Thursday, December 3, 2009

Season P/review: Special Teams

Insert a cliché here re: Stanford special teams, i.e. about how they’re special and all. Because they were this year (well, with one interesting exception). Let’s go to the tape ( the source here).

Special Teams Statistics 08-09
YearPunt Yards/ReturnOpp. Punt Yards/ReturnsKickoff Yards/ReturnOpp. Kickoff Yards/ReturnPunt YardsFG%

So, let’s break this down. For one, the decline in field goal percentage made is at least partially explicable to the FG attempts that each kicker was allowed to take: Zagory, last year’s kicker, only took 1 50+ FG (Whitaker took 2), and only took 5 40-49 yard FGs (Whitaker took 9). So that probably explains the apparent decline in field goal percentage; not a big concern of mine.

One impressive statistic is the increase in kickoff yards/return: a six yard increase is pretty substantial, particularly when you consider how often opponents kicked away from Owusu and to Michael Thomas or one of the upbacks. For all of the criticism I hear about Owusu’s hands (some of it mine), it’s underappreciated what a strong, strong weapon he is—even when he doesn’t touch the ball—on kickoff returns. Probably at least partially responsible for Stanford’s quality offensive season—I don’t think it’s a revelation to tell you that that extra 10, 15 yards is big for the success of the offense.

Meanwhile, the punt yards/return is more than a bit weird. The decrease in average is more worrying when you consider than Richard Sherman was averaging 10.21 yards/return before he gave someone a heart attack and had to be replaced. Drew Terrell, who handled punts the other part of the season, only averaged 6.45. What’s odd about this is last year’s punt returner, Doug Baldwin, was about 2 yards better last year than Drew Terrell, and probably could’ve done a fine job, particularly considering Baldwin’s a year older (and better?). I just think it’s a bit weird, not really concerning or anything—just could be better.

Overall, good year from the special teams and we should expect about the same, if not better, next year.

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