Ah, special teams. At some point last season, you probably made some kind of comment about how the Hokies aren’t so special on special teams anymore. You were right. Statistically, the 2013 team ranked lower in special teams than any other Virginia Tech team of the ACC era.
This isn’t an analysis of special teams in 2013. This is a multi-part breakdown of special teams numbers since the Hokies joined the ACC back in 2004. We’ll break it down into four parts: coverage, returns, blocks and field goals. Today, we’ll begin with Virginia Tech’s coverage team, which in turn will be divided into two parts: kickoff coverage and punt coverage.
Virginia Tech’s kickoff coverage peaked from 2007 through 2009, but it has bottomed out twice since 2010.
2007: 18.7 ypr
2008: 19.5 ypr
2009: 20.2 ypr
2005: 20.7 ypr
2011: 20.7 ypr
2013: 20.9 ypr
2006: 21.2 ypr
2004: 21.7 ypr
2012: 23.2 ypr
2010: 24.4 ypr
It would take a review of massive amounts of game film of each season to determine exactly who played on the kickoff team. This will be no in-depth review, simply an exercise in looking at numbers. Though things have been up and down with kickoff coverage, considering that three of the last four Tech teams place in the bottom half of this list, including the two bottom spots, I think it’s safe to say that kickoff coverage has been trending down in recent seasons. The lone exception is 2011, which ranks in the top half of the list.
Another reason to suspect that kickoff coverage is trending down is that the Hokies went from 1993 through 2011 without allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown. However, they allowed one in 2012 (UNC) and another in 2013 (Alabama).
Surprised to see the 2013 kickoff team rank in the middle of the pack? Me too. After surrendering a kickoff return in the opening game against Alabama, the kickoff team settled down and played better throughout the course of the season. As we’ll see next, the same thing didn’t happen to the punt team.