Position preview 2013: Special teams

Let's do this less. - Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

A position-by-position look at the 2013 Spartans. Since the quarterbacks are going to draw the most ire, I'm working backward. Next up: special teams. Previously: defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs, offensive line, running backs, wide receivers

(Cuz it's special teams)

One area where MSU has succeeded under Mark Dantonio is special teams.

This doesn't just mean Little Giants or Mousetrap, but Brett Swenson broke the school scoring record, Dan Conroy had a record-setting sophomore season and Aaron Bates and Mike Sadler was/has been one of the best punters in the conference.

But last season, MSU went 23-for-32 on field goals, was ranked No. 93 in kick return average (though it's an imperfect stat) and No. 58 in punt return average (in the rare chances blocks were good enough to allow for a return).

If you're chasing the inches, you have to be good in special teams. Here are the contributors in 2013.

Kickers

Kevin Muma (SR): The senior has typically been used on kickoffs (1-for-1 on FGs in his career) and done well on those kickoffs (MSU No. 14 in kickoff average). Early reports from fall camp has Muma behind Michael Geiger, but Mark Dantonio surprised everyone by listing Muma as the starting kicker on the depth chart, so he'll get a fair shot to keep the job. Muma is also listed as the backup punter.

Michael Geiger (FR): It looks like the Geiger counter may have to wait another year. Rivals' No. 1 kicking recruit seemed to have the starting spot locked up, but something changed late in camp. If Muma struggles, Dantonio won't hesitate to put Geiger out there. Otherwise, getting a redshirt for him would be nice.

Punter

Mike Sadler (JR): Should have been named the Big Ten's top punter last year after an unreal 79 punts (and 43.3 average). Also used in a trick play for a 26-yard run. If MSU had held on to win that game, the play may have been elevated to legendary status. Hopefully he won't have to punt so much in 2013. Sadler is also the holder for kicks.

Kick return

Nick Hill (JR): Hill hasn't been able to move up the depth chart at running back, but he has been a solid kick returner for two years. Although he hasn't broken many huge runs, he does a good job following blocks and almost always has a decent return.

Darien Harris (SO): Some of you might be surprised to see a linebacker here. The goal for Harris is to block for Hill. Kyler Elsworth was in this role a bit last year, and actually had to return one kick that went to him. I'm not a fan of this strategy, but they don't pay me to coach.

Punt return

Andre Sims Jr. (SO): Had 11 punt returns for 92 yards on the season, with 66 of those yards coming on four returns at Minnesota. The problem is MSU didn't block well at all on punt coverage, not allowing many opportunities and even fewer quality opportunities for a return. Hill is listed as the backup here.

Long snapper

Taybor Pepper (SO): Was offered a scholarship by MSU and accepted instead of walking on at Michigan. I can't recall any bad snaps, so he did his job. Also had four tackles on punt coverage, which tied for the team lead.

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