Field goals and field position can make all the difference in the world for a football team when the clock is winding down in the fourth quarter. Special teams are a vital part of any team, and the Frogs will be returning most of their 2008 unit for the upcoming season.
The two notable departures are running back Aaron Brown, who returned kickoffs, and Drew Combs, recipient of the 2008 College Football Rudy Award, who handled kickoffs for the team.
Brown’s ability to return kicks will missed in 2009. The departing senior returned 18 kicks last season for 526 yards and a touchdown, including a 75-yard scamper against Oklahoma. Brown’s abilities could land him on a pro team at this weekend’s NFL Draft. He is projected to go anywhere from the fifth to the seventh round Sunday.
Senior running back Ryan Christian will step in as the team’s primary kickoff returner. Christian returned six kickoffs last season for 134 yards. His average of 22.3 yards per return was about seven yards less per return than Brown’s average.
Junior wide receiver Jeremy Kerley will handle punt returning duties again in 2009. Kerley averaged 13.9 yards per punt return in 2008, the 13th-best clip in the nation. He will also reclaim his role as the holder on field goals and extra points.
Sophomore-to-be Ross Evans, the only freshman semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award (awarded to the nation’s top placekicker) last season, will add kickoffs to his job duties next season. Evans connected on 16 of 20 field goals in 2008.
Sophomore Anson Kelton will enter his second season at the Frogs’ punter. Kelton earned All-Mountain West Conference honors for his performance last season when he placed over half of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Lastly, senior Clint Gresham will handle all snapping duties for the Frogs again in 2009.
Projected starters: PK Ross Evans, P Anson Kelton, KR Ryan Christian, PR Jeremy Kerley, SN Clint Gresham
Starters lost: KR Aaron Brown, K Drew Combs