Most coaches will tell you how crucial Special Teams is to their team's success. Execution in this aspect of the game is often the difference between a win and a loss, and when it comes to a close game against a tough playoff opponent, it can be the difference between advancing to the next round and hanging up the cleats until 2019.
[divider]MORE: Compare Any Two FCS Players or Any Two FCS Teams[divider]
PREDICTIONS: HERO Sports' Staff Predicts bracket
REACTION: To the FCS bracket announcement
Folks, we took what we think are the eight most critical special teams rankings — Net Punting, Punt Return Average, Kickoff Return Average, Kickoff Return Coverage/Defense, Field Goals Made, Field Goals % Made, Punting Average (before net) and Total Blocked Kicks (punts and kicks combined) — and combined them into a ranking criteria for the 24 FCS Playoff participants. The No. 1 team in each stat category earned one point, second place earned two, and so on down to 24, and the team with the fewest points won — kind of like golf without the Mulligans, club tossing, swearing and alligators (I'm in Florida).
PODCAST: Staff Talks Playoffs
Last year, Weber State led this by a mile and has a good special teams unit again at No. 7, but there's new blood atop the list.
Who does it well? Who doesn't do it as well? We'll give you answers.[divider]
DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP SIX
|RK||FCS SCHOOL||TOP CATEGORY|
|7||Weber St.||3rd in Net Punt|
|8||UNI||3rd in FGs made|
|9||Montana St.||2nd in KO Ret|
|10||ETSU||T4th FGs made|
|11||UC Davis||2nd on KO Covg|
|12||Duquesne||2nd in FG%|
|13||Towson||1st in FGs made|
|14||Delaware||4th in Net Punt|
|15||NDSU||2nd in Punt Avg.|
|16||Colgate||2nd in Punt Ret.|
|17||Wofford||3rd in Punt Avg.|
|18||Jacksonville St.||T4th in Block K/P|
|19||Maine||1st in Block K/P|
|20||Lamar||T4th in Block K/P|
|21||Elon||T4th FGs made|
|22||Nicholls||7th in FGs made|
|23||Stony Brook||T4th in Block K/P|
|24||Incarnate Word||14th in KO Covg|
[divider]EDITOR'S NOTE: If two teams finished with the same number of points, we broke the tie by choosing the team with the highest ranking in one of the six categories. This came into play with San Diego and Eastern Washington for No. 4 and Delaware and Towson for No. 13, and EWU and Towson broke the tie because they both were No. 1 in at least one measurable special teams category.[divider]
NOS. 6 THROUGH 2
|RK||FCS TEAM||THE SKINNY||SPEC. TEAMS COACH|
|2||SEMO||Really well-balanced ST unit||Matt Martin|
|3||SDSU||No. 2 in net punting & kick blocks||Jimmy Rogers & Luke Schleusner|
|4||Eastern Wash.||1st in punt avg. and FG% made||Heath Pulver|
|5||San Diego||Another well-balanced unit||Tyler Sutton|
|6||James Madison||1st in punt returns & KO covg.||Roy Tesh|
NO. 1 – KENNESAW STATE
THE COACH: Tim Glanton (special teams coach)
THE STUDS: Nicholas Jones/P (41.4 yards per punt); Isaac Foster/KR-PR (47.4 yards per kick return, 2 TDs; 10.5 yards per punt return); Darnell Holland (38.44 yards per kick return, 1 TDs); Justin Thompson/PK (6 for 7 on FGs); Drew McCracken/LS (Preseason 1st Team All Big South).
THE SKINNY: The Owls not only get things done on offensive side of the ball with the option and with the defense, they are dominant in special teams. They boast the top net punting unit among playoff teams coming into the postseason, along with the best kickoff return unit at this level. Along with that, their two placekickers have made 88.9% of their field-goal attempts, good for third among playoff participants. Their kickoff return coverage comes in at No. 6 among the 24 teams. Overall, this special teams unit edged out SEMO's for the best collective using our statistical criteria.