Position Breakdown – Kickers, Punters, and Returners September 2, 2011
Wait, if we’re at the punt, pass, and kick category, why that means… wait, tomorrow we… tomorrow we football? TOMORROW WE FOOTBALL, EVERYONE.
Aug. 22: Quarterbacks
Aug. 23: Running Backs
Aug. 24: Tight Ends/Fullbacks
Aug. 25: Wide Receivers
Aug. 26: Offensive Guards/Centers
Aug. 27: Offensive Tackles
Aug. 28: Defensive Ends/Bandits
Aug. 29: Defensive Tackles
Aug. 30: Linebackers
Aug. 31: Cornerbacks
Sept. 1: Safeties
Sept. 2: Kickers/Punters/Returners
Sept. 3: FOOTBALL. Football football FOOTBALL.
Instead of starters and backups, let’s just go with each position here.
Placekickers: Derek Dimke, backed up by Taylor Zalewski
I’m still kind of sad that Matt Eller transfered. You never want to see a kid leave just before his final season. I mean, I understand why – he was stuck behind one the the best kickers in the nation and he wasn’t going to beat out the freshman at punter – but I still wish he would have stayed. Oh well – we’ll always have the 2008 Iowa game.
Did I say “one of the best kickers in the nation”? Yes – yes I did. 29 for 34 in your career means you’re one of the best kickers in the country. There’s not really much else that needs to be said about Dimke. Except that we’ll really miss him next year.
Next year? Well, there’s this freshman Zalewski, who finds himself second on the depth chart at the moment. But there’s also freshman Baron VanMiegham (his name really isn’t “Baron”, but it should be), offensive lineman turned kicker Nick Immekus (rs-FR), and another rs-FR, Patrick Dunn. That’s the 4-way battle for kicker next summer. For no real reason, my money’s on the offensive lineman.
Punters: Justin DuVernois, backed up by Ryan Lankford
Yes, that Ryan Lankford. Our 4th wide receiver is also our backup punter. Backup rugby punter. Let’s just get that out of the way first. Yes, when we’re kicking into the wind, I think we’ll rugby punt some. No, it won’t be as bad as Dejuan Warren. Yes, Ryan Lankford is better at it than any of the punters. No, I don’t think we’ll use it that much. But yes, it can be effective when trying to prevent 20 yard punts that just hang there in the wind.
Matt Eller wasn’t able to transition himself into a punter, so the job is 100% the freshman’s. DuVernois was given a scholarship to come in and be our starting punter as a true freshman, and that’s just what he’ll be. My prediction for Saturday: two 39 yard punts, one booming 48 yard bomb, and an absolute shank that goes 12 yards. Consitency will be key for the freshman.
Other options backing up DuVernois include rs-FR Brad Janitz and true freshman Garrett Stroup. If DuVernois struggles, I’m not sure if we’ll go with one of these guys or see what Lankford can do. Regardless, punting is much more a question mark than it was a year ago today.
Returners: Terry Hawthorne, Troy Pollard, Darius Millines, Jack Ramsey, Josh Ferguson
Predictions: For the opening kickoff against Arkansas State, we see Terry Hawthorne and Troy Pollard back deep. But for the rest of the game, especially if the defense is coming off a long series, you’ll see Darius Millines and Troy Pollard back there.
For the first punt of the game, it’s Hawthorne. But if he struggles catching the ball, look for Jack Ramsey to head out there. Or maybe even true freshman Josh Ferguson.
But all of that is secondary to this: 2011 needs to be the year of the Black Cat. I want him returning every kick he possibly can. He’s the most explosive athlete on the team, and I want the ball in his hands as much as possible. We’re the worst FBS team at returning punts during the Zook era – seriously, statistically, we’re 120 out of 120. While scheme and blocking are still a concern, we can change some of that by getting the ball in Hawthorne’s hands.
Long Snapper: Zak Pederson
He snaps the ball to the punter and to the holder. And sometimes, on punt team, he gets to tackle people. That’s pretty much it.
Oh – there is one thing. Last reminder, Zak. When you see a ball bouncing on the ground after the returner fumbles, fall on it. Just trust me on that – fall on it.
Holder: Tim Russell
This probably has me more concerned than anything else on our special teams. Derek Dimke is 29-34 on field goals… with Anthony Santella as his holder. Now that it’s Tim Russell performing the holding duties, will they mesh? Will Russell tilt the ball just right for Dimke? Does Russell have good hands? Will he turn the laces out, Dan?
As I said in the 89 Illini series, my goal for Tim Russell is to never hear his name all season. Because if you hear his name, it probably means he screwed up.
Thus endeth the position breakdown series. Which means tonight it’s time for the first Stream Of Consciousness post. Which means tomorrow, FOOTBALL.