Positional Outlooks: Special Teams (PK/P/SN)

The Last positional outlook for our Buffaloes. The links to all the previous ones are at the end.

(Analysis after the jump)

Thoughts:

  • Place Kicking: This is tough. The guy who won the job is 15-32 over the last two seasons. He does, however, have a huge leg and looked pretty good in practice. Goodman may forever be remembered by the coaching staff as the guy who won the West Virginia game. Hopefully that isn't coloring their evaluation of him. As long as he can adopt the kicking attitude (a huge portion of Field Goal kicking is mental), he might be solid this year. I don't know the guy, so I can't comment on that. But I did like the recent quote from Hansen about Goodman and his kicking. Hansen said that Goodman better make his kicks, because the team can't do all that work to leave points out on the field.
  • Punting: Well we certainly can't be worse than last year. Actually, we should be much, much improved, with the possibility of this becoming a strength.
  • Snapping: This is the element of punting that makes me most nervous. We have two unproven snappers. Yikes. We are definitely going to miss Justin Drescher.
  • Returning: Patterson will offer a nearly infinite upgrade over Jason "lowest punt return average in all of college football" Espinoza, and Lockridge and Jaffee seem to be in the lead for kickoff returns. The overall speed and size on both units will help open up bigger lanes for the returners.
  • We were solid covering Kickoffs, and not-so-solid covering punts (a bunch of the blame there falls on our punter having a horrendous season), but the size/speed thing applies to the coverage units as well. We have better athletes out there, so we should be better.

The cast:

  • Aric Goodman - Kicker, Sr
    • Hey everyone, remember Mason Crosby? Yeah, this guy bears absolutely no resemblance to him. Goodman does have a strong leg, though he has a career FG% at CU of less than 50%. Yikes. But in his defense (though it doesn't turn any of those misses into makes), he did connect with the ball solidly. His accuracy was just bad. He shanked a couple, but most of them were "well-kicked" (kind of). Really, I'm just trying to say positive things because he is our Kicker this year whether we like it or not. And the problem with that, is that Goodman has shown us time and again that he can't deal with the pressure of game-day. He always looks good in practice, but then his technique starts to falter during games, and he lets misses affect him way too much. He starts to pick up his head before he's kicked the ball, twisting his body and throwing off his accuracy. You need to keep your head down and watch where the ball WAS, not where it's going. You do that pre-snap. He may just be too high-strung to be a successful college kicker. Of course, he's the only guy with any experience...Feh
  • Joe Silipo - Snapper, Sr
    • We are going to miss Drescher this season. It's up to this guy to make us miss him less. I don't know if he can do that. His placement looked solid on his snaps throughout the fall, but he doesn't get them there very quickly. That may be why he's the starting short snapper and not the starting long-snapper. You can have the best punter in football but if guys are on top of him by the time he gets the ball, you're screwed. Silipo has the size, but so far that's all I've seen from him.
  • Marcus Kirkwood - Kicker, Jr
    • He's a big guy with a pretty big leg. He is also the only other kicker with game experience (in soccer at Concordia, not Football). He has worked hard to be the guy, so we will see if he gets his shot at kickoffs or something, but he may get passed over in favor of the scholarship kickers. I would bet a 220 lb kicker doesn't get rattled nearly as easily as Goodman does.
  • Justin Castor - Kicker, Fr (true)
    • He has a funky approach, but it seems to work for him. He isn't really in a position to contribute this year because he still has some accuracy issues to work out, but I think he will provide some solid competition for the kicking job after Goodman graduates.
  • Dillan Freiberg - Kicker/Punter, Fr (true, walkon)
    • Kickers and punters aren't usually the biggest guys on the team, but Freiberg is SMALL. He has a bigger leg than you'd think at first glance, but I'm not sure he is powerful enough in his kicks or punts to compete with the other guys. He is listed as the second punter, but there is NO WAY he unseats Grossnickle. Hopefully he can help keep G-nickles leg from wearing out in practice.
  • Zach Grossnickle - Punter, Fr
    • He might have more potential than any other guy on the team, no joke. He is still working on his consistency, but he can absolutely BOOM punts. I have never seen a punter connect with the ball like he does on occasion. And his "worst" punts are better than most of Dilallo's punts were last season. There may be a few growing pains here and there once he's kicking against real opponents (especially if our snappers don't step up), but it will definitely be worth it. He has hit multiple punts that have 5+ seconds of hang-time. That is absolutely ridiculous. The average hangtime in the NFL is 4.2-4.6 seconds, and in college it's 3.8-4.2. Think about that for a second. And he was limited in the weight room the first few months of his freshman year because of the broken wrist and cast he had on. Not to mention the 4.55 40 yard dash he runs. This guy should develop into a very dangerous weapon for the CU Football team over the next few years.
  • Ryan Iverson - Snapper, Fr
    • Apparently has won the long-snapping job. I don't know how to feel about that. He seemed worse than Silipo on placement from what I saw, so maybe he's improved his velocity a bunch since the beginning of fall camp. He was supposed to be one of the top 10 snappers coming out of high school, so hopefully he'll live up to that. The snap is a very important part of punting, and it's difficult for a Punter to be successful if the snap is slow and inaccurate.

In 2010:

I'm nervous about field goal kicking. I hope Goodman can improve, but maybe that kick @ West Virginia was the exception to the rule. The only thing that gives me hope was when the team started practicing with the skinnier goalposts. A bunch of Goodman's misses were not too far off, so hopefully aiming for a smaller target will help. I'm not nervous about punting (or at least the part that involves the punter). Grossnickle has showed enormous potential, and I think he will improve dramatically as the season rolls on. I'm going to keep a punts-with-5-second-hang-time count throughout the season. Snapping worries me a bit. Hopefully a big improvement happened in the last few weeks for those guys, because what I saw was concerning. And I'm excited by our return game. I think Patterson brings the kind of ability that we haven't had in a punt returner since Jeremy Bloom, and I think Lockridge and Jaffee (two of the fastest guys on the team) will be even better than they were last year. I aired my doubts about Lockridge as a Running Back, but I do think he's a pretty good Kick Returner.

Beyond 2010:

No Aric Goodman. That's a good thing for the kicking game. I actually want Grossnickle to take over, though I doubt they'll take practice time away from him working on his punting. Grossnickle was the most accurate of all our kickers in high school by a longshot. Check out their bios on the CU website. He made 12-13, while none of the other guys were better than 65%. But I think Castor will learn quite a few things from Goodman...about what not to do. Goodman's psyche is on display for the fans, so it must be incredibly obvious to his teammates. Hopefully Castor learns from that. And I expect at least one Ray Guy award for Grossnickle. He should be great. And hopefully Iverson improves this season, and continues to improve. Unless we bring in somebody else, he will be the guy. Phew. And I expect to see Keenan Canty or Paul Richardson returning punts in 2011 and beyond.

Questions:

-This was the last Positional Outlook. I want to start doing this every year. What can I do better next season?

-What did I get wrong?

-What did you notice about ST last season?

-Where do you think we've improved?

-Where do you think we haven't improved?

Positional Outlooks:

Running Back

Defensive Tackle

Inside Linebacker

Tight End

Defensive End

Wide Receiver

Outside Linebacker

Offensive Tackle

Safety

Quarterback

Cornerback

Offensive Guard & Center

 

If you have any questions or additional comments or insights, please feel free to email me at: David.Gerhardt@gmail.com

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