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LSU 2014 Position Previews: Special Teams

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#MilesBall

Ronald Martinez

Roster

38 Jamie Keehn (Jr.), P

6-4, 220

43 punts for 1,765 yards (41.05 avg), long of 58, 4 touchbacks, 18 inside the 20 and 10 over 50 yards.

42 Colby Delahoussaye (Soph.), K

5-10, 176

Made 13 of 14 field goals and 56 of 57 extra points. Long field goal of 49 yards.

14 Trent Domingue (Soph.) P/K

6-1, 170

DNP.

50 Reid Ferguson (Jr.) SNP

6-2, 236

Started all 13 games as deep snapper.

30 Kyle Pfau (Fr.), K

5-10, 191

36 Cameron Gamble (Fr.), K

5-11, 190

Three-star recruit.

Who's Returning?

Kicker Colby Delahoussaye, punter Jamie Keehn and long snapper Reid Ferguson are back to lead a unit that trended down slightly, but was still pretty strong overall.

Honestly, it was almost more of a market correction than a real down year. LSU gave up a long kickoff touchdown at the start of the year but was still solid overall in that department, and gave up the conference's fewest punt-return yards again. There weren't quite the same number of game-changing plays, but they also weren't needed as often. Hell, LSU only punted three times a game on average, a number that put them comfortably in the lower quarter of the FBS.

Delahoussaye entered the season as a bit of a concern but proved to be remarkably consistent. He missed one extra point late in the season, but was otherwise near automatic inside of 35 yards and even made a couple of longer kicks, under tight-game pressure in a very charged Samford Stadium versus Georgia. In a lot of ways, that reliability probably helped free up the offensive staff on some red-zone play calls.

Keehn had issues with consistency, but flashed some nice punting talent. When he was on, he could boom the ball high and deep, with some great hang time. But they also had some bad shanks mixed in. Still, it's important to remember that unlike our last Aussie punter, Keehn had done very little American football work prior to his arrival in Baton Rouge. His best punting could easily still be ahead of him.

N00bs?

For starters, there's a new old special teams coach with Bradley Dale Peveto back in town after Thomas McGaughey's return to the NFL. Peveto ran special teams from 2005-07, with mostly good results, although there were some hickups from time to time. Still, he's an old hand that knows the way this program works, and has some nice ties on the recruiting trail. And arguably, he has better talent on hand to work with.

In terms of specialists, the most notable new one on hand is kicker Cameron Gamble, who LSU offered last summer on kicking consultant Chris Sailer's recommendation. There's been some speculation that he'll pick up kickoff duties for the departed James Hairston, but Delahoussaye has mentioned working to try and handle those himself, in addition to field goals.

Likewise, there's also a whole new class of freshmen on hand to take up the coverage and return teams' mantles. Last year's special teams MVP,  James Wright, is off to the NFL, as is Odell Beckham Jr., who handled both kick and punt returns. Which brings us to...

Where's the Competition?

Both return spots are up for grabs. Right now the talk is that Terrence Magee has the edge on kickoffs, due to his consistency and the trust the coaching staff has in him. With teams kicking off from the 35 and more of them in the endzone, you have to trust that if your returner is going to bring that ball out, he's making the right call. Other names that have been linked to kickoff returns include Travin Dural, D.J. Chark, Leonard Fournette and Jamal Adams. The latter of that list returned kicks extensively in his highlight tape, and the burst he shows there makes him an intriguing option for either return spot.

On punts, Dural might get the first crack, or possibly Tre'davious White. Reportedly, the staff really liked Dural there before the injury that forced his redshirt year in 2012. Trey Quinn would be an intriguing option there as well.

And What's the Bottom Line?

Finding another weapon in the return game will probably be what determines the ultimate fate of this unit. It certainly won't be a weakness. Coverage units will still be enthusiastic and athletic, and Delahoussaye is as reliable as we can hope for. Keehn's improvement will be the key. If he can even out the peaks and valleys into a nice plateau, this unit can become a game-changer again.