We saw the emergence of two stars on special teams. Jaire Alexander proved himself to be both sure handed and elusive when returning punts. He returned 23 punts for 223 yards giving him a solid average of 9.7 yards per return. The true freshman cornerback had explosive returns against both UK and Texas A&M last year to end the season and he’ll be looking to pick up where he left off. Traveon Samuel showcased his speed returning kickoffs last season. Samuel, a true freshman receiver, had his biggest play when he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Clemson. Samuel returned the second most kickoffs (12, 4 behind Corvin Lamb’s 16) but had the most yards of any returner with 321, giving him an average of 26.8 yards per return.
A great special teams is crucial for field position and always proves to be an integral part in determining the outcome of a game. The depth chart the team released had Alexander returning punts with Samuel backing him up. They will await kickoffs together in what should provide some exciting kickoff returns. Reggie Bonnafon and Jaylen Smith are also listed as kickoff returners behind Samuel and Alexander.
Personally, I’m very excited about the fire power we’re bringing back in the special teams. Not only are Alexander and Samuel elusive and incredibly fast, but they both proved themselves to be sure handed as freshmen. Big plays are always nice from special teams, but most of the time simply avoiding a special teams mistake can win a game and these guys know that. Look out for these guys to build on their impressive freshmen seasons, both in the return game and in their regular positions.