We’ve reached the end of our spring position previews. While that may be sad, the good news is that spring ball is here! Our final group is the Cougars special teams players. Houston has a good group of specialists that can put up points and make big plays, so let’s take a look at these veterans.
72-72 (100%) extra points, 7-9 (77.8%) field goals
60 punts, 2,523 yards (42.1 average)
12 kick returns, 269 yards (22.4 average)
12 punt returns, 93 yards (7.8 average)
Dalton Witherspoon, Kicker
When Witherspoon came to campus from junior college, many expected him to win the starting job. However, in 2017, Caden Novikoff won the job for the year. Last year, Novikoff was again the starter, but Witherspoon took over early in the season. Now, it appears that the job is his for good. With the offense expected to be explosive again this year, Witherspoon has a chance to exceed his extra point total from last year. It also should allow him to kick more field goals. His long last year was from 44 yards, but he has the leg to make longer kicks. With Novikoff gone, Witherspoon should take over kicking off as well.
Dane Roy, Punter
Roy’s average yards per punt has increased every year, so we could expect another career year for him in 2019. Houston hopes that his number of punts decreases this year, but only because that should mean the offense is scoring more. Should they need to flip the field, they have their man. Roy displays great consistency from game to game, and that leaves the coaching staff with one less position to worry about. They will need to find a replacement next year unfortunately, and hopefully it’s one that can emulate what their predecessor’s shown the last few years.
Marquez Stevenson, Kick Returner
You know Stevenson as the receiver, but he was also the top kick returner for the Cougars last year. He only returned 12 kicks but had a solid average on those returns. Stevenson’s speed makes him dangerous in the return game, which is why most teams tend to kick away from him or out of the back of the endzone. Stevenson also elected to let a bunch of kicks go as well, which is a luxury he can afford given the offensive explosiveness. A new coaching staff could put someone else back here to save Stevenson from injury or fatigue, but he’s a great option if they stick with him. He also can return punts.
Bryson Smith, Punt Returner
The other kick returner, but also the top punt returner. Houston found ways to get Smith the ball on offense, but also let him touch it as a punt returner. He didn’t get a ton of chances to return many punts, but he did well when given room to run. Punt returner gives him another way to live up to his versatile billing.
Kicker and punter are most likely secured even with a new coaching staff in place. There’s not much that needs to be fixed at either position. Both return spots figure to be open, but not because either returning starter wasn’t producing. Stevenson and Smith are so valuable to the offense that the staff may choose to save them and put someone else back to return kicks. They might also view them as weapons that need to get the ball more. Either way, teams will have to scheme against those two. Expect special teams to be a strength for the Cougars in 2019.