I don't know when the last time I wrote one of these but whatever, this one has been on my heart for a while. For a program focused on inches and crumbs, the fact that we (and by we I mean Jimbo) treat special teams as an afterthought is really frustrating and it’s costing us games.
A year ago I wrote a piece titled Here’s How I Would Fix Aggie Football, and the very first thing I wrote was this:
Fix 1: Hire a full-time dedicated special teams coach.
Ole Miss ran a successful fake punt. South Carolina ran back a kickoff for a TD. We had an FG blocked for a TD against Miss St and missed a go-ahead FG against App State. I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing.
Albert Regis mentioned that we look at special teams as an extension of the defense. So that means our DC is the defacto ST coach. As I said relying too much on one person. I know we have an analyst who works with the STs, but analysts are limited in how much time they can spend directly with the team.
We did not hire a dedicated special teams coach. We still have Eric Russell as an analyst in charge of our special teams. Russell came to us from TCU where he he coached STs and was the Director of Player Personnel. His role as an analyst limits the amount of time he can spend coaching that unit and it shows on the field.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT
It’s weird to say given that the only reason we got back into the dang Ole Miss game was a blocked FG by our special teams unit, but let’s take a look at special team’s gaffes this season
Miami: Up 3 we miss a FG. Down 1 we give up a kickoff return for a TD. 10 point swing in a game we lost by 15
Alabama: Missed FG, Averaged less than 40 yards a punt
Tennessee: Gave up a punt return for a TD, Missed a FG (10 points in a 7-point loss), Averaged 32 yards a punt
Ole Miss: Missed FG. Lost by 3.
We’ve lost 4 games by a combined 31 points and it’s fair to say that special teams gaffes cost us 26 of those points. Add that to the aforementioned 2022 losses to App St, South Carolina, and Miss. St where poor special teams play significantly contributed to a losing effort.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
I’ve got no solutions and I doubt Jimbo is going to hire a special team’s coach. But man...its stuff like this that points to this notion of programmatic mismanagement really being an issue for the Jimbo Fisher regime.
I know we need to execute. But we don't just need to execute on offense and in this effort to focus on spending time to execute on offense, we’re losing time that we could be dedicating to other facets of the game that could make up for our lack of execution on offense.
It’s incredibly frustrating to watch.