MSU to retain "Kicker U" crown in 2009 The Enlightened Spartan: MSU to retain "Kicker U" crown in 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

MSU to retain "Kicker U" crown in 2009

A bit of a closer look at the Spartan special teams shows why MSU this year will likely retain its crown as "Kicker U." Add in the strength of MSU's kick and punt coverage and you can see why MSU gets an "A" for its special teams entering 2009:

Brett Swenson hit several crucial field goals last year, including the game winner vs Wisconsin and crucial kicks in wins over Iowa and Notre Dame. He was 22-of-28 (79%), although just 1-of-3 beyond 50; and, three of his misses were immaterial in the dominating performance over Michigan. Still, his 6-of-7 beyond 40 was impressive. He's a first-team All Big Ten performer. Similarly, Aaron Bates is an all-conference punter, and should improve on his already good 42.0 average and 22-of-71 punts inside the 20 of a year ago. While JoePa may have "Linebacker U", Michigan State has "Kicker U" -- and Swenson and Bates continue Michigan State's tradition as the best school for kickers in college football history. MSU's return game took a year off and was average in 2008... but should be improved with the return of Glenn Winston to the roster, who was the Spartans' shining returner on kicks with a 23 yard return average.

MSU has been very strong in its kick and punt return coverage under Dantonio, allowing only one score on 177 punt and kick returns (a measly 0.5%) the past two years -- on a short punt return (38 yards) at that. MSU coverage allowed just 21.1 yards per kick return in 2007, and 21.4 yards per return in 2008.... for punt returns, MSU allowed 7.9 average in 2007, and 9.7 last year. While MSU can improve on its 34 punt net average, not giving up scores or long returns demonstrates the solid coaching in this area.

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