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LSU Spring Football 2017: Special Teams

This is a unit in need of a new beginning.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Arkansas Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

And spring may seem like a time for that, but to be honest, special teams are rarely a huge focus during these practices.

As for LSU, they have a new setup on this side of the ball. The Tigers showed some improvement in the kicking game in 2016, but it was still very spotty, and resulted in coach Bradley Dale Peveto’s firing shortly after Ed Orgeron took over as the full-time head coach.

2016 LSU Special Teams

Category Rating Rank
Category Rating Rank
Special Teams S&P+ 0.2 61
Rate Rank
FG Value (per kick) -0.02 70
Punt Success Rate 59.60% 45
Kickoff Success Rate 74.60% 60
Punt Return Success Rate 37.50% 112
Kick Return Success Rate 45.80% 52
Stats via Football Study Hall

Now, LSU doesn’t have a dedicated special teams coach, in fact, splitting the job among Mickey Joseph, Tommie Robinson, Dennis Johnson and Jeff Grimes, overseen by former NFL coaches Greg McMahon and Bobby April. While it’s an unusual setup for LSU based on what we’re used it, it’s one that is similar to the way several other major programs handle special teams, including USC during Coach O’s multiple tenures there.

The way it all works is the analysts “coach the coaches,” in that they break down film and do most of the principle game-planning work, then hand it off to the coaches in question to implement on the field (although some programs don’t have issues breaking the on-field rule).

Of course, in spring there’s no actual game prep going on, so that means self-scouting and figuring out the general blueprint for what LSU’s special teams will look like in the fall. Things like the major positions — punter, kicker, deep snapper, holder, etc… and what current members of the team will play significant roles on coverage and return teams.

LSU 2017 Specilaists

Place-Kicker Ht/Wt PAT FG Pct
Place-Kicker Ht/Wt PAT FG Pct
35 Jack Gonsoulin (So.) 5-9, 165 1-1 0-0 0%
34 Connor Culp (Fr.-RS) 5-11, 186 Redshirted
Punter Ht/Wt Punts Avg TB
38 Josh Growden (Jr.) 6-2, 198 57 41.4 3
Kick-Offs Ht/Wt Kickoffs Avg TB
36 Cameron Gamble (Sr.) 5-11, 189 63 61.2 14
35 Jack Gonsoulin (So.) 5-9, 165 4 62.5 0
Kick Returner Ht/Wt Returns Avg TD
5 Derrius Guice (Jr.) 5-11, 212 11 20.3 0
1 Donte Jackson (Jr.) 5-11, 173 7 23.4 0
4 Nick Brossette (So.) 6-0, 209 3 19 0
Long Snapper Ht/Wt
50 Blake Ferguson (So.) 6-4, 234
Stats via Football Study Hall

What do we like? Josh Growden seemed to find his stride at punter.

Question marks: replacing a steady veteran kicker, and finding new return specialists.

It didn’t get a lot of talk last season, but Josh Growden had a very nice, steady year once he got over a few early season jitters. LSU ranked 29th in the country in net punting and allowed just 38 return yards on the entire season. He dropped 22 punts inside the 20-yard line against just three touchbacks. The next step for him is to learn to let it rip a little more often in terms of improving his distance.

At kicker, Jack Gonsoulin, Connor Culp and Cameron Gamble will compete for the kickoff and place-kicking duties. Gamble has been the kickoff specialist in the past, but has never been able to distinguish himself with his reputed big leg. Accuracy has been an issue as well. Gonsoulin seems to have the best chance to take a spot there. As for field goals/extra points, your guess is as good as mine.

On returns, it seems most likely that Donte Jackson will move into the lead roles at kickoff and punt returners, where his world-class speed could make him a dangerous weapon. Consistency has been an issue in the past, although at minimum he should provide fewer nerve-racking moments than Tre’davious White did. Other speed merchants like Derrick Dillon or Drake Davis could get involved as well.