2007 CFN Preview - Unit Rankings ... STs

Posted Aug 9, 2007

CFN 2007 Preview Unit Rankings - Special Teams Ranked 1 to 119

2007 CFN Unit Rankings

Special Teams

CFN 2007 Unit Rankings
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1. California
With DeSean Jackson electrifying on punt returns, and Andrew Larson and Tom Schneider handling the kicking game, the Cal special teams unit will have few peers in the country in 2007. The Bears return all of the key pieces of a top-tier special teams unit, needing only to decide on a kick returner between seniors Justin Forsett and Lavelle Hawkins, and redshirt freshman James Montgomery.  Cal, on the other hand, is set at punt returner with ackson, a human dynamo that took four back for scores to set a Pac-10 single-season record.

The kicking game is all about junior Louie Sakoda, who had an amazing year punting the ball as Utah finished first in the nation with a net average of 41.58 yards per kick. He's a phenomenal directional kicker putting a whopping 52 punts inside the 20 over the last two seasons while forcing 19 fair catches. He has a big leg as a punter and a decent one as a placekicker connecting on 16 of 20 field goal attempts with three of the misses coming from beyond 40 yards. He's a rare candidate for both the Ray Guy and Lou Groza awards. Corner Brice McCain averaged 22.4 yards per kickoff return and should be a star again.

3. Oklahoma State
The kicking game will be among the best in America with the return of juniors Jason Ricks and Matt Fodge. Fodge had a nice true freshman as the starting punter, but instead of hanging the ball up in the air and going for direction, he started to air it out a bit more as a sophomore and became an All-American averaging 44.9 yards per kick putting 14 inside the 20. He has a huge leg and can pin teams deep from almost anywhere on the field. Ricks came back from missing 2005 with an injury and connected on ten of 12 field goal chances missing from 42 and 40 yards. He has the leg to bomb away from 50+ if needed, and now will take over the kickoff duties from Bruce Redden. A little more help for Perrish Cox in the return game would be nice, but that's nitpicking.

4. Georgia
Senior Brandon Coutu is one of the nation's best kickers, following up a great sophomore campaign, when he hit 23 of 28 field goals, by nailing 10 of 11 before tearing up his hamstring. He has a huge leg, connecting on a 55-yarder, and now he's back and healthy. He'll be one of the team's top offensive weapons. There aren't many better than Coutu, Mikey Henderson and Thomas Flowers, while the coverage units should be decent as long as there more pop on kickoffs. Coutu will take care of that.

5. Oklahoma
This is a spectacular group with a return game that can score any time Reggie Smith or Juaquin Iglesias gets their hands on the ball. Hartley and Cohen are potential all-stars.There isn't a more accurate kicker than senior Garrett Hartley, who nailed 19 of 20 field goals with the one miss a block on a 44-yard attempt against Oregon. With a huge leg with range at just over 50 yards, it should all come together with an All-America season and a shot at the Lou Groza Award. Senior Michael Cohen had a nice year averaging 41 yards per kick, putting eight inside the 20, but junior Mike Knall will compete for the job after averaging 33.5 yards in a limited role.

6. Oregon State
As long as Alexis Serna is kicking and Sammie Stroughter is fielding punts, Oregon State will challenge Cal and USC for the top special teams unit in the Pac-10 and one the best in the nation. Serna's a three-time semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and the winner in 2005, he’s a rock with the leg strength to flirt in the 60-yard range if necessary.  Serna has connected on more than 80% of his career field goal attempts, made 106 straight extra points and tied a school record with a 58-yard boot in 2006.

7. Wake Forest
If the Wake special teams are as good as last year, they'll be the difference in at least two games. Sam Swank is a sure-thing All-American, while the return game should be more than fine. The emphasis on doing well in all areas will be a major key to the season. Swank might be the best kicker in America, assuming he's back healthy after suffering a sports hernia. He connected on 23 of 31 field goals last year nailing bomb after bomb going ten of 16 from beyond 40 yards and five of seven from beyond 50. Not just good, he's also tremendously clutch. He'll also handle the punting duties again after averaging a solid 41.2 yards per kick while putting 19 inside the 20 and forcing a whopping 23 fair catches

8. North Carolina
With arguably the best all-around special teams in America last season with great coverage units to go along with all the other positives. There's no reason to think things will slip much under the new regime. For good or bad, the player the new coaching staff appears to be the most impressed with early on is senior Connor Barth, who has shown consistency, reliability, and a great leg hitting all ten of his field goal attempts bouncing back from a rough 11 of 21 2005. He has 50+ range with cranking out a 54-yard bomb against NC State.

9. Ohio State
As always, the Ohio State special teams will be fantastic, and a key piece of the overall puzzle. Without the explosive offense of last year, there should be more of a return to Tressel ball. Semi-conservative offense, solid defense, and rock solid special teams. Almost no one will beat the Buckeyes in the third phase. The kicking game will be one of the best in the nation with the return of sophomore placekicker Aaron Pettrey and sophomore punter A.J. Trapasso. Trapasso had a great year averaging 40.6 yards per kick with 17 put inside the 20. Pettrey appears to be the next in the long line of star kickers after a good first season hitting eight of 11 attempts including two from beyond 50 yards. He was automatic after the first few games of the year.

10. Kentucky
If Lones Seiber can get his field goal percentage to around 75% and if Tim Masthay can average over 40 yards per kick, the UK special teams will be among the best in the country. It would help if returners Keenan Burton and Rafael Little could stay healthy. Little is one of the nation's elite punt returners averaging a whopping 22.6 yards per try. Not to be outdone is Burton, who averaged 24.7 yards per return. UK was first in the nation in punt returns and tenth in kickoff returns

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