That’s the situation facing Tennessee football’s special teams. It isn’t just broke; it’s shattered. Consider these numbers from 2005:
- Through four games Tennessee’s longest return was 29 yards. Punt return? Nope. Kickoff return? Nope. It was an interception return by 300-pound defensive tackle Justin Harrell.
- Tennessee averaged 8.4 yards per punt return last fall. The opponents averaged 14.4.
- Tennessee returned zero punts for touchdowns last fall. The opponents returned two for TDs.
- Tennessee ranked eighth among the 12 SEC teams in kickoff returns with a 19.8-yard average.
- Tennessee ranked seventh among the 12 SEC teams in net punting with a 33.5-yard average.
- Tennessee’s average starting field position in 2005 was its own 28-yard line. The opponents’ average was their 31-yard line. How significant is three yards? Well, if South Carolina’s Josh Brown had been forced to attempt a 52-yard field goal, instead of a 49-yarder, the Vols would’ve won 15-13, instead of losing 16-15.
Given how un-special Tennessee’s special teams have been the past few years, it isn’t surprising that head coach Phillip Fulmer has decided to make some changes.
“We will return to the way we did it my first 10 years here, with the coordinators on each side being in charge, along with me,” the head man said recently.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis and his aides will oversee the kickoff coverage and punt return teams, along with the extra point and field goal defensive units.
Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe and his staffers will oversee the kickoff return and punt coverage units, along with the extra point and field goal protection teams.
“It’s not that Steve Caldwell did a bad job at all,” Fulmer said, referring to the man who oversaw special teams play in 2005. “But I want more eyes, more discussion, more people involved in the kicking game.”
Most of all, he wants more results.