2006 Unit Rankings – Special Teams

Posted Aug 27, 2006

Preview 2006 Unit Rankings Special Teams  

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1. Georgia
Georgia might have the nation's best special teams with a pair of All-America caliber kickers in PK Brandon Coutu and P Gordon Ely-Kelso and talented kick returners Ramarcus Brown and Thomas Flowers. Brown needs to add more pop to what was an average kickoff return game last year, but everything else is sound with great coverage units and highlighted by Coutu's big leg.

2. Texas

Greg Johnson will be the whole kicking game for now, but the field goal side of things could change if he struggles at all. He'll likely be an All-Big 12 punter. The return game was one of the best in America averaging a whopping 26.95 yards per kickoff return and 15.6 yards per punt return. Aaron Ross will be the prime punt returner, while Quan Cosby and Selvin Young will likely see most of the action on kickoff returns after the loss of Ramonce Taylor.

3. Miami
It'll be a shock if the Hurricane special teams aren't among the ACC's best. PK Jon Peattie is too experienced to have another average season, while P Brian Monroe has improved each of his last three years growing into a whale of a directional kicker. The return game is more than fine even after the loss of Devin Hester with Darnell Jenkins taking over the main roles. He isn't as explosive as Hester on punt returns, but he was far better on kickoff returns last season averaging 21.9 yards per try to Hester's 16.1. The coverage units should once again be fantastic.

4. Florida
The kicking game is as good as it gets with PK Chris Hetland and P Eric Wilbur each good enough to be on All-America short lists. Finding steady returners will be a work in progress after mediocre production last season. The coverage units were among the best in the nation; there's no reason to assume any sort of a dip.
The key to the unit: Hope for similar seasons from Chris Hetland and Eric Wilbur and get more big plays from the returners.

5. Virginia Tech
As always, the Virginia Tech special teams will be among the best in the country. Placekicker Brandon Pace and punter Nic Schmitt are All-America candidates, and now the return game has to step up after a mediocre 2005. Eddie Royal is too speedy not to do more as the team's main kick returner, while the rest of the top receivers will also provide a little help.

6. Colorado
Mason Crosby is one of the best kickers in college football, and now he'll handle the punting game as long as he doesn't slip as a placekicker. Stephone Robinson will be the main kick and punt returner again, but he needs to use his elite quickness to do more after averaging 18.2 yards per kickoff return and 9.9 yards per punt return. 

7. Wisconsin
The kicking game will be as good as it gets in the Big Ten with All-America candidate Ken DeBauche sure to be on the Ray Guy short list and PK Taylor Mehlhoff reliable from inside 45 yards. The Badgers led the Big Ten and were tenth in the nation in punt returns thanks to Brandon Williams, but his loss is eased by the talented Marcus Randle El. Jarvis Minton and Zach Hampton will handle the kickoff returns.

8. Arizona
No matter who's punting, the kicking game will be among the best in the nation. Nick Folk has unlimited range as both a placekicker and a punter, but transfer Kyle McQuown will likely handle the punting job this fall. Syndric Steptoe is a decent receiver and an All-America return man averaging 11.1 yards per punt return and 25.5 yards on kickoff returns. The punters boomed the ball so much that there were too many huge returns, but the kickoff coverage unit was fine.

9. Fresno State
Clint Stitser is on the verge of being an All-WAC kicker with a monster leg and good consistency. Mike Lingua is a serviceable punter who plays his role well enough to not allow the FSU punting game to be a problem. The big issue will be replacing Adam Jennings, who averaged 12.4 yards per punt return and 29 yards per kickoff return. Joe Fernandez averaged 22.6 yards on his five punt returns, but Clifton Smith, the likely main man, averaged 63 taking two of his three tries for a score. Fernandez will handle the kickoff returns.

10. Tennessee
The kicking game will be fantastic if James Wilhoit hits field goals like he did over the second half of last season and if punter Britton Colquitt turns into the All-American he has the potential of becoming. The return units should be decent with Jonathan Hefney getting the full-time gig after averaging an impressive 11.5 yards per return last year. Lucas Taylor struggled on punt returns, but he averaged 22.5 yards on kickoff returns. 

11 Michigan Big Ten
12 Louisville  Big East
13 TCU M-West
14 Boise State WAC
15 Baylor Big 12 
17 Louisiana Tech WAC
18 Ohio State Big Ten
20 West Virginia Big East
21 Nebraska Big 12 
22 Arizona State Pac 10
23 Penn State Big Ten
24 Maryland ACC
25 NC State ACC
26 Connecticut Big East
27 Kansas Big 12 
28 North Carolina ACC
29 Oklahoma State Big 12 
30 Rutgers Big East
31 Syracuse Big East
32 San Diego State M-West
33 Colorado State M-West
34 Miami Univ. MAC
35 Western Michigan MAC
36 Troy Sun Belt
37 Army Ind
38 Auburn SEC
39 Oklahoma Big 12 
40 Florida State  ACC
41 Iowa   Big Ten
42 Pitt Big East
43 UCLA Pac 10
44 East Carolina CUSA
46 UNLV M-West
47 Ball State MAC
48 USC Pac 10
49 California Pac 10
50 Notre Dame Ind
51 Georgia Tech ACC
52 Missouri Big 12 
53 Arkansas   SEC
54 Texas Tech Big 12 
55 Boston College  ACC
56 Michigan State Big Ten
57 Washington State Pac 10
58 Oregon Pac 10
59 Oregon State  Pac 10
60 Minnesota Big Ten
61 BYU M-West
62 Tulsa CUSA
63 Kansas State Big 12 
64 Southern Miss  CUSA
65 Northern Illinois MAC
66 Mississippi State SEC
67 Kentucky SEC
68 Stanford Pac 10
69 Tulane CUSA
70 North Texas Sun Belt
71 San Jose State WAC
72 Alabama SEC
73 Iowa State Big 12 
74 Purdue Big Ten
75 Northwestern Big Ten
76 Houston CUSA
77 Marshall CUSA
78 Navy Ind
79 Wyoming  M-West
81 Central Michigan  MAC
82 Idaho WAC
83 Clemson ACC
84 Utah   M-West
85 Texas A&M Big 12 
86 Virginia ACC
87 South Carolina SEC
88 Mississippi   SEC
89 Toledo MAC
90 Indiana Big Ten
91 Washington Pac 10
92 Nevada WAC
93 Vanderbilt SEC
94 New Mexico M-West
95 Memphis CUSA
97 Air Force M-West
98 Bowling Green MAC
99 Kent State MAC
100 Eastern Michigan MAC
101 MTSU Sun Belt
102 Rice CUSA
103 New Mexico State WAC
104 South Florida Big East
105 Wake Forest ACC
106 Hawaii WAC
107 Illinois Big Ten
108 Duke ACC
109 Arkansas State Sun Belt
110 Utah State WAC
111 Cincinnati Big East
112 Akron MAC
113 UL Lafayette Sun Belt
114 Ohio MAC
115 UL Monroe Sun Belt
116 FIU Sun Belt
117 Buffalo MAC
118 Temple Ind
119 Florida Atlantic Sun Belt