Gary Patterson had a problem on special teams last year.
“[There’s] nothing worse in life than to have a freshman kicker and freshman punter,” the head coach said.
He’s feeling much better this year.
Kicker Jaden Oberkrom and punter Ethan Perry will start their sophomore seasons on the national radar after being named All-Big 12 Honorable Mentions as freshmen.
Oberkrom appeared on the 2013 preseason watch list for the Lou Groza Award. He was a semifinalist for the award in 2012. As a freshman, Oberkrom made 22-of-30 field goals and was perfect on extra points (42-of-42). He also set Big 12 and TCU records for field goals in a game with six against Texas Tech.
Perry, a 2013 Ray Guy Award watch-list candidate, ended last season averaging 44.5 yards per punt, the second-highest average in TCU history and the best since 1986. He ranked second among rookie punters and 14th in the NCAA.
The Freshman All-American pinned 19 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, and 20 of his 63 punts traveled at least 50 yards.
The kickers will have an unfamiliar face snapping the ball to them with the graduation of three-year starting long snapper Daniel Shelley. The leading candidate to replace Shelley is James Power, a transfer from Marshall University, according to the depth chart.
In addition to an experienced kicking game, Patterson said the kick returner position is deeper than last year with junior Brandon Carter as the probable starter.
Last year, most of the work fell to Skye Dawson who ran back kickoffs and punts for a combined 622 yards on 37 attempts. Carter, who returned punts in 2011, had 181 return yards (176 kickoff, 5 punt) on nine attempts last season.
Senior Waymon James’ return from ACL surgery gives the Frogs another experienced kick returner. As a kickoff returner in 2011, James had 222 yards on eight attempts. Last season, James had three kickoff returns for 59 yards before suffering an ACL injury in the second game against Kansas.
Sophomore B.J. Catalon and freshmen Ranthony Texada and Cameron Echols-Luper are also options in the return game, according to Patterson.
Even with young athletes on special teams, the veterans have helped speed up the learning process this season, Patterson said.
“Last year, for example, there was one return [play which we were] teaching in two-a-days we couldn’t even get to,” Patterson said. “They couldn’t do it because we had so many new faces. This year, we had it all taught in three days.”
· Wide receiver Matt Brown is the projected holder for field goals and extra points.
· Only eight schools this season, including TCU, have both their place-kicker (Oberkrom) and punter (Perry) on preseason watch lists.
· Backup place-kicker Ryan DeNucci had three kickoffs last season.
· Oberkrom’s 42 PATs-in-a-row rank fourth all-time at TCU.
Coming Wednesday: Defensive breakdown