Historically, we have had some special moments, and some moments that were, shall we say, not so special. When recounting days of yesteryear, we often forget that this underappreciated part of the game can have a HUGE impact. First some positive memories: Squeaky Watson’s two blocked punts in one game, Daniel Weaver’s Outback Bowl game winner, and Josh Brown’s bleeder over the crossbar at UT. Negatives? Oh, we’ve got plenty. How about the multiple blocked kicks by Florida (perhaps my most painful moment as a Gamecock fan, right up there with the Push Off), the blocked extra point at Arkansas, and the blocked kick last year (and all the kick returns) at Georgia. Here’s the best case/worst case for the special teams in 2010.
Best Case: Spencer Lanning picks up where he left off last year and continues to drill the ball through the uprights. Not only does Spencer maintain his consistency, but he adds range to his arsenal and booms some 50+ yarders that would make Ryan Succop proud. Even our Tar Hole transfer gets to kick a few when Spencer’s leg gets tired.
Worst Case: Most of Lanning’s kicks look like his first field goal attempt last year at NC State. Putrid. On top of that, Strickland has butterfingers as the new holder and we have to resort to going for it on fourth down. We finally get a good hold and a straight kick in the Florida game, and some 7 foot walk on from the basketball team blocks the potential game winning kick-with his armpit.
Punting and Punt Coverage
Best Case: Spencer improves his hang time and average, and drops about twenty kicks inside the five yard line. The punt coverage team is so quick and hits so hard that the opposing coaches hardly ever put return guys back there. In one rare case a punt return is attempted against us, DJ Swearinger pops the guy in the ear hole and knocks him into next week. This conjures up memories of Shannon “Bodybag” Wadley and DJ becomes a legend.
Worst Case: Last year happens again and we can’t cover a kick. Shane Beamer is seen foaming at the mouth and ripping helmets (and heads) off on the sidelines. We resort to the Lou Holtz soccer style punting method and the first punt hits the long snapper in the back resulting in a net punt of negative eight yards. Based on our inability to punt or cover a punt, SOS starts going for it on 4th down regardless of our field position.
Kickoffs and Kickoff Coverage
Best Case: Joey Scribner-Howard is the second coming of Succop and launches kick-offs into the Student Section with regularity. When Joey feels charitable, he kicks it short and lets the coverage team annihilate the return guy. The kickoff team actually becomes a strength.
Worst Case: See above-last year happens. The kicks are short and the returns are long. Adam “Yikes” Yates gets another shot, but kicking it out of bounds to eliminate the risk of a big return becomes the preferred strategy.
Punt and Kickoff Return Teams
Best Case: Culliver gets his mojo back and does what we all know he can do. He pays back Georgia by returning a kickoff for a TD-our first since 2002. He does it again against CTU, erasing all memories of a certain return against us last November. Gilmore provides steady hands as the punt returner and channels his inner Deion on occasion. Oh, and we actually block a punt. Imagine that for a moment. Let it sink in real good.
Worst Case: Culliver’s shoulder acts up again and Sherm is left as the primary kick returner. We’re lucky if we get it back to the twenty, and eventually start letting the ball bounce into the end zone in hopes of getting a touch back.
Best Case: Lanning wins the Lou Groza award and kicks the winning field goal in the Sugar Bowl.
Worst Case: We set the NCAA record for allowing the most kicks returned for TDs in a season.