Friday, May 6, 2011
Pac-12: Nothing special in 2011?
By Ted Miller ESPN.com
Special teams -- particularly field goal kicking -- in the Pac-12 in 2011 might not be lacking.
Only California, Oregon and Washington welcome back both their kicker and punter, and the Bears aren't exactly celebrating their experience at kicker from the past few seasons. Arizona State and USC are replacing both positions.
Though both All-Pac-10 punters are back -- California's Bryan Anger and UCLA's Jeff Locke -- both all-conference kickers are gone (Stanford's Nate Whitaker and UCLA's Kai Forbath).
So where do teams stand in terms of specialists?
All-Pac-10 punter Bryan Anger returns this season.
Arizona: Kicker Alex Zendejas is back, punter Keenyn Crier is gone.
2011? While Zendejas' numbers were mostly solid, he had several notable misses (insert forehead slap from Wildcats fans). Those two blocked extra points against Arizona State were two of five missed PATs. JC transfer Kyle Dugandzic is expected to take over at punter.
Arizona State: Kicker Thomas Weber and punter Trevor Hankins are gone.
2011? JC transfer Josh Hubner takes over at punter, while redshirt freshman Alex Garoutte will do the kicking. Cautious optimism in Tempe.
California: Anger and kicker Giorgio Tavecchio are back.
2011? Anger is one of the best punters in the nation, though he has been known to shank a few. Tavecchio made 11 of 16 field goals last year, but a false start and miss versus Oregon is what most Bears fans remember.
Colorado: Punter Zach Grossnickle is back, kicker Aric Goodman is gone.
2011? Grossnickle averaged 39.47 yards per punt in 2010, which would have ranked last in the Pac-10. Sophomore Justin Castor is No. 1 at kicker after spring practices.
Oregon: Punter Jackson Rice and kicker Rob Beard are back.
2011? Oregon probably feels pretty good about both, though neither put up elite numbers.
Oregon State: Punter Johnny Hekker is back, kicker Justin Kahut is gone.
2011? Hekker ranked eighth in the conference in 2010 (41.7 yards per punt). Hopes are high for Trevor Romaine at kicker.
Stanford: Whitaker is gone, punter Daniel Zychlinski is back.
2011? Eric Whitaker is expected to take over for older brother, Nate. Zychlinski ranked seventh in the conference with a 41.8-yard average, though he only punted 27 times, 13 fewer than Rice.
UCLA: Forbath is gone, Locke is back.
2011? The hope is freshman Kip Smith can take over for Forbath. If not, Locke could end up kicking also. He led the conference and ranked fourth in the nation in punting in 2010 (45.8 yards per punt).
USC: Punter Jacob Harfman and kicker Joe Houston are both gone.
2011? Not to be mean, but good riddance. Both put up lousy numbers last year. Two freshman are expected to take over: Andre Heidari at kicker and Kristopher Albarado at punter.
Utah: Punter Sean Sellwood is back, kicker Joe Phillips is gone.
2011? Sellwood averaged 41 yards per kick, which is mediocre, and three were blocked, which is bad. Sophomore Nick Marsh emerged from spring No. 1 on the depth chart at kicker.
Washington: Punter Kiel Rasp and kicker Erik Folk are both back.
2011? Rasp and Folk are solid but unspectacular. Folk's 54-yard field goal was the longest in the conference in 2010, but he also missed seven of 20 field goals. Rasp ranked fifth, averaging 43.8 yards per boot.
Washington State: Punter Reid Forrest is gone, kicker Andrew Furney is back.
2011? Forrest was one of the best punters in the nation in 2010. Dan Wagner takes over. Furney converted 3 of 5 field-goal, with a long of 51 yards after taking over midseason for Nico Grasu.