(As KJ alluded to a few days ago, LVS and I will be previewing the football team unit by unit. First up, special teams.)
Special teams bailed the Spartans out in more than one game this past season, with Wisconsin being the game that immediately pops to mind (hat tip to YouTube user msusparty2000 for the vid). However, there were also special teams failures in that game as well; a botched fake punt nearly cost MSU the game. As a surprise to no one, Brett Swenson and Aaron Bates will perform the kicking duties this season. As for the kick and punt returning duties...that's anyone guess. After the jump, I break down Swenson's and Bates's performance in the past year, and take reasonable guesses (guessing methods: dartboard, duck race, cow pie raffle) at who'll hold the returning duties.
First up, the kickers:
STARTER: Brett Swenson (Sr., 5'8", 175 lbs.)
I wouldn't say Swenson made a quantum leap in terms of his statistics last season. Where he did distinguish himself was in the big games; MSU would not have won the Iowa and Wisconsin games with a lesser kicker. His field goal percentage was about 79% this past season. However, I feel his percentage last year would have increased if the snapping had been adequate in a couple plays, most notably during the Michigan game. There's not really much else to say about Swenson except that he's been rock solid from inside the 50 during his career. The one flaw in his game? His range, he's been 1-6 for his career from outside 50 yards. If he can make a couple from outside the 50 this season, he'll make the jump from very, very good to elite, and set himself up to be an NFL draft pick.
BACKUP: Kevin Muma (Fr., 6'0", 170 lbs.)
He is the future, the only question is whether he'll be redshirted or ]perform the kickoff duties now that Todd Boleski has graduated. Muma averaged 59.4 yards on his kickoffs as a senior at Troy High School with 40 of his 52 kickoffs going for touchbacks. The 59.4 yards might be a bit understated, as any kickoff that goes beyond the goal line is given a length of 60 yards, thus it could be larger. Still, he might have add about 5-10 yards on his kickoffs to get it to the endzone.
My feeling? I think he should be redshirted. Give him a year, and have him be the kicker for the next four years. I might be a bit conservative on this point, but I still shudder whenever the name "John Goss" comes up in conversation.
Well, the punters must be next.
STARTER: Aaron Bates (Jr., 6'0", 190 lbs.)
|Season||Punts||Average Yds||Long||Touchbacks||Fair Catches||Inside the 20|
Bates had a good freshman season and was named as an honorable mention to the Sporting News Freshman All-American team. However, it seamed to me that while his punts were long, they lacked hang time. He improved upon that though this past season, as he had a few more of his punts fair caught, and increased his average yardage. He's the punter for the next two years, and he's still got room to improve. If Bates stays on the same track, he'll average 45 yards a punt. That'll do just fine.
BACKUP: Kyle Selden (R-Fr, 6'5", 187 lbs.)
He hasn't seen game action yet. His player biography on msuspartans.com is blank. The only information I could dig up on him was that he once had a punt with a 4.5 second hang time at a kicking camp. If he was a Pearl Jam song as of now, he would definitely be "Nothingman". He's not going to stay that way forever - if Bates goes down, he'll be the starter, and if Michigan State can't bring in a punter in the 2010 or 2011 class (MSU is gunning for Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern punter Mike Sadler this year though - he has an offer), he'll start in Fall 2011.
KICK AND PUNT RETURNERS
I'm not even going to pretend to know this one. The only returning players with experience kick returning are A.J. Jimmerson and Keshawn Martin, and Martin's the only one who has punt return experience. This would be easier if Glenn Winston's status was known, but he's still suspended indefinitely. I could easily see Caper and Baker out of the freshmen get a chance to return kicks, and it wouldn't stun me to see Blair White get an opportunity. As for now, it's anyone's fiesta. My guess is that Jimmerson and Martin are your kick returners, and Martin returns the punts, because of their brief experience (9 kick returns for Jimmerson last year, 2 kick and 3 punt returns for Martin).
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