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Closer look: Special teams

In the last few weeks, the Osceola staff has taken a look at each Florida State position group. In the last part of our series, we examine the special teams. If you missed any of the offensive or defensive analysis, the links are at the bottom of this story.

2021 stats: Alex Mastromanno (42.7 average per punt, pinning teams inside the 20-yard line 18 times, eight punts of 50+ yards). Ryan Fitzgerald (10 of 13 on field-goal attempts, 37 of 40 on extra-point attempts). Parker Grothaus handled kickoffs and memorably was successful with an onside kick against NC State but nearly missed the onside kick attempt at Florida. Keyshawn Helton (eight punt returns for 32 yards), Ontaria Wilson (seven punt returns for 28 yards), Treshaun Ward (one punt return for 11 yards). Jashaun Corbin (seven kickoff returns for 128 yards, Ja’Khi Douglas (six kickoff returns for 96 yards), Travis Jay (four kickoff returns, 104 yards), Corey Wren (three kickoff returns, 65 yards), Treshaun Ward (two kickoff returns, 46 yards). 

2022 specialists: Mastromanno and Fitzgerald. Helton, Wilson, Ward, Douglas, Jay, Wren. Long snappers James Rosenberry and Garrett Murray.

Departures: Grothaus has entered the transfer portal. Corbin has entered the NFL draft.

State of the special teams: FSU has one of the most consistent punters in the ACC but often struggled on punt returns, which often impacted the Seminoles’ field position. Mastromanno has gone 93 straight punts without a touchback, with the only one coming in his first career game against Georgia Tech in 2020. Ryan Fitzgerald made three field-goal attempts to help FSU defeat Miami, and his 34-yard field-goal attempt led to a walk-off win over Syracuse. He missed just one field-goal attempt in the final eight games, and his three FG misses on the season were from 37, 47 and 52 yards. FSU ranked last in the ACC and 117th (among 130 schools) in the FBS on punt returns at just 4.2 yards. With the exception of Helton’s 33-yard punt return against Jacksonville State, there was little excitement on punt returns. FSU’s kickoff return average of 20.3 yards was 66th in the nation, and there were too often times when returners could have just fair caught a ball and the Seminoles would have been able to take over at the 25-yard line under the NCAA’s relatively new rules. One bright spot was Travis Jay’s 41-yard kickoff return in the second quarter at UNC sparked a rally. FSU’s punt coverage unit was average (68th in FBS with an 8.8-yard average) but the kick coverage unit was 124th in the FBS (26.4-yard average).

The new guys: FSU will look at some early enrollees, potentially Rodney Hill, Sam McCall and Azareyeh Thomas, as return options.

Shopping in the transfer portal: Not likely based on priorities on offense and defense.

Final thoughts: FSU spent a lot of time in practices on special teams and often the coaches were left stating that return and coverage units were not providing a good return on that time investment. Mastromanno’s ability to punt with both feet has allowed him to evade an incoming rush to his right side by simply taking a few steps left and punting away. His value and consistency was evident and often helped pin opponents deep, which in turn gave FSU’s defense a long field to protect. Jay was FSU’s best return option, but injury likely forced him out of the role. He is one of the top options we’d like to see in the return game in 2022.

Closer look

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