Biggest questions, #5: Special Teams

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Like most teams, the Hokies have their share of question marks. To me, none is more important than special teams.

It doesn’t get much worse than Virginia Tech’s special teams performance in 2013. Check out these numbers…

11 missed field goals (2nd most in the country)
KO returns: #76
KO return defense: #56
Net punting: #52
Punt returns: #105 (it’s hard to believe 18 teams were worse)
Punt return defense: #106 (it’s hard to believe 17 teams were worse)

When the most you have to brag about on special teams is a #52 ranking in net punting, then you know things are very bad. Like the running game and interceptions, improvement on special teams is critical for Tech’s success in 2014.

Note: Punter A.J. Hughes is not considered a question mark, so he isn’t mentioned in this article.

Field Goal Kicking

Let’s all take a moment to put Cody Journell’s 2013 season out of our minds. Things can’t be worse this year, can they? At the very least, perhaps this year’s kicker can manage to not get himself kicked off the team in the middle of the season.

Frank Beamer certainly has options here. Right now, there are seven kickers listed on the roster.

Michael Branthover (r-Sr.)
Remington Hinshaw (r-Jr.)
Eric Kristensen (So.)
R.J. Warfel (r-Fr.)
Michael Santamaria (Fr.)
Carson Wise (Fr.)
Joey Slye (Fr.)

Also, Mitchell Ludwig (So.) kicked off for the Hokies last season, and he could get an opportunity to throw his hat in the ring at placekicker as well.

Realistically, I don’ think R.J. Warfel or Joey Slye factor in. Warfel didn’t challenge for the job back in the spring, and Slye is a new name that I haven’t heard of (he’s 5-10, 217 though, plus 80% of his kickoffs went for touchbacks in high school, so he could potentially factor in as a kickoff specialist). I think the five names to keep an eye on are Branthover, Hinshaw, Kristensen, Santamaria and Wise.

Branthover has a strong leg, but he has always lacked consistency. Hinshaw is a transfer from Richmond who has plenty of experience (he onverted 15-of-22 field goals and 36-of-42 PATs in 2012), and he ended the spring on top of the depth chart. Kristensen went 4-of-5 last year, but didn’t seem to have a lot of leg strength. Santamaria is a scholarship freshman, while Carson Wise is a walkon from Blacksburg

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