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State of the Sooners: Oklahoma’s special teams entering the 2013 spring game

by Jason Kersey Modified: April 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm •  Published: April 8, 2013
83.7 percent of his career field-goal attempts. PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN
83.7 percent of his career field-goal attempts. PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN

NORMAN — With Oklahoma’s spring football game fast approaching, today begins a unit-by-unit look at the 2013 Sooners.

I’ll have two posts a day through Thursday, and finish the series with Friday morning’s look at the quarterback battle.

Here’s a full schedule for the series:
Monday, 11 a.m.:
Special teams
Monday, 2 p.m.: Defensive backs
Tuesday, 11 a.m.: Linebackers
Tuesday, 2 p.m.: Defensive linemen
Wednesday, 11 a.m.: Offensive linemen
Wednesday, 2 p.m.: Tight ends
Thursday, 11 a.m.: Wide receivers
Thursday, 2 p.m.: Running backs
Friday, 11 a.m.: Quarterbacks

So without further ado, here’s a glance at Oklahoma’s special teams entering the 2013 spring game.

No.; Name; Cl.; Ht.; Wt.
44; Jed Barnett; Jr.; 6-2; 215
37; Dylan Seibert; So.; 6-3; 215

Punter analysis: Jed Barnett seems set to step in and replace the graduated Tress Way. The junior-college transfer from Laney Community College in Oakland, Calif., has made an immediate impression on first-year special teams coordinator Jay Boulware, who said he’s “one of the few guys I’ve ever seen at punter that’s a true two-stepper,” which helps prevent blocks.

“He does it a little different than most guys I’ve ever seen,” Boulware said. “That in itself is a really good characteristic to have, because his catch-to-kick time is really low. I shouldn’t say really low; it’s below 1.3, which is what we look for.”

No.; Name; Cl.; Ht.; Wt.
18; Michael Hunnicutt; Jr.; 6-0; 173
47; Eric Hosek; So.; 5-10; 150

Kicker analysis: Hunnicutt has hit 36 of his 43 career field-goal attempts, good for an 83.7 percent success rate. His longest field goal in 2011 was 53 yards, and last year, the longest he hit was 45 yards. Boulware said Hunnicutt needs to continue working on consistently making longer kicks, though.

“The majority of field goals he’s taken have been inside of 40 yards,” Boulware said. “We just need to continue to working and progressing in field goals outside of 40 yards.”

Boulware, though, said the team definitely needs to be better on kickoffs.

“I think that’s the one area where I feel like we’re not as far along as we need to be in terms of a kickoff specialist,” Boulware said. “You have to realize what I’m used to. I think I’ve had the best kicker during the last four years or the last two years at least. Everyone talks about the number of touchbacks that the kid from Okie State (Quinn Sharp) had, but our kid in 2011 had a higher percentage than him. I just didn’t ask for him to kick it out every time.

“That’s what I’m used to. I’m used to a guy that can put it in the stands. We should have that here. And we’re going to get that here. We’re going to get a guy that can put the ball in the back of the end zone from the 35-yard line, which isn’t very far in my opinion, on a consistent basis.”

No.; Name; Cl.; Ht.; Wt.
22; Roy Finch; Sr.; 5-7; 175
24; Brennan Clay; Sr.; 5-11; 201

No.; Name; Cl.; Ht.; Wt.
18; Jalen Saunders; Sr.; 5-9; 160
3; Sterling Shepard; So.; 5-10; 188

Returners  analysis: Boulware left no room for misinterpretation when it comes to the return specialists he’s inherited at Oklahoma: He loves them.

“None of these kids that I’ve been around at my last two stops are nearly as talented as these guys are as return men,” Boulware said of Jalen Saunders and Roy Finch. “I tell those kids all the time, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the most feared return units in the country, because they are that talented in my opinion.

“Normally special teams coordinators don’t say that unless it’s true, and it is true.”

Boulware was Iowa State’s special teams coordinator in 2008, when Leonard Johnson set the NCAA’s single-game record for kick return yardage with his 319-yard showing against Oklahoma State.

Finch returned kicks an average of 31 yards last season, including a 100-yard kick-return touchdown against Kansas. Brennan Clay returned 20 kicks for 507 yards last year.

The departed Justin Brown returned punts for most of last season, but Saunders averaged 17.6 yards on five punt returns, including an electric 81-yard touchdown return against Oklahoma State.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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