There has been a lot of discussion and speculation this spring about the strength and/or weaknesses of Jimbo's offense and Mickey's defense. Many have expressed concern about our defensive schemes against the spread-option teams. Seemingly lost in all the chatter is another major area for concern: that is, how the Noles will fare on special teams next year.
Excellent special teams were a signature of the dominant Noles teams, especially in the area of punt blocking and punt/kick returning. Maybe I'm remembering those days through garnet colored glasses, but I recall a big-time play on special teams almost every game. Last year, we didn't dominate, but we did have two special seniors in Garvin and Gano. Garvin led the ACC in kick returns and Gano won the Lou Groza (and a couple of games for us along the way) in 2008.
Who is going to fill those shoes this year? Also, has there really been a dropoff in our punt blocking? I can't seem to find any stats in this area. If there has been a dropoff, how do we improve? Has Jody Allen done a satisfactory job since taking over special teams duties in 2007?
Heather Dinich at ESPN gives her take on ACC special teams here. Notably, no Seminoles are on her top returning players watch list.
I think we'll be fine with Givens, Reed, and possibly Alexander (any others you can think of?) sharing punt return & kick return duties. However, the other side of the punting/kicking game is a different story. Other than the Western Carolina, Chattanooga, and part of the Wake Forest games, Gano was pretty much the man last year. He handled ALL of the kicking duties. Now we look to punters Shawn Powell and/or Kevin Campbell, place kicker James Esco, and kicker Nathan O'Jibway, as well as incoming freshman Dustin Hopkins. To my knowledge, not a single player on the roster has attempted a field goal in an actual game for FSU.
Couple that thought with the fact that our first game is against MIAMI of all teams (let's not forget Travis Benjamin), and you may want to make sure you have that Maalox handy on Labor Day.