I should mention here that kidbourbon is usually my co-author and the Robin to my orange-suited Batman. Or vice versa, except this week he bailed on me to do something called "work" for his "boss" so he didn't get "fired". So all complaints that the article isn't as funny as usual should be addressed to him with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for his reply.
We arrived at the below rankings with a highly complicated methodology that involves College Football Stats, the 2013 receiving stats from Bill Connelly, Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, Phil Steele's returning starters data, several highly competitive rounds of
rock, paper, scissors Rochambeau, gallons of illicitly procured moonshine, an almost complete collection of Sailor Moon anime, an unnatural regard for the Bachelorette (our hearts are open and ready to love), and loads of snark.
Note: For the purposes of the below rankings, I've assumed that field goal efficiency will regress toward the mean (barring any specific kickers of note departing), so the coverage and return units (punt and kickoff) make up the majority of what's discussed.
Without further ado, here are Rocky Top Talk's special teams rankings for 2014 (last year's final FEI ST Ranking in parentheses):
1. Auburn (7)
I'm sure everyone else will make "kick six" or "one second" jokes here, but did any of you stop for a second and consider the feelings of the Alabama field goal unit? Words can hurt, y'all.
2. TAMU (21)
Sumlin's recruiting success has helped both the Aggies' special teams rankings and the Brazos County Jail: both are loaded with former blue chip recruits.
3. Florida (24)
If college football only consisted of special teams and defense, Will Muschamp would be the best coach in the business. He may not care for your fancy book learnin' but he teaches the four Ns better than almost anyone: runnin', blockin', tacklin', and brushin'. There's never any excuse for poor dental hygiene.
4. Bama (1)
Recruiting pitch: if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. If you can't make it here, waste your potential on special teams instead of transferring. Get that
first round undrafted free agent money!
5. LSU (10)
The coverage units will be very good, but one or more of the freshmen will have to step up and contribute at the return positions.
6. Georgia (66)
The Dawgs were one returner away from a really good special teams unit last year. Another excellent recruiting class and plenty of veterans returning from injury means that Richt should be able to:
- Find a solid returner who will impress this year;
- Have said player purchase a scooter;
- Have said player get suspended while riding said scooter for some sort of scooter-related incident (DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, fleeing and attempting to evade, farting in public, etc.) by the Athens-Clarke County PD; and,
- Have said former player transfer to Louisville or Auburn, thus completing the life cycle of Homo Recruitus Georgicus.
7. Tennessee (57)
The coverage and return units should be much improved from last year's middling ranking, thanks to the infusion of thirty-two new recruits from Tennessee's well-regarded recruiting class. Unfortunately, Michael Palardy took his one man punting/kicking band (his business card reads: "My Foot, Your Balls") to the NFL.
8. Kentucky (86)
Surprisingly good last year.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Attention Big 10 teams! You are letting one of the worst teams in the SEC absolutely pick your pocket for Ohio recruits. It's bad enough when traditional powers like Alabama and LSU come into the Midwest and pluck the best recruits, but letting Kentucky take players away is like giving your lunch money to Squints.
9. Mississippi State (102)
Despite being composed of lesser known characters, this is a really entertaining group with enormous potential. I expected the talking raccoon and tree-like hill person (this is Starkville, after all), but Dan Mullen (played by John C. Reilly) was surprisingly believable as a middle manager who choses to trust a loveable scofflaw with the safety of his family!
10. Vanderbilt (30)
Like a hardworking pair of Spanx, Vandy's quietly excellent special teams unit (well, everything except kickoff returns) held together and shaped a bunch of mismatched elements into a relatively attractive overall package. Franklin leaving for
the NFL Penn State is the awkward moment at the end of the night: what's actually underneath?
11. Missouri (65)
Mediocre in everything last year and many of the key players are now vying for starting roles. This does not bode well for the other other Tigers.
12. Arkansas (83)
Better than they should be, given the available talent.
13. Ole Miss (92)
The Rebels were pretty terrible on special teams last year, probably because most of the heralded recruiting class had to play right away. With another decent class on campus, Freeze has more to work with, but Oxford still needs depth. I'm pretty sure Oxpatch Andrew is on the two-deep (bless his heart, he sure tries hard).
14. South Carolina (114)
At this point, the only explanation for South Carolina's continued futility on special teams is that the HBC enjoys playing with a substantial handicap. Hey, it works in golf!