LSU 2013 Optimistic/Pessimistic/Realistic: Special Teams

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The faces change, but does the song remain the same for LSU’s special teams?

For the last few seasons, special teams have been pretty much automatic for LSU. Field-changing punting, great coverage, dynamic returns and solid kicking.

The questions aren't all answered yet, but expect more of the same in 2013.

38 Jamie Keehn (So.), P

6-4, 218

12 punts for 524 yards (43.7 avg), long of 58, 1 touchback, 3 inside the 20 and 6 over 50 yards.

30 James Hairston (Jr.), K

6-1, 218

79 kickoffs for 4,842 yards (61.3 avg), with 27 touchbacks.

42 Colby Delahoussaye (RS-Fr.), K

5-10, 169

Redshirted.

21 Trent Domingue (RS-Fr.) P/K

6-0, 165

Redshirted.

50 Reid Ferguson (So.) SNP

6-2, 235

Started all 13 games as deep snapper.

3 Odell Beckham, Jr. (Jr.) PR

6-0, 187

35 punt returns for 320 yards (9.1 avg) and 2 TDs.

The Tigers are even staying ethnically consistent at punter, with Australian Jamie Keehn stepping in for his compatriot Brad Wing. Keehn did a fine job when asked to step in for Wing at times in 2012, and while it's doubtful that he can be the absolute game-changer that Wing was in 2011, we saw that season that it's difficult for even the man himself to keep that up.

At kicker, the job seems to be much more in flux. Junior James Hairston has handled kickoffs for the last two seasons, and it was expected he'd add field goals to the list as well. But through the spring he didn't show the necessary accuracy, and opened the door for freshman walk-on Colby Delahoussaye to have his say. Now, it appears that the two will split duties, with Delahoussaye (think I learn can to spell that as automatically as I did Dworaczyk?) handling extra points and the shorter range kicks, while Hairston kicks the longer ones. Admittedly, it's not ideal, but the Tigers have made similar arrangements work in the past, such as with Colt David and Chris Jackson/Josh Jasper. And of course, it always helps if you turn your red-zone opportunities into touchdowns instead of field goals.

In the return game, Odell Beckham Jr. was a helluva dangerous big-play punt return threat, though he could make you nervous at times with his decision making on fielding the ball versus fair-catching. Look for some of the incoming freshmen to possibly spell him on punt returns, and also contribute on kick returns, namely Tre'Davious White and Jeryl Brazil. And of course, their classmates will all be active covering those kicks and punts.

Optimistic

Keehn does his best Brad Wing 2011 impersonation, while the kickers all handle their respective roles well. Beckham and the freshman combine for a dangerous, dynamic return game.

Pessimistic

Punting is a little more inconsistent, while the kicking game is hit or miss, with neither Delahoussaye nor Hairson proving all that reliable. Beckham still tries the hero act too much, leading to come costly turnovers.

Realistic

Aside from field-goal kicking, there's nothing on this side of the ball that makes me terribly nervous. Keehn has given us every reason to believe he'll do his job well, and we know what Beckham is capable of as a punt returner. Meanwhile all the freshmen looking to get on the field are highly touted and fast. We've seen LSU win a national title with one of the shakiest kicking games that didn't involve Wade Richey, and I expect Hairson/ Delahoussaye to be much better than Gaudet/Jackson were in 2003.

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