LSU’s Kick Teams 'Special' Again?
Among LSU’s 11 underclassmen that declared for the 2013 NFL Draft was punter Brad Wing. It’s not often that a punter, or any special teams player, declares early for the draft. Wing was a little different to begin with; he is from Australia, received a penalty for taunting on his way to the end zone against Florida in 2011 which negated a touchdown, and was a legitimate threat to flip the field any time his foot made contact with the ball. Ironically, LSU has another Australian on its roster to replace Wing.
Sophomore Jamie Keehn averaged 44.6 yards on nine punts during the Chick-fil-A Bowl when Wing was suspended. Hopefully, Keehn will be more consistent as Wing’s production dropped off from his breakthrough year in 2011. Keehn’s maturity should help in that department as he will turn 24 before the season starts.
The most likely candidate to replace departed placekicker Drew Alleman is junior James Hairston. Alleman was another stalwart on special teams, having missed only one extra point during his career and made 78.7 percent of his field goals, good for fifth in school history. Hairston spent the last couple of seasons handling the kickoff duties for LSU and has a tremendous leg. It’s his accuracy that has coaches concerned. Walk-on Colby Delahoussaye could replace Hairston as the placekicker if he struggles to convert makeable field goals.
Odell Beckham Jr. (6-foot, 187 pounds) is the only holdover from last year’s special teams unit. He is a solid and spectacular return man that led the conference in returns with 35 and was fourth in return yardage with 320. The highlight of his return game was a dazzling 89-yard punt return for touchdown against Ole Miss that ultimately helped the Tigers to defeat the Rebels in a close contest. The junior from New Orleans returned two punts for touchdowns in 2012.
Incoming freshman Jeryl Brazil (5-foot-10, 181 pounds) could see time as a return man to either complement Beckham Jr. or give him a break if he’s having a big game receiving. If Beckham has the punt return game locked up, then perhaps Brazil can combine with receiver Jarvis Landry to return kickoffs. Landry (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) is similar to Beckham Jr. in stature and has a similar skill set. They also teamed together to return a few kickoffs last year.
Houston native Thomas McGaughey is LSU’s special teams coordinator. He’s entering his third season on the job and has been blessed with talented playmakers at his disposal. In addition to Wing and Alleman, he also coached former defensive backs/return men Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu. The Tigers have ranked in the Top 10 nationally in net punting the last two seasons and LSU has scored six touchdowns during McGaughey’s tenure. Alabama has five losses in the last three years, two to LSU. Special teams played a big role in those games, both of them defensive struggles.
Of course, it’s always exciting to see any trick plays that Les Miles and McGaughey can concoct during the season.