A Special group of specialists
One position group we knew that we did not need to worry about coming into 2017 was the group coached by Jeff Banks. Returning from 2016 was the place kicker, punter, kickoff specialist and one of the nation’s best in the return game.
After seven games, what we thought they were is as advertised. I tried really hard to find a major blemish with this group and the only one that comes to mind is Christian Kirk has been a little shaky with his punt returns and specifically catching the punt.
The rest have been special. Daniel LaCamera is the reigning SEC special teams player of the week after making all four field goals at Florida including the game winner in the final minute. Braden Mann missed his only field goal against UCLA because it was blocked. He does have 23 touchbacks thus far.
Shane Tripucka continues a long line of great punters in Aggie history. He’s current 46.2 yard average is three yards longer than 2016 average. That number ranks 10th nationally and combined with the coverage team, the Aggies rank sixth in net punting.
After seven games, the only area that needs improvement is the return game. The Aggies rank 44th in kickoff returns and 23rd in punt returns. Yes, teams are kicking away from Kirk and company but this is where Banks makes his money. Devise a game plan and maybe you put two returners back every now and then. Any spark in the return game can turn momentum.
And how about Cullen Gillaspia? He’s tied for the lead in punts blocked. Who needs a punt return if you’re going to continue to block punts. If these numbers get better, which they can who knows what the results will be down the stretch but as of now, the special teams have been fantastic.