Oregon Football: Special Teams Preview

A gauntlet of returners will make the Ducks dangerous; Stack takes over for all-time great Schneider

When kicker Aidan Schneider graduated last year, it left the Ducks with a big hole to fill. Schneider owns Oregon’s all-time career field goal percentage at 85-percent, making 51-of-60 career kicks. His 51 field goals made are also the most ever by an Oregon kicker throughout their career and he owns two of the top-3 single-season kicking percentages.

Kicking isn’t the only hole the Ducks were left to fill after last year.

Over his four-year career, Charles Nelson saw a significant amount of time returning both punts and kickoffs. He averaged 24.5 yards per return on kickoffs and 13.2 yards per return on punts — returning four kicks for scores.

RETURNERS:

Filling the hole at kicking is going to be sophomore Adam Stack, a top-10 kicking recruit from two years ago. Stack has experience for the Ducks after seeing the field last year as Oregon’s primary punter but will now take over Schneider’s role.

Stack did not attempt a single field goal or PAT last year but did go through warm-ups before each game as he was Schneider’s backup.

Taking over for Nelson will be a multitude of players, including junior wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, senior running back Tony Brooks-James, senior running back Taj Griffin and senior safety Ugochukwu Amadi.

Mitchell saw action last year in the punt returner role but Amadi showed an impressive ability to return punts during spring, firmly planting his name into contention.

Brooks-James returned the most amount of kicks last year for the Ducks (14), averaging 25.7 yards per return with one score. Griffin returned three kicks last year but has world-class speed, so he could fill in as needed.

Redshirt junior Blake Maimone provides depth at punter and placeholder.

NEWCOMERS:

Over the past few years, has been a weak spot for the Ducks. Stack averaged 38.37 yards per punt, failing to rank within the top-100 of punting average in the nation.

Because of that reason, the Ducks got a big boost to their recruiting class when punter Tom Snee committed to Oregon. Snee, a native of Australia, has to get used to some of the differences playing American football but his ability to place the ball with incredible hangtime will give the Ducks a new weapon on special teams.

Another underrated position that goes unseen a lot of times is long snapper. Tanner Carew was the Ducks’ long snapper the previous four years but after graduating, leaves his position open.

Replacing Carew is freshman Karsten Battles, the No. 3 ranked long snapper in the nation.

BREAKDOWN:

Even with the loss of Schneider, Nelson and Carew, there is a very good chance Oregon’s specialists will be better than last year.

Stack returns to his more natural position of placekicker and boasts a very powerful leg despite his diminutive size. Snee will give the Ducks a true weapon on fourth down, allowing Oregon to play the field-position game more often, putting the defense into better situations.

The returners are all incredible athletes, but I wonder about the durability of Brooks-James returning kicks, particularly because he’s expected to be the starting running back. Mitchell, Griffin, Amadi and sophomore running back Darrian Felix all show a tremendous upside at returning kicks, so this unit could be dangerous if things work out.

Projected Starters: Sophomore PK, Adam Stack — Freshman P, Tom Snee — Freshman LS, Karsten Battles — Junior PR, Dillon Mitchell — Senior KR, Taj Griffin — Senior KR, Tony Brooks-James

Projected Backups: Redshirt Sophomore PK, Zach Emerson — Redshirt Junior P, Blake Maimone — Senior PR, Ugochukwu Amadi — Sophomore KR, Darrian Felix — Sophomore KR, Jaylon Redd

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Ryan Kostecka
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