Thursday, July 11, 2013
Ranking the SEC kick/punt returners
By Edward Aschoff
We finish up our look at the best of the best in the SEC by checking out the top return men in the league. These guys can change the game with a cut to the left or a dart to the right.
We've put the best kick returners and punt returners together into one list:
1. Marcus Murphy, Jr., Missouri: It was hard to find a better returner in the SEC last season. Murphy had four returns for touchdowns (three punts and one kickoff). He also averaged 24.1 yards per kick return and 13.9 yards per punt return. He returned one kickoff for 98 yards and one punt for 72 yards. He averaged more than 9 yards a punt in seven games last season.
Andre Debose has shown big-play ability as Florida's primary kick and punt returner.
2. Andre Debose, Sr., Florida: When Debose is focused, he's one of the toughest players to take down in the open field. He averaged 28.3 yards per return and took one 100 yards to the house. His straightaway speed is unmatched in the the return game. During his career, Debose has returned 58 kicks for 1,592 and four touchdowns.
3. Jameon Lewis, So., Mississippi State: Lewis returns as the SEC's top man when it comes to average return yardage on kickoffs (25.9). The home run threat totaled 517 kickoff return yards and had a 100-yard touchdown. With Johnthan Banks gone, Lewis could return punts this year for the Bulldogs, putting him closer to the end zone when he touches the ball.
4. Odell Beckham Jr. Jr., LSU: He isn't Tyrann Mathieu, but Beckham has the game-changing gene in him. He was deadly on punt returns last season and took two back for touchdowns, including one that went 89 yards to tie the Ole Miss game at 35 in the fourth quarter. He not only has great breakaway speed, but is shifty enough to juke his way through for good yardage.
5. Jonathan Krause, Sr., Vanderbilt: He averaged just over 11 yards per punt return, but took two of those punts to the house last season. He really found a rhythm returning punts late in the season and averaged 36.7 yards per return in Vandy's blowout win at Wake Forest last season.
6. Jaylen Walton, So., Ole Miss: The fast, shifty youngster made quite the name for himself on Ole Miss' kickoff squad last season. He returned 26 kicks for 643 yards and a touchdown. If he finds a hole, he's gone, but he also has the ability to put a few moves on opposing defenders in order to churn out more yards.
7. Christion Jones, Jr., Alabama: Jones returned kickoffs and punts for the Crimson Tide last season and was solid at both. He returned eight kickoffs and averaged 26.6 yards in the process and had a touchdown. He also returned 21 punts for 213 yards. Jones is a freak of an athlete and has really made a home in the return game.
8. Trey Williams, So., Texas A&M: Another youngster who really flourished in the return game, Williams averaged 22.3 yards per return on kickoffs last season. He didn't register a touchdown last season, but ranked third in the SEC with 557 kickoff return yards, and looked like a real track athlete on the field.
9. Bruce Ellington, Jr., South Carolina: He's a veteran at returning kicks and has really turned into quite the slippery player when he's chugging away on special teams. Ellington returned 18 kicks for 406 yards and had a long of 50 yards. He didn't break any for touchdowns last season, but something tells me he will this season.
10. Brian Kimbrow, So., Vanderbilt: He has all the athletic ability to make defenders look silly, and he took some of that behavior to special teams last season. Kimbrow returned 22 kicks for 486 yards and had a long of 52 yards. He was Vandy's top kickoff return man, and he'll figure out a way to find the end zone this fall.