Regular-season report card: Special teams

The regular season is over and the end of the semester has arrived. Here, we grade Notre Dame's 2011 campaign by position. Part nine of the 10-part series brings us to the special teams.


Grade: C-

Summary: When we last visited this section, for the bye week grades this season, Notre Dame's punt return game averaged 0.3 yards per return. Six games later, status quo. The Irish finished the season averaging 0.3 yards per return. John Goodman and Theo Riddick each turned it over once. Michael Floyd never got a chance to actually return a punt despite being back there a few times. Austin Collinsworth has said he might lobby to return punts, and given his success returning kickoffs -- and the Irish's lack of success in the punt return game -- any change is likely a good one.

As for actual punting, Ben Turk improved over the course of the season, averaging 40.24 yards per punt. David Ruffer appeared to re-gain his form on field goals, hitting eight straight before missing a 20-yarder at Stanford. Kyle Brindza was solid on kickoffs.

The kickoff return game was the brightest spot for the Irish's special teams units, with Geroge Atkinson III returning a pair back for a touchdown. The freshman finished 15th in the country, averaging 27.4 yards per kick return, and is a big bright spot for the unit moving forward.

Previous report cards:


Defensive line

Offensive line


Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends