Too much of the time, football fans find out how important special teams are when things go wrong.
Ashland University's kicking game, however, historically has been a strength, and the 2016 season was no exception. The Eagles tied for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference lead in field-goal percentage (80.0), were first in kickoff average (61.9), second in punt-return average (11.7), tied for second in punting average (40.3) and tied for third in extra-point percentage (96.8).
Senior kicker Aidan Simenc, second in Ashland football history in career extra points (124), sixth in career field goals (26) and 10th in career points (202), also boasts a career field-goal percentage of 86.7 (26-of-30). Last fall, Simenc nailed 23 of his 76 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
On returns, senior cornerback Dale Irby continues to be Ashland's top threat. In 2016, he averaged 11.7 yards and scored a touchdown on 19 punt returns, and in his Eagle career, Irby sports averages of 9.6 on punt returns and 23.2 on kickoff returns.
Another key veteran returning to the special teams is junior long snapper Travis Downing, entering his third year in that role.
With the graduation of punter-quarterback-tight end Austin Bruns, the punting chores for 2017 fall to redshirt senior starting quarterback Travis Tarnowski, who hasn't attempted a punt as an Eagle.