Position Preview: Special Teams
(Photo by Abby Fullenkamp)
The Jackrabbit special teams improved across the board last season. The kicking was excellent, the return game proved to be an added weapon, and the coverage units were mostly solid. The team returns all of the major contributors on the special teams units. However, one of the joys of college football is a constant flow of athletes in and out of the program. Young players often cut their teeth on special teams coverage units. This year will be no different as the Jacks have to replace several standouts from their kick and punt coverage teams.
#4 Chase Vinatieri returns as the kicker for his junior year and was named as Hero Sports pre-season All-American. Chase made 13 of 14 kicks going 10 for 10 from kicks greater than 30+ yards and 2 for 2 from 50+. Chase's only miss was actually a blocked kick suffered on a miserable Hobo Day. Chase was also 58-62 on extra points and was perfect the last seven weeks of the season. No Jackrabbit fan will forget his big game heroics against Montana State when he scored from 31 yards out on a fake field goal. Chase also handled the kickoff duties and netted an average of 60.1 yards forcing 40 touchbacks. #94 Jake Wolfe redshirted last season but is ready to go if anything should happen to Chase.
#49 Brady Hale is now a senior after enjoying an excellent 2017 season. He punted for a 40.1 average, only had 1 touchback, forced 24 fair catches, and landed 19 inside the 20. These are the exact things you want your punter to do. Look for Hale to compete for All-MVFC honors this season.
#93 Ben Dinkel is waiting and ready for his opportunity to punt for the Jackrabbits. He can punt regularly but has worked really hard to develop a running rugby style of punting.
#52 Brady Sorenson handled the long snapping duties well in his first season at the position. He is a steady hand who seems to have a good connection with both kickers and is strong and big enough to hold up at the line of scrimmage.
#15 Cade Johnson and #26 Mikey Daniel handled the kick return duties last season and provided a spark for a once beleaguered unit. Johnson, a 3rd team pre-season All-American for Hero Sports, returned two kickoffs for touchdown and enjoyed a 28 yard average on returns. Both #18 Deyon Campbell and #84 Isaiah Hill possess pure speed and big play capability. Both handled returns in high school and could certainly challenge for return duties 2018.
#11 Marquise Lewis has handled the put return duties the past two years and has done an admirable job. On 15 attempts he averaged 8.4 yards. He did have one point that he returned for a touchdown that was called back because of a penalty. Lewis had one fumble on the year but seemed to bounce back after a short demotion. Again, look for Campbell and Hill to challenge for playing time at this spot.
Last season Seven Wilson, Jarek Berg, and Lance Eide provided good coverage on the kick coverage teams. Look for some more of the young linebackers, corners, and safeties to make an impact on these units. This is a unit overall that needs to become more consistent as the Jacks did allow 1 kickoff and 1 punt returned for a touchdown last season.
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