10-Day Hoo Preview ’07: Special Teams

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How important are special teams? One of Virginia’s most talented players, Vic Hall, serves on four different special teams’ groups. Every player that wears a starters’ “Orange Crush Defense” jersey plays on at least one special team unit. Last season, special teams accounted for 23-28% of the plays in every game. Let’s just say, special teams are pretty important.

The raw statistics might suggest that Virginia’s special teams had somewhat of a down season. The Hoos finished 60th in the nation in net punting, 67th in punt return average, seventh in the ACC in punt return average, and 11th in the conference in field goal percentage. The loss of Mike Brown, who averaged 9.57 yards per return (2nd best average in the ACC) in 2006, will not help matters in an area where Virginia has struggled to produce. Several players are in the mix to return punts but look for Andrew Pearman to be there on opening day.

All of the numbers are not necessarily bad. Certainly connecting on just 12 of 21 field goals is an ugly number, but four of Chris Gould ‘s eight misses were beyond 47 yards. Gould was 7 for 7 from within 40 yards and 10 for 14 (71%) from inside 45 yards. The senior place kicker has focused on being more consistent from within 45 yards in camp and the results are positive.

“This year I’ve worked on making it 45 yards and in,” said Gould. “Just extending five yards, just a mere five yards, and the consistency has been better this camp.”

Freshman Chris Hinkebein has been given a chance to compete but clearly Gould is the placekicker on this club. Vic Hall will take over as the holder on field goals and PATs and Danny Aiken and Crutcher Reiss are vying for the position of long snapper. Groh has been very impressed with Aiken saying “he has the most velocity on the ball coming back that we’ve had on our snap operations since we’ve been here.”

Gould says he’s been pleased with the snapper-holder-kicker operation and says the key for him to be successful is to concentrate on what he needs to do and the rest will take care of itself.

“No matter what happens with the hold or the snap, if the ball is in the right position,