2007 Virginia Tech Football Season Preview: Special Teams

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One thing you’ve heard all offseason is how experienced the Hokies are. Tech
has a wealth of talent and experience returning on offense and defense. But
what’s gotten lost in all the hoopla is the fact that Frank Beamer is in the
middle of overhauling his kicking game. Most of the players who gave Virginia
Tech some of the best special teams in the country last year are gone.

Tech’s most recognized special teamer last year was Brandon Pace, who
18-of-19 for the season on field goal attempts. He was nearly automatic, and was
perfect on the season until he missed his final attempt in the last game of the
regular season against UVA. He was perfect from inside 40 yards last year, and
that was very important because of Tech’s struggling offense.

Punter Nic Schmitt is also gone, as well as his 42.2 yards per punt average.
Schmitt also served as the holder on field goals and extra points, so he’ll be
missed in two positions. And finally, long snapper Nick Leeson is gone. Leeson
was so good at his trade that he signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore
Ravens, which doesn’t happen often with pure special teams players.

The Hokies are going to have to replace their entire special teams operation
this year. Fortunately those competing for playing time have a solid mixture of
experience and/or talent.

Develli (Sr.) has handled kickoffs for Virginia Tech for three years, and
he’ll likely do the same as a senior in 2007. Develli had had an amazing junior
campaign in 2006. He kicked off 57 times, with 35 going for touchbacks. He has
an extremely strong leg on kickoffs. Jud Dunlevy (r-Sr.) can also be used
on kickoffs when Beamer feels it’s important to get a lot of height on the kick.

At placekicker, things aren’t nearly as clear. Develli and Dunlevy are the
top candidates to win that job. Right now, it’s