Special teams were kind of a mixed bag for LSU last season. There were fewer major breakdowns in coverage — and not a single kick off out of bounds — and returns were relatively the same as the 2016 season. But field goal kicking basically fell off a cliff, with Jack Gonsoulin and Connor Culp alternating back and forth between the job. Culp appeared to find a streak of some confidence, but faltered late, making just two of his last five, with a 22-yard miss in the Citrus Bowl.
LSU Spring Football: Specialists
|35 Jack Gonsoulin (So.)||5-9, 165||20-20||5-11||46%|
|34 Connor Culp (So.)||5-11, 186||20-23||11-16||68.80%|
|38 Josh Growden (Jr.)||6-2, 198||23||36||0|
|46 Zach Von Rosenberg (So.)||6-5, 250||36||43||1|
|34 Connor Culp (So.)||5-11, 186||10||60.9||3|
|22 Clyde Edwards-Helaire (So.)||5-8, 208||13||19||0|
|50 Blake Ferguson (Jr.)||6-4, 234|
LSU returns most of the cast of characters, although you have to wonder how much longer Culp and Gonsoulin will get meaningful opportunities.
Former Major Leaguer Zach Von Rosenberg is back with Aussie Josh Growden. The two combined to develop into a solid unit in the season’s second half after Growden struggled early on. Von Rosenberg brings the boom at 6-5 and 240-plus, while Growden showed at least some value in shorter directional kicks near mid-field. Whether any other walk-on additions will push them this spring remains to be seen, but at least that twosome provided a stable output.
Likewise, snapper Blake Ferguson is back for another year. There’s not much to say there in that we’re only going to really notice the job Ferguson does if he really screws up — which did not happen in 2017.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire will likely be back on kick-off returns. He didn’t do much in 2017, but he also only fielded 13 kicks all season.
LSU will be back to having a full-time special teams coach with Greg McMahon now on staff after spending a year as a consultant for a committee approach to the position. Again, most Saints fans have a negative opinion on McMahon’s tenure in the NFL, but I maintain that he had some very effective units before the team front office began putting more of an emphasis on undrafted talent and other marginal special teamers (McMahon led very strong special team units during the Saints’ run to the Super Bowl and several other playoff appearances).
Whether or not his absence full time made a significant difference last year is tough to say — the main problem with LSU’s kicking game, field goals, doesn’t really get that much coaching attention for most teams, whether there’s a full-time special teams coach or not.
One thing that McMahon did contribute (he also pushed Von Rosenberg for game action) was the targeting of transfer kicker Cole Tracy, out of Assumption College. Tracy does come with quite a lot of accolades, but we won’t see him in action til the fall.
Another transfer addition to the return game will be wide receiver Jonathan Giles to the punt return spot. His quality there is a complete unknown, although all LSU really needs is consistency and judgment when it comes to fielding punts inside the 10. Both of those things have been lacking in recent years.
What’s the Story?
LSU needs to find a kicker. Find that, this is an okay unit. Find a weapon that can flip the field on returns? That would get this group back to the kicking units we’re more used to watching.