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USF Special Teams Trying To Remain Special

One of the most frustrating parts of Jim Leavitt's last few South Florida teams were the special teams, which slid from decent to below average and then finally hideous in his final season, 2009. When Skip Holtz took over as coach, there was definitely quick fix potential, and sure enough the special teams improved dramatically last season. Lindsey Lamar ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns, and Chris Lane and coverage ace Armando Sanchez each recovered blocked punts for a score. USF's special teams improved in all of these categories from 2009 to 2010:

  • Field goal percentage -- from 12-for-21 (60%) in 2009 to 18-for-26 (69%) in 2010. Maikon Bonani was 17-for-21 on his own, an impressive 81%.
  • Kickoff returns -- 19.7 yards per return in 2009 to 22.6 yards in 2010.
  • Punt returns -- 6.4 yards per return in 2009 to 11.5 yards in 2010.
  • Punt return defense -- an almost impossible 21.0 yards per return in 2009 to 9.7 yards in 2010.

All of USF's specialists return in 2011, including Bonani, Lamar, Sanchez, long snapper Matt Walsh, and punt returner Terrence Mitchell. The returning group also includes punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann, who started strong in 2010 but fell off a cliff when conference play started. Brockhaus-Kann ended up averaging only 37.6 yards per punt by season's end, which is why he has Chris Veron pushing him at spring practice. In a league like the Big East where Connecticut, Syracuse, Rutgers, and to some extent Louisville rely on ball control and field position, that kind of punting average can be a major liability. At least it's the only liability the USF special teams have to work on this spring.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.