Some say defense wins championships. I say Special Teams win championships.
Na... just kidding. But don't write Special Teams out of the equation. If you can't convert a clutch field goal, can't take the return guy down inside the 20 consistantly, or you often fumble a punt return, you're going to have a harder time winning games. It's as simple as that.
Oregon State should have no problems with field goals and kickoffs this year with Junior Alexis Serna. Serna went 23-28 on field goals in '05, with 4 of his 5 misses on field goals 40 yards or more. He was perfect under 29 yards, and not to mention earning the Lou Groza award, presented to the nation's top placekicker.
But the entire Oregon State red zone offense will change significantly this year with the return of Joe Newton to the line up. I asked Alexis about this in an interview I did several months ago:
Our return game could use some help in this category. Sammie Stroughter was our main punt return guy last year, and only averaged 5.6 yards in 26 returns. A lot of factors could go into this: Maybe the Beavers aren't blocking the opponents gunners good enough at the line of scrimmage. Maybe they need to block better in front of Stroughter.
Kickoff returns are the same way. Between all of the Beaver return men we averaged 21.4 yards per return. Which, when you think about it, isn't that impressive. If the ball is received inside the 5 or even a few yards deep in the end zone, that means the ball is only getting out to within 5 yards either way of the 20 yard line. Lamar's longest was a 56 yard return. We are going to need more big returns like that to keep our opponents on edge. Nothing beats getting a 56 yard return to fire up your offense. Maybe we could throw a trick play in there every now and then.
Our coverage isn't horrible, but it could use improvement. We blocked four kicks last year. We could use strong numbers again in that category, as that's another one of those things that can fire up a team. The Beavers also need to work on pinning the opponents kick return men down inside the red zone.
Punting. Kyle Loomis will come on to the scene this year as a true Freshman out of Roseburg High School. Only time will tell if he will be the type of punter Sam Paulescu was. Paulescu kicked 56 punts for a average of 43 yards his senior year, with 24 inside the 20. Loomis was a 3 year letterman at Roseburg in Football and Track, and was the football team MVP his senior year, doing both the punting and kicking duties. He would be a reasonable candidate for place kicker if Serna were to be injured. Jeff Loomis, Kyle's Uncle, was a outside linebacker at Washington State from 1983-85.
Coming up next.... the O-Line.