Oklahoma mailbag: Will special teams improve in 2018?
DieHards tackles the best questions from Oklahoma fans. Look for our Oklahoma question of the day Monday through Friday. Join the conversation by sending your questions to @john_shinn, by email to John at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Oklahoma DieHards Facebook page.
Seth Ammerman asks, how long until Oklahoma’s special teams begin playing better?
That’s an interesting question because really good special-teams play seems to come down to defensive depth. Where Oklahoma has tended to struggle is on its coverage units, and the majority of those players tend to be backup linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks.
The Sooners should be a deeper defensive team this season. They have a true three-deep depth chart this spring at the linebacker spots and in the secondary.
Last season solved one of the issues Oklahoma tended to have covering kicks. Austin Seibert consistently kicked the ball into the end zone on kickoffs. In 111 of his kickoffs, 84 were touchbacks. The percentage (75.7) was far and away the best among kickers in the Big 12 Conference, and he also had 44 more touchbacks than any other league kicker.
It’ll be interesting to see if that drops this season. One thing that really stood out about Georgia is its kickoffs were designed to be caught around the 5-yard line, forcing a return. Consistently pinning the Sooners inside the 20-yard-line after a score was one of the ways Georgia flipped the momentum in the second half of the Rose Bowl.
Will Shane Beamer’s arrival transform Oklahoma kicking strategy
Shane Beamer, who was Georgia’s special teams coordinator last season, is now in charge of Oklahoma’s coverage units.
As far as returns go, I’m interested to see what impact 4-star running back T.J. Pledger can make there and if 4-star wide receiver Jaquayln Crawford can carve out an early niche as a punt returner. Both are on campus and going through spring practice. They have the speed and elusiveness to do those jobs well.
Whether Seibert remains the Sooners kicker and punter in 2018 remains to be seen. It was the topic of a mailbag several weeks ago.