The third phase of football is often the least talked about, but special teams units can make or break a season. Fortunately for TCU, the Frogs’ special teams units have been solid all the way around in 2017, shoring up one major weakness from 2016.
Jonathan Song has been what everyone hoped he would be this season: a reliable kicker. 2016 was marred by missed field goals and nerves on extra points, but that hasn’t been the case in 2017.
Song is 6-6 on field goal attempts, and while he hasn’t had to attempt a kick longer than 39 yards (technically) you can’t ask anything more from a kicker who hasn’t missed.
The one ding on his record this season is the extra point he doinked off the left upright against Kansas State, but even Jaden Oberkrom had some of those in his time. Other than that, he’s been perfect this season, which is a welcome relief for Frog fans everywhere.
Adam Nunez captivated everyone several weeks ago with a ridiculous game, pinning West Virginia inside its own ten yard line five times, earning him Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
The sophomore has been good this year, pinning teams inside their 20 eight times, and causing six fair catches, but his average punt has only traveled 37.5 yards. Sure, some of that average is dictated by field position, but he only has one punt over 50 yards on the season. Nunez only had three punts over 50 yards last season, so it seems like his leg just isn’t the biggest, but as long as he’s pinning teams deep in their own territory, I have no complaints here.
Punt Returns: B
We haven’t seen much from KaVontae Turpin and his highlight reel punt returns yet this season. His longest return is just 17 yards, and his average is 8.7. Of course, teams are far more hesitant to give him any space to make the SC Top 10, but a little more electricity in this realm would be nice.
Turpin still has his same burst and shiftiness, though, as evidenced by his kick returns. I wonder what TCU could start doing differently to open up some lanes for Turpin to flip the field on punt returns.
Cole Bunce has 18 touchbacks on 43 kicks through six games this season, and the coverage team has done a fantastic job, holding opponents to a 17.5 yard return average. The longest kick return for an opponent this season? 26 yards.
More touchbacks means less opportunity for injury, but really there hasn’t been anything to complain about here.
Kick Returns: A+
Turpin has been a difference-maker on kickoffs again this season. His longest return is 42 yards, but it’s his average that’s even more impressive. Turpin is averaging 30 yards per return this season, despite teams clearly trying to kick it away from him. The kick return unit has done a great job creating space for Turpin to move, when he has a chance to return the ball, giving TCU a great advantage on kick returns.