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2012 CFN Preview - Unit Rankings, Spec.Teams
Oregon returner De'Anthony Thomas
Oregon returner De'Anthony Thomas
Posted Aug 24, 2012

CFN 2012 Preview Unit Rankings from top to bottom - Special Teams

Preview 2012 - Unit Rankings

Special Teams

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2012 CFN Preseason Rankings 
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 124 

CFN 2012 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries | Special Teams  
- 2011 Unit Rankings | 2010 Unit Rankings

Note: This is based on talent, returning starters and skill. It’s not necessarily based on what the final order will be.

1. LSU

Punter Brad Wing is an elite weapon, Drew Alleman is solid, the returners are terrific – even with Tyrann Mathieu gone - and the coverage teams are great. If Odell Beckham can do the job on kickoff returns and Alleman can show a bit more range, there aren’t any weaknesses.

2. Oregon

One of the unheralded reasons for Oregon’s success over the past few years, special teams continues to be a strength in Eugene. The kickers are capable, the punter is a weapon and the returners are capable of changing the tempo of a game. All eyes will be on De’Anthony Thomas, who is so combustible that he’ll make the other team alter the way it approaches kickoffs.

3. Florida State

For the second straight year, Florida State will be home to one of the most complete special teams units in the ACC, if not the entire country. Punter Cason Beatty will be a question mark until proven otherwise, but kicker Dustin Hopkins is terrific, and the return men – even without Greg Reid - are going to tee up the offensive attack all season long. Hopkins averaged more than 67 yards a kickoff in 2011. The return game will rank among the best in the FBS. And Beatty was hailed as one of the top high school punters back in February. The Seminoles have the right ingredients to dominate field position throughout the season.

4. Ole Miss

By far this will be the team’s biggest strength. The kicking game is tremendous, Jeff Scott is special, and the kickoff returns will be good. The coverage teams could stand to be stronger, but they aren’t going to be anything to worry too much about. Both kicker Bryson Rose and punter Tyler Campbell have been outstanding over the last few seasons and should be among the steadiest and most reliably effective kickers in America. Ole Miss has to be in enough close games for these two to matter.

5. Oklahoma State

Kicker and punter Quinn Sharp is a special all-around weapon who’ll be used even more this year in key spots. Can he double dip? It wouldn’t be a total shock if he turned out to be the nation’s best punter and placekicker. With kickoffs starting at the 35, forget about anyone ever to come up with a return against the Cowboys. Justin Gilbert will be an all-star as a returner in all areas, but the special teams have to be more consistent in coverage.

6. USC

USC began last season with a slew of question marks, but ended it with far more answers. The program is in good shape with its specialists, Andre Heidari and either Kyle Negrete or Kris Albarado, and harbors the athletes in the return game to take more than one back in the fall. Plus, the ability to block punts and kicks is an added, and overlooked, bonus. The weakest link is the coverage teams, which sprung a few too many leaks in 2011.

7. Kansas State

If Anthony Cantele can be just a wee bit better the special teams will be among the best in the nation. Ryan Doerr is a steady veteran and the return game is explosive. Cantele will be more than fine. With Tyler Lockett expected to be back and healthy, he’ll shine as the top kickoff return option while Tramaine Thompson can focus more on punt returns. Ty Zimmerman will be involved, too.

8. Nebraska

No one had to replace stronger special teams performers than Nebraska did, and the results turned out to be even stronger. Nebraska knows how to get top-shelf kicking production. Alex Henery was a special all-around kicker and Maher was even better as a punter while showing off tremendous range and skill as a placekicker. The All-Big Ten star is a weapon. The kicking game will be phenomenal and returner Ameer Abdullah is a star. If the coverage teams can be just a little bit stronger, the Huskers will have a huge advantage in the third phase.

9. Clemson

Clemson has a lot of flash on special teams with Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and kicker Chandler Catanzaro. However, the unit will spend the next few months attempting to fine-tune some of the smaller, less visible aspects of the area, such as coaching up the coverage teams and the punters. The Tigers are excited to be bringing back last year’s top three tacklers, Spencer Shuey , Lateek Townsend and Darrell Smith.

10. Oklahoma

If the returners can do a little bit more, OU’s special teams will be among the strongest in the nation. Kicker Michael Hunnicutt, punter Tress Way and the kicking game will be great and the coverage teams will be solid and improved.  

10 is high in the unit ranking number.

Boise State M-West 8
Cincinnati Big East 8
Florida SEC 8
Louisiana Tech WAC 8
Miami   ACC   8
North Carolina ACC   8
Ohio State Big Ten 8
Temple Big East 8
Utah   Pac-12  8
Arizona State Pac-12  7.5
Arkansas SEC 7.5
Arkansas State Sun Belt 7.5
Ball State MAC 7.5
Hawaii M-West 7.5
Air Force M-West 7
BYU Ind 7
Colorado State M-West 7
Connecticut Big East 7
Houston C-USA  7
Idaho WAC 7
Iowa Big Ten 7
Iowa State Big 12 7
Michigan State Big Ten 7
Minnesota Big Ten 7
Missouri SEC  7
Northern Illinois MAC 7
Northwestern Big Ten 7
Pitt Big East 7
Southern Miss C-USA  7
TCU Big 12 7
Texas Tech Big 12 7
UCLA  Pac-12  7
UL Lafayette Sun Belt 7
Wyoming M-West 7
Alabama SEC 6.5
Bowling Green MAC 6.5
California Pac-12  6.5
NC State ACC 6.5
Ohio   MAC 6.5
Oregon State Pac-12  6.5
Rutgers  Big East 6.5
San Jose State WAC 6.5
South Alabama Sun Belt 6.5
South Florida Big East 6.5
Syracuse Big East 6.5
Tennessee SEC 6.5
Wake Forest ACC 6.5
Wisconsin Big Ten 6.5
Arizona Pac-12  6
Auburn SEC 6
Baylor Big 12 6
Colorado   Pac-12  6
FIU Sun Belt 6
Georgia SEC 6
Georgia Tech ACC 6
Louisville  Big East 6
Maryland  ACC 6
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt 6
Mississippi State SEC 6
North Texas Sun Belt 6
Purdue Big Ten 6
Stanford Pac-12  6
Texas Big 12 6
Texas State WAC 6
UNLV M-West 6
Utah State WAC 6
Vanderbilt SEC 6
Virginia Tech ACC 6
Washington   Pac-12  6
Boston College ACC 5.5
Duke ACC   5.5
Eastern Michigan MAC 5.5
Kentucky SEC 5.5
New Mexico State WAC 5.5
Rice C-USA  5.5
SMU C-USA  5.5
Texas A&M SEC  5.5
Virginia   ACC 5.5
Washington State Pac-12  5.5
WKU Sun Belt 5.5
Central Michigan MAC 5
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt 5
Fresno State M-West 5
Indiana  Big Ten 5
Kansas Big 12 5
Kent State MAC 5
Marshall C-USA  5
Massachusetts MAC 5
Miami Univ. MAC 5
Michigan Big Ten 5
Navy Ind 5
Nevada M-West 5
New Mexico   M-West 5
Notre Dame Ind 5
South Carolina SEC 5
Troy Sun Belt 5
Tulsa C-USA  5
West Virginia Big 12 5
Western Michigan MAC 5
Akron MAC 4.5
Illinois Big Ten 4.5
Penn State Big Ten 4.5
San Diego State M-West 4.5
Toledo MAC 4.5
UCF C-USA  4.5
UL Monroe Sun Belt 4.5
Army Ind 4
Buffalo MAC 4
East Carolina C-USA  4
Memphis C-USA  4
Tulane C-USA  3.5