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What we learned on special teams in FSU’s close win over Duke

Tyler and Aguayo took care of business once again and why is McFadden still fielding punts?

Florida State v Mississippi
FSU kicker Ricky Aguayo
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For the fourth straight weekend, Florida State’s special teams play left a positive impression overall in the Seminoles’ 17-10 win over Duke on Saturday.

It may still linger because of the massive effect it had on the hugely important game, but concerns about FSU’s special teams from the season-opening loss to Alabama should be long gone by now, simply due to the larger sample size displaying overall competence.

This holds especially true for the team’s sophomore specialists, kicker Ricky Aguayo and punter Logan Tyler.

Not much was asked from Aguayo this week as FSU only had two trips into field goal territory, but he converted his sole field goal attempt and both of his extra points. Dating back to the NC State game, Aguayo has hit 11 straight field goals after missing his first two this season.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to argue that Saturday wasn’t the best game of Tyler’s career at Florida State. His four punts traveled an average of 52 yards, including a career-best 61-yarder. Three of the four traveled 50+ yards and three were downed inside the 20-yard line. This in another game that FSU desperately needed it, as it played the field position game.

After the win over Duke, Tyler’s average punt through five games has traveled 42.07 yards, moving him closer to the top-50 nationally. However, if you take the Alabama game out of the equation, his average leaps to 45.1 yards/punt. That would be the 15th best nationally. Safe to say that game was the fluke, and he may be turning the corner at the perfect time.

From the good, lets move to the irrelevant. With Keith Gavin sidelined for the foreseeable future with an ankle injury, Amir Rasul took his spot on the kick return team alongside Derwin James. Rasul didn’t bring a kick out of the end zone Saturday, but his speed could make him deadly as a returner, and the decision was a correct one.

James may have been ill-advised to bring Florida State’s sole kick return out of the endzone as he set up the ’Noles with bad field position with his 13-yard return, but he was still far better than FSU’s punt returner against Duke.

That’s because Tarvarus McFadden struggled mightily, once again, in his special teams role. Of the five Duke punts, McFadden only cleanly fielded two of them. Of the other three, two hit the ground (continuing a theme from last week against Miami), while the other was bobbled before he secured it.

Many other members on FSU’s roster had impressive punt return footage from high school (Levonta Taylor and D.J. Matthews, among other), making it indefensible to continue to trot out a returner who costs FSU so dearly in hidden yardage each week (this is vital as FSU isn’t elite on offense or defense). Jimbo Fisher doubled down on McFadden multiple times this past week, but it should be another week where the hea coach is asked about fixing the position after another underwhelming performance.