 5 they were better and we did it with freshmen at every kicking position and many freshmen and sophmores on the kicking and return units.

Hey stats and logic don't matter Hoke said he was tough and he has a st coach(just like we did), but hey don't let that stop you the special teams will be great..


January 19th, 2011 at 3:01 PM ^

I didn't look at SDSU, so I understand where you are coming from. But I was directly addressing the front page post about  an "esoteric" coaching position. Through the last year I have read and heard that we did very little special teams work because we didnt have anyone assigned to it.

I was just trying to demonstrate that special teams is a very important part of the team and that I think it is a good idea to have designated coach for that.

Trust me, stats and logic are very important to me, which I think my post showed.


January 19th, 2011 at 3:27 PM ^

Gibson was our Special Teams coach.  If you believe RR didn't work on the ST enough well I can't imagine considering how much he talked about it.  I think most coaches work on it about the same.   The reason our units struggled(not as bad as I actually thought, but still not good) was the fact our depth was so bad and we were so young you were forced to play guys not strong enough to physically compete.   The kickers just got in a funk and it go to em.   I expect the ST to be much better next year because we have more depth and the guys like Hawthorne etc.. have been in the program 3 years and our much better. 

matty blue

January 19th, 2011 at 4:16 PM ^

...doesn't seem to be necessary for the vast majority of bcs programs.  suggesting that a) the lack of one was a reason we foundered this year, or b) that special teams will get any better because we have someone "dedicated" to the task is to ignore the fact that virtually nobody else has one.

i'll say the same thing about special teams that i said during the boettcher (sp?) season under lloyd - our problems are and were not because scheme.  they were because of poor execution.  calling someone a special teams coach absolutely won't fix those problems.  we just need better kickers.


January 19th, 2011 at 5:27 PM ^

But I still have nightmares about that bizarre punt formation in the Iowa game. It was the coach's decision to have Rivas punt instead of Findley, and use a rolling formation that they'd only practiced for a week, and then keep using it even when it was clear that it was just a matter of time before Iowa blocked one. 


January 19th, 2011 at 5:04 PM ^

Being from Chicago and a Bears fan, ST is a huge, huge area that is often over-looked. Having Hester with the Bears on kickoffs and punt returns has made a massive difference, not just with returns, but with altered kicks going out of bounds to avoid him. IIRC (too lazy to check) Hester wasn't taken advantage of at Univ. Florida on ST to nearly the degree he is with the Bears. This goes to the issue of making ST a point of emphasis. A couple solid return guys, reliable Field Goal kicker, solid punter and kick offs, and better coverage on opponent's returns all together make a huge difference. Note that any one of these five areas alone isn't crippling, but when you are excellent in most or all of these ST areas, collectively in makes a huge difference.

I'm not prepared to comment on whether poor ST play under RR was bad luck, lack of depth, or bad coaching. I tend to think there was a perfect storm of all three that doomed our ST play. I don't know exactly what will come under Hoke, but with the added experience on the team, and the coaching change, it seems nothing but improvement should come.


January 19th, 2011 at 6:35 PM ^

So this guy who coaches tight ends also knows how to kick a football at a high level? Cool!

Hagerup almost certainly will be better next year. The kid obviously has a great leg.

God  I hope we get a good kicker in. I'm sick of trying but failing to restrain my anger against kids who are like 20 just because they can't do the one thing they were brought on campus to do. And by kids I mean Gibbons.

Indiana Blue

January 20th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

time for the "Saban career ending medical excuse".  I don't know what happened to him, but he just doesn't have "it" anymore.  I really don't think he can even kick it far enough to make a 40 yarder.  And his PAT's have barely enough height to get over the lineman ... some went between them !

Anyway ... I am hoping to see improvement even starting to show in the spring game ... at least from Broekhuizen !

Go Blue !