2018 Football #ThirdOfTheGame Preview – Special Teams

2018 Football #ThirdOfTheGame Preview – Special Teams


In 2018, Ashland University's football team will look to replace its starting kicker, punter, placement holder, kick returner and punt returner from a season ago.

The Eagles' kicking game will look different in terms of personnel – but will seek to garner similar results.

At punter, junior quarterback John Davies will have the role full-time after averaging 42.9 yards on 10 punts a season ago. Of those 10 boots, only one was a touchback, three were downed, one was fair caught, and only five were returned – resulting in a net average of 34.4.

"He punted the ball pretty well last year," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens. "That will be the plan going in."

This would be the 10th time in Owens' 15 seasons that a quarterback serves the primary punter.

The player(s) who will be called upon for extra points, field goals and kickoffs will be determined in camp, beginning on Thursday (Aug. 9). Five kickers are on the roster – sophomore Satchel Denton, an NCAA Division I transfer from Rhode Island, and freshmen Chase Dinan, Storm Elsesser, Kevin Laming and Nick Tarabrella. Denton's one season of collegiate experience was spent as a punter for the Rams.

"We've got a couple young freshmen, one transfer," Owens said. "It's going to be some competition. The one player who has some experience (Denton), he's probably the most consistent, and the fact that he's been in college football games gives him a leg up."

Continuing in his snapping duties will be senior Travis Downing, who has been consistent in holding down the position since his freshman campaign.

"He's just a great kid," Owens said, "on the field, off the field. He's a winner. He's a leader. Works hard, is unassuming. And, obviously, a heck of a long snapper. And we're actually talking about working him into the punt game some this year. There might be times when we just need to get the quarterback back a little deeper."

Ashland's most experienced returnee on kickoffs and punts is senior wide receiver Kamaron Green, who has a 23.1-yard average on 15 career kickoff returns and has gained 30 yards on four career punt returns. Most likely, one or two from a talented group of freshmen will be called upon in these roles.

"Punt returns, we're more worried about just getting the ball fielded," Owens said. "And with the new kickoff rule, you're going to see more and more teams fair catch it and take it at the 25. We have some guys who may not fair catch it. We have some guys who can be really exciting to watch."

The new NCAA kickoff rule states that the receiving team can fair catch the kick inside the 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback.