No. 38 Cason Beatty | 6-3, 229 | Sophomore | Punter
School Bio (courtesy Seminoles.com):
Big, tall, athletic punter with a strong leg and plenty of upside at the college level...started his high school career as a quarterback before picking up punting as a junior in 2010 and excelling at that position...earned first team All-Mecklenburg County honors by the Charlotte Observer as a senior while averaging 43.1 yards per punt on 32 attempts and hitting four punts longer than 60 yards...named MEGA 7 3A/4A all-conference by the Charlotte Observer as a junior and senior...threw for more than 800 yards as a junior quarterback but shined that season as a punter averaging 43.5 yards per attempt on his way to All-Mecklenburg County second team honors by the Charlotte Observer...rated the No. 3 punter nationally by kicking guru Chris Sailer of California...two-star prospect by Rivals, a three-star prospect by ESPN and Scout...ranked the No. 4 punter nationally by Scout.com and No. 5 punter nationally by 247Sports...has an older brother, Lucas, who just completed his redshirt year as a quarterback at Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C.
Cason Beatty replaced All-American Punter Shawn Powell. As with any true freshman expected to replace an All-American, there was a drop off. Unfortunately for Beatty and the Noles, the drop off was significant.
The 2011 punting unit was one of the best in the nation. Powell was able to not only flip the field with long, booming punts, but also pin opponents deep in their own territory and prevent returns with rugby-style rolling punts. He was a versatile punter who was one of the best in the country and will likely continue playing on Sundays for many years.
The 2011 punting unit was rated 6th most efficient in the nation by Brian Fremau's FEI Special Teams ratings. The 2012 unit was rated 113th in the nation. They dropped 107 spots, from the top 10 to the bottom 10.
Beatty was not expected to be an All-American caliber punter as a freshman. A strong-legged punter, it was expected that his freshman year would consist of many booming punts, with more touchbacks than balls placed inside opponents' 20 yard line.
This was not the case. Beatty's leg strength was not evident in 2012. He tallied just 3 punts over 50 yards, despite punting 4 over 60 as a high school senior. It appeared that the 2012 coaching staff wanted him to concentrate on placing punts, as 23 of his 47 punts were placed inside the 20 yard line.
In the 2012 preview, Bud wrote that a "freshman with a big leg but little experience is a recipe for big punts, but also shanks." Unfortunately, only the latter half of this came true. One of his shanks came on an ill-advised attempt at his first rugby punt.
We will never truly know whether Eddie Gran tried to change Beatty from a "boomer" to a "placer", but the evidence suggests that was the case. The change was one Beatty was not able to become consistent with.
Beatty is not at fault for all of the issues, however. It would not have been his choice to emphasize placement at the expense of distance. It was not entirely his fault that punt blocking teams were poor. It was not his fault coverage teams weren't great.
The punt team suffered two large mistakes in two key moments: the blocked punt that gave NC State field position to score on their final drive, and a 50 yard return late in the Florida game to set up the score that would put Florida two possessions ahead. While the punter must get his punt off quick, multiple blocked punts indicate the blocking is also poor.
New special teams coach Charles Kelly is tasked with improving each subgroup within the punting unit - the punting, the blocking, and the coverage. FSU has the talent to improve the latter two. Kelly has a wealth of athletes with size and speed to choose from.
Beatty and Kelly must work together to improve the quality of punting. Being in the bottom 15 of punt efficiency is unacceptable.
Beatty showed in high school that he had a big, strong leg. He showed as a freshman he could place the ball with decent accuracy, but not consistently. He will not be expected to be Shawn Powell as a sophomore, but Beatty must improve significantly from his freshman to sophomore years.
A reasonable expectation for Beatty as a sophomore would be consistency and minimization of major mistakes. This echoes last year's preview, which said "an important thing will be avoiding disaster and working towards consistency." Let's hope that the 2014 preview won't have to repeat this again.