Diving back into our preseason award predictions and one that should be fairly straight forward, special teams.
Kansas returns both their punter and kicker from a year ago, but is still searching for answers in the return game.
In 2007 the return game was a strength for the Jayhawks and helped catapult the team into an Orange Bowl. Since that season, field position has been tough to come by and the Jayhawk return game has been nonexistent.
Is there an answer? The nominees and a prediction for special teamer of the year are:
- Rojas has been as good a weapon on special teams for the Jayhawks as they could have hoped for. He's kicked some monster bombs completely switching the field, he's also directed punts well inside the 20. His final season at Kansas could be an important one as field position could prove to be as critical as ever in a year of transition.
- Branstetter represents the most lethal gunner on any kickoff team in the country. His ability to hone in on a return man, bust through any wedge and make the tackle is unprecedented. He also happens to kick for Kansas.(Hopefully the sarcasm comes through on this one).
- Will he have an opportunity to step back and return a few punts this year? Patterson has natural instincts at the position, but had been held back by a coaching philosophy of sorts in the past year.
- By all accounts this guy should have been returning from the word go last year. He should get the opportunity this year and has both breakaway speed as well as the ability to change direction, hide behind blockers and make a cut when needed. 4.3 speed isn't something that can be coached, neither can return game instincts.
Preseason Pick: Alonso Rojas
It's tempting to go the route of Beshears on this one because Kansas so desperately needs to find a return game, but Rojas is reliable and can have just as much impact on field position.
Rojas enters his final year at Kansas and the thing about a good punter is you rarely know what you have until you don't have it anymore.
A bonus with Rojas is the fact that you'll never find a punter more excitable on the field than this guy. He's the automatica Grammatica of punting.
Darkhorse Candidates: Brian Maura