As we roll on through our previews we've come to the special teams, the unit that has the easiest time falling under fire and the hardest time earning praise.
Jaden Oberkrom had a pretty solid 2013, making 14 of his 18 attempted field goals, including 13-14 from inside 50 yards. While he was only 1-4 from outside 50 yards, the one he made, a 56-yarder against Kansas State, was the second-longest kick made in TCU history. His misses were from 42, 54, 55 and 62 (which, if you remember, was actually long enough, he just missed it wide left).
Meanwhile, he was 37 for 37 on extra points, bringing his PAT made streak to 79, or, if you're counting, zero missed for his TCU career.
Oberkrom was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection in 2013, and a first-team Academic All-Big 12 selection. The junior will look to do more of the same in 2014.
Unlike Oberkrom, Ethan Perry regressed slightly in 2013. As a freshman in 2012, Perry averaged 44.5 yards per punt, with a long of 64. He had 20 punts of longer than 50 yards and 19 that he stuck inside the 20. He also forced 20 fair catches. Pretty salty numbers for a frosh.
However, in 2013, Perry averaged only 40.3 yards per punt, with a long of 57. In all, he only had eight punts longer than 50 yards. However, he managed to place 29 punts inside the 20, and forced 33 fair catches, which makes me think he was working on getting a better hang-time rather than going for distance last season.
We could also attribute his drop in numbers to the offense, which loved to stall out just outside of field goal range last season, forcing Perry to go for angled, lofted punts rather than boomers.
B.J. Catalon looks to head up this unit again this season after accumulating over 700 kick return yards and a touchdown in 2013. Who stands next to him is still in question, as Brandon Carter is no longer on the team. I'd be okay with anyone that can hold on to the ball, which Carter struggled to do in these situations, and it seems like the obvious choice may be Cameron Echols-Luper.
Cameron Echols-Luper should be the go-to guy in these situations, after he and Carter split time returning punts in 2013. Luper was solid in this role, averaging 13.4 yards per return over 14 returns. Trevone Boykin also returned one punt last year, which resulted in the too many twos on the field and questions about everything.
Ultimately, I don't really care how good the returners are as long as they can hold on to the ball. If they can avoid setting up opponents in good field position I'll be happy.