Special teams so often play a huge role in big college football games. The Oklahoma Sooners received more than a few reminders of that last year, when special teams miscues could have made the difference between winning and losing:
- BYU: Missed field goal;
- Texas: Missed field goal, fumbled kickoff return, muffed punt return;
- Nebraska: Three missed field goals.
Which isn’t to say that OU’s special teams were actually that bad, per se.
As a freshman, Tress Way finished third in the country in yards per punt. Ryan Broyles was third in the country in punt return average and took one to the house against Oklahoma State. The Sooners also had some of the best kick coverage in the country, allowing just 1.76 yards per punt return and a respectable 20.16 yards per kickoff.
But, oh, those field goals.
Every time one of the rotating cast of kickers – Way, Jimmy Stevens and Patrick O’Hara – trotted out for a try, it was an adventure. For the season, OU hit 18 out of 28 attempts.
Coach Bob Stoops opened the job up for competition in the spring, and the latest depth chart shows O’Hara in the lead. Whether or not that holds is anyone’s guess. If last year is any indication, one guy really isn’t much better than the rest.
Most of the major contributors return, so OU fans shouldn’t expect any real drop-off in most phases of the kicking game. Stoops does have to replace kickoff specialist Matthew Moreland, which could impact kickoff coverage. However, Moreland didn’t exactly blow anyone away with his leg, so it doesn’t seem like a huge loss.
Also, it sounds as though the Sooners want to minimize Broyles’ return duties, which means defensive back Demontre Hurst and receiver Cameron Kenney will likely play bigger roles as returners.