Special Teams have been a source of great frustration for the Yellow Jackets in the last two seasons. From coverage on kickoffs to the inability to kick a field goal at all, it hasn’t always been pretty and now it’s time to grade the Jackets individual special team members at the “mid-way” point of the season.
As a unit, the coverage team likely had its worst game against South Florida when it gave up back to back kickoff return touchdowns. Since that game, however, the coverage has been better while still giving up the occasional big return. As a team, the Jackets have 17 kick returns for a total of 309 yards with an 18.2-yard average while their opponents have 25 returns for 724 yards and an average of 29 yards. Opponents are outgaining the Jackets by a full yard in punt returns at 8.8 yards for opponents and 7.8 yards per return for the Jackets.
Brad Stewart: Stewart has 7 returns for 47 yards and a 6.7-yard average return with a long of 15 yards. Stewart has not by any means lit up the boards with his return stats but he has been a solid man in the return game so far in the season.
Juanyeh Thomas: 3 punt returns for 31 yards and a 10.1-yard average per return. 16 kickoffs for 295 yards and an 18.4-yard average return with a long of 38 yards. Thomas has tried to get anything going in the kickoff return game with little success at all. The return game is part of the field position issues that the Jackets have had lately and the new fair catch rule could be something to look for if the return rate does not improve.
Shawn Davis: Davis has been better this season on kickoff duties with a total of 42 kickoffs and 13 touchbacks. That isn’t a great ratio and it shows opponents believe that they can get better than average yardage on returns against the at times porous Yellow Jacket coverage teams. Davis also missed one extra point in 5 tries.
Brenton King: King won the starting placekicker job out of spring and went 1-4 in his field goal attempts to start the year. He also missed an extra point in his 11 tries.
Wesley Wells: The new walk-on kicker has already become one of the brightest spots of the entire special teams kicking 20 extra points and not missing any of them. That is something you take for granted until you start missing them. He has only one field goal but it was from 41 yards against Lousiville and the entire fan base may have crowdfunded his scholarship when he hit it.
Harvin can also be recognized by his other name “The loneliest man in college football”. I mentioned in my preview before the season started that Harvin’s leg was an absolute weapon in the Jackets arsenal that can flip fields and give the defense relief. This season that has still been true. While he was not utilized much during the hot three-game streak that the Jackets had he is still averaging 45 yards per punt, which would be more than good enough to flip the field on opponents.