It’s easy to forget when assessing a team that there are three phases of the game. Of course there is the offense and defense, but special teams plays such a critical role in the success or lack there of for a team. Missed field goals, squibbed punts, or a botched fair catch can all have negative implications on the outcome of a game. Just look at last year, there were countless examples of special teams blunders that if they had been crisper could have lead to a BC win, even with the malfunctioning offense.
In the offseason the big news was Steve Addazio shuffling his coaching staff around, and moving running backs coach Al Washington to special teams coordinator. This was a big upgrade for Al, as he went from a position coach, to manning an entire phase the game. Washington has received a lot of praise, rightfully so, but if he can put his stamp on BC’s special teams and restore them to the level they were at in 2013, his star will rise even higher.
Let’s look at the notable positions. Of course the other players on punt protect/rush etc. are equally important, but at this time it’s hard to determine who will be filling those roles.
Punter: Last season Alex Howell was about as consistent as he was in 2014, averaging just over 42 yards a punt. Going into spring ball it appeared that Mike Knoll was going to take over this spot, but Addazio went out and grabbed Old Dominion grad transfer Satchel Ziffler. At OD, he averaged about the same as Howell (about 41 yards a punt). While at practice it hasn’t been clear who will be the starter, you have to imagine that unless Knoll blows him away, Addazio/Washington will go with the punter with more game experience.
Kicker: BC really has struggled at this position since Nate Freese graduated. They tried Mike Knoll in 2014, and that didn’t go well. Last year they tried true freshman Colton Lichtenberg and it appeared that the struggles were going to continue. He missed three of his first four field goals, of course with limited opportunities because of the struggles with the offense. He ended his season strong (albeit a limited sample size), hitting his last two against Syracuse and Notre Dame. All signs point to Lichtenberg continuing to be the place kicker in 2016.
Returners: One of the few bright spots in terms of play makers in 2015 had to be true freshman Michael Walker. He was 10th in the country in return yards, averaging over 28 a return. BC is going to use him again in this role (as they should), but maybe they should consider throwing him in as a punt returner as well. With Sherm Alston gone, BC has tried Thadd Smith, Myles Willis, and according to our reports Tyler Rouse has had some time as a returner. Walker needs to touch the ball as often as possible, it might make sense to have him in there as a punt returner as well.