The fourth of July has come and gone, which means it’s officially fair game to begin too early 2012 season prognostications. It’s a bit like starting your Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Actually, you might do that, I find shopping an hour before close on Christmas Eve usually results in a VERY empty Goodwill store.
Assume the Position starts every year with Special Teams. The time of life where I was at my most passionate and verbose as a fan was none other than the John Goss era. He was a good guy, recruited as a punter and asked to be a kicker, then thrown under the bus by John L Smith* for not being good at the position he wasn’t recruited to play. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the third phase of the game as a result.
*- The L in John L Smith stands for baLLin’ ass real estate investor.
Dan Conroy returns to MSU for his junior year. After going making 93 percent of his field goals his freshman year, he slipped to a more human 74 percent in 2011. After working out his preseason jitters(and something tells me some snap/hold issues) against FAU and Youngstown State last season, he missed one field goal inside of 50 yards in the last 11 games of the season.
Projection for 2012
MSU will have another new long snapper with the departure of Matt Giampapa and the arrival of Taybor Pepper. Add to that a new holder with the departure of Brad Sonntag and it seems safe to assume that there could be some early season jitters just like in 2011. Luckily we’re opening against… oh, Boise State? Hope that’s not an issue.
Notice how the projection of Conroy didn’t include much about Conroy? He’s solid, expect him to do a bit better than he did in 2011 and not quite as well as in 2010. Walk-on Evan Fischer figures to stand in as a replacement should Conroy go down with injury. Kevin Muma will continue handling kickoff duties in 2012. Conroy whiffed a couple field goals in good weather at the Spring game, which would be a big deal if it weren’t the Spring game.
In 2011, Mike Sadler replaced the irreplaceable Aaron Bates. I remember in last year’s Assume the Position one of the first things I talked about is how Sadler would struggle to match Bates’ 45.0 yard average. And Sadler did, averaging only 41.1. What I did not know though is that Sadler is an end over end punter, as opposed to Bates who was a spiral punter. The other thing I did not know is that Sadler would drop punts inside the 20 the way Braylon Edwards drops footballs.
Projection for 2012
Look for Sadler to continue improve his yardage in 2012. In every other phase of the punting game it’s hard to imagine Sadler playing any better. If memory serves he did not have a single punt blocked in 2011, he had a number of punts inside the 20. He played great football.
Do you miss Keshawn Martin yet? If not, you will. Martin’s stat of scoring a touchdown five different ways is as cliché as Trannon the basketball player these days. But seriously though, did you know Matt Trannon also played basketball? In the running to replace Martin are a number of guys(Andre Sims, MacGarrett Kings, Nick Hill). In the Spring, Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill handled Kick Return duties. In 2011, Hill was the #2 Kick Returner and would seem to have the inside track on the job.
There’s no reason to think that the kick and punt return game will be addled beyond repair with the loss of Martin, but, I don’t think it will any longer be a position of STERLING EXCELLENCE. Further, with the new kickoff rules limiting the impact of the kick return anyway, the effect will mitigate kick returns across the board regardless.