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December 19, 2009

Overall, Special Teams one of best?

I recently received Phil Steele's bowl edition of his Power Sweep newsletter, noticed his special teams rankings for this season inside, and nearly fell out of my chair.  "A metal, steel chair with about a five-inch cushion..."

I know, I'm being redundant, as I continue to discuss meaningless statistics and show my love for Steele but his 2009 Special Teams Ratings, and especially Georgia's ranking of 10th-best in the nation, caught my attention.

Any rankings where the 2009 Bulldogs rank as high as 10th, and not having to do with number of penalties or turnovers, are worth examining.

Steele's devised formula, factoring Georgia's net punting (42.8--best in nation), kickoff return (21.0) and punt return (10.6) averages, KO return average allowed (26.7--119th of 120 FBS teams), KO return average allowed with touchbacks considered (23.3--106th), and a plus-two advantage over the opposition in blocked kicks and touchdowns off kick/punt returns, equates to a special teams ranking, not including place-kicking, of 28th for the Bulldogs in the FBS.

A special teams ranking of 28th out of 120 teams is pretty good considering the Bulldogs are one of the worst at kickoff coverage in football.

Steele's place-kicking grade factors in accuracy (19 of 21 on FGs), number of field goals made, field goals between 40-49 yards (6 of 6), and field goals of 50+ yards (4 of 5).  Georgia's grade was second best in the FBS behind only Alabama; this makes sense as Blair Walsh and Alabama's Leigh Tiffin have been regarded as the nation's top two kickers in 2009.

The place-kicking rating is weighted at 26% of the overall grade and, along with the special teams rating, a TOTAL special teams rating is computed.  Boise State is at the top followed by Stanford, Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Air Force, Florida, LSU, Cincinnati, and Georgia, rounding out the top 10.

Because of the Bulldogs' poor kickoff coverage, although this is only one of six components of the special teams, many Georgia followers have determined the unit, on the whole, was less than adequate and the departed Coach Fabris (Photo) was much to blame. I was somewhat guilty of this conclusion; as mentioned, I was absolutely shocked at Steele's high ranking for the Bulldogs.

Some of us tend to forget we have the best punter in the nation, one of the best placekickers, a kick returner who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and our leading punt returner currently has the best all-time career return average at the school.  Besides senior Prince Miller, the rest of those specialists are only sophomores.

The numbers don't lie.  Granted, Steele's rating system is just one man's formula; however, it certainly seems thorough enough and an excellent indicator of a team's overall performance on special teams.

For the most part, Georgia's kickoff coverage is dreadful and has been for the past two seasons.  The coverage has been so bad, it was a determinant which cost Coach Fab his job, and perhaps, rightfully so.   Nevertheless, our special teams unit overall is one of the best in college football and we should expect more of the same for at least the next two seasons.

Now, imagine how more special the Bulldogs' special teams would be if it could cover a kick.  They can start by eliminating the short pooch kickoff altogether.  STEELE's Special Teams Ratings from his website

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pat,
Nice article. David Hale did a story about how UGA's "special" teams unit would allow for a big kick off return after UGA had started to gain some momentum after scoring. I am excited about the future. Especially if Georgia can hire a good SP coach!