FSU special teams preview: A kicking battle, seeking kick return improvement

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Improving on special teams was a priority in the offseason under coach Willie Taggart. A few missed kicks here and there and struggles on kick returns added up, overshadowing a good season by punter Logan Tyler.

Alonzo Hampton was dismissed as FSU’s special teams coordinator and Mark Snyder has taken over those responsibilities. Snyder was Michigan State’s special teams coordinator in 2015-17.

Here’s a look at a few of the key areas for the Seminoles in 2019:

Ricky Aguayo had an inconsistent year, making just 11 of 17 field-goal attempts. He missed from 32 and 38 yards as well as three in the 40s.

Coach Willie Taggart cleared a scholarship spot to sign one of the nation’s top 2019 kickers, Ryan Fitzgerald of Moultrie (Ga.) Colquitt County. Fitzgerald made 51 field-goal attempts in his career, including eight from 50-plus yards. He set a Georgia record with 22 field goals made as a senior.

“He’s our kicker for the future and he may be our kicker here real soon,” Snyder said at FSU’s signing day event in February.

The FSU staff hasn’t lost confidence in Aguayo. But Snyder’s comment as well as committing a scholarship to Fitzgerald makes it quite clear that this is an open kicking competition.

Logan Tyler was overused due to the offense’s struggles but he was a bright spot, averaging 43.2 yards per punt. One disturbing trend is that Tyler punted 54 times in 2016 but those totals jumped to 66 in 2017 and skyrocketed to 82 in 2018. (Yes, he punted on average 6.83 times per game.) Tyler can’t control how often he punts but it’s worth mentioning that he bailed out FSU frequently as 23 of his 82 punts went for 50-plus yards.

FSU wasn’t very good on the kick return game, in part perhaps due to losing Khalan Laborn to injury in the season opener. The Seminoles averaged just 19.64 yards per kick return, 78th nationally. Laborn, Anthony Grant and Keyshawn Helton are among the potential kick return options for the Seminoles.

D.J. Matthews was seventh nationally on punt returns, averaging 13.5 yards per punt return. There are other worthy candidates but it’s tough to argue with Matthews’ results.

This wraps up the Osceola’s position preview series. If you missed one, check out the links below:

2019 FSU POSITION PREVIEWS

Defensive backs: Position changes should help secondary bounce back

Linebackers: Jackson’s return, Nasirildeen’s move strengthen group

Defensive line: Strength in interior, questions on pass rush

Receivers: Terry a star, second-year players on rise

Running backs: A bounce-back season for Akers, Laborn?

Quarterbacks: Experience, leadership and a waiting game

Offensive line: New coach + new scheme = improvement?

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