July 14, 2012

Meyer to place strong emphasis on special teams

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

With Ohio State's fall camp a month away from kicking off, we at Buckeye Grove have decided to take a look at the roster that Urban Meyer will be working with in his first year as Ohio State's head coach. Today, we'll take a look at the current state of the Buckeyes' special teams units. You can see yesterday's preview of the Ohio State safeties by clicking here.

With the philosophies of former coach Jim Tressel now a thing of the past at Ohio State, Buckeye fans may have trouble adjusting to watching a team that no longer considers the punt to be the most important play in football. That's not to say, however, that new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer- who will personally be coaching the special teams unit- doesn't understand the value that this group can provide to his team.

"Momentum with 18, 19-year-olds is priceless," Meyer said. "You have to sometimes call plays, create momentum changes, go after a blocked punt, get a sack, run a fake punt to get momentum."

To see the emphasis that Meyer places on special teams, look no further than his time at Florida. In 2010, Meyer's final season with the Gators, Florida ranked as the No. 6 team in the nation when it came to kick return average and No. 8 in average yards per punt. He also helped coach punter Chas Henry to the Ray Guy Award in 2010.

The new Ohio State coach now has the opportunity to coach another one of the country's best punters in fifth-year senior Ben Buchanan. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Westerville, Ohio product punted the ball 70 times in 2011 for the Buckeyes, for an average of 41.3 yards per punt, with 27 punts landing within the 20-yard line and only three going for touchbacks. The three-year starter is all but a lock to be named to the watch list for the Ray Guy Award when it's released on

Backing up Buchanan will be the Buckeyes' starting kicker in junior Drew Basil. Recently named to the watch list for the Lou Groza Award, which is given annually to the nation's top kicker, Basil led the Big Ten in field goal percentage in 2011 when he connected on 16-of-19 attempts. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Basil also handled kickoff duties, where he averaged 63.5 yards on 63 kicks, with 14 going for touchbacks and two landing out of bounds.

Backing up Basil will be third-year sophomore Kyle Clinton, who sat out 2011 as a transfer from Ohio University. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Dublin native served as kickoff specialist as a true freshman for the Bobcats in 2010, averaging 63.5 yards on 67 kickoffs, with three touchbacks.

The Buckeyes will also return their leading kick and punt returner in running back Jordan Hall, although between a foot injury that is expected to keep him out of action for at least the next eight weeks and his expected increase in workload on offense, it is possible that Hall's days of playing special teams are a thing of the past.

Potential replacements for Hall in the kick return game include sophomore receiver Devin Smith, who averaged 21.5 yards on four kick returns in 2011, running back Carlos Hyde, who averaged 23.5 yards on two returns, and receiver Cory Brown, who took one kick return for 44 yards a season ago.

Should Hall not resume his punt returning duties upon his return, receiver Chris Fields could take over, as the redshirt junior returned five punts for 88 yards and one touchdown in 2010. Both Brown and Smith could also see time at punt returner as well.

While the consistency in the Buckeyes' punting and kicking games figure to remain the same, expect for Ohio State to take a more aggressive approach towards getting after punts and field goal attempts on defense, and Meyer's teams blocked 21 punts in his six seasons in Florida.


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