Special teams doesn’t spend nearly as much time on the field as the offense or defense. Even so, their impact has the potential to be drastic. Not only can they put points on the board, they can change the momentum (or even outcome) of a game with one crazy kick off or punt return.
The five guys on this list do all this and more. All have made in impact in multiple positions within the offense, defense and/or special teams, acting as a multi-layered and reliable weapons for their D3 football team. Take a look.
5. Isaac Robinson, WR/K, Frostburg State
I wasn’t going to include any kickers on this list since I just recently named the Top 5 Kickers in D3 Football in different article, but Robinson couldn’t be left off this list.
Frostburg State’s Isaac Robinson is named on the 2015 preseason Fred Mitchell Award watch list — an award given annually to the nation’s top placekicker based on excellence on the field and off. He is one of 41 kickers total, and one of only 12 from the D3 level. He averaged 55.2 yards on 36 kickoffs last season with five touchbacks. While he hasn’t had many chances to prove himself as a wide receiver yet, this year might be the year for him to do so.
4. Nate Cannon, DB/PR, Geneva College
Nate Cannon of Geneva truly knows how to make an entrance. In his first collegiate appearance Cannon returned a punt 95 yards to the house to score a touchdown and a new school record.
He’s also dangerous on the defensive side, where he recorded seven interceptions last season. Cannon is a promising talent who has huge potential as he returns (no pun intended) for his sophomore year.
3. Rashad Sims, WR/KR, Millsaps College
Rashad Sims suffered a season-ending knee injury just one game into his freshman year, but his return as a redshirt freshman in 2014 season was a impressive. He led Millsaps in receiving with 36 catches for 559 yards, which included four touchdowns and two 100-yard receiving games.
Sims left his mark on special teams with 722 yards on 33 kickoff returns, one of which he returned for a touchdown. All this added up to a season total of 1,286 all-purpose yards.
2. Dylan Peebles, RB/KR, SUNY Cortland
Dylan Peebles has the speed to keep any defense on their toes, as both a running back and a kickoff return specialist. Five of his kick returns went for more than 50 yards, including sprints of 91, 90, and 84 yards. All three of his longest efforts ended in the end zone.
He also had the second longest punt return in the division last year at 91 yards, only four shy of Cannon’s 95-yarder. Last season, he lead D3 in yards per kickoff return with 34.9. In addition, he was the leading rusher for his Red Dragons with 619 yards and eight touchdowns on 157 carries, which brought his scoring total up to 11 touchdowns. Defenses and fans alike should keep an eye on him, both on special teams and in the backfield.
1. Dakota Nelson, WR/PR, Manchester University
Dakota Nelson is back for his junior year after a record-breaking sophomore season. He finished first in D3 in combined kick return yardage (1,212), all-purpose yards per game (235.9), and yards per punt return (25.5). Like several other players on this list, Nelson is a dual threat who contributes to his team from the wide receiver spot. During his freshman year he led the Spartans in receiving with 56 receptions for 582 yards and four touchdowns. He has the speed, and hands to be a defense’s worst nightmare.
Nelson is striving to become an all-American wide receiver and still maintain his all-America special teams recognition. “When it comes down to it, I want the ball in my hands,” Nelson explained. However, his true passion is rooted within the team.
“A lot of our guys preach about how we don’t get paid to play,” he pointed out. “We’re okay because we love the game. We are a family, and play for the guys to the left and right of you.”