football Edit

UAB's Secret Weapon

Saturday night, Tech secured a victory with an amazing special teams play: a block by Amik Robertson. And that wasn't the only display of good special teams effort by the Bulldogs; earlier in the game Bailey Hale made all five of the field goals he attempted.

But overall, special teams have not been a forte of the 2018 Louisiana Tech football team. Especially so if you look beyond the field goal units. Tech has struggled greatly in all four games at returning and defending kickoffs and punts.

But I want to focus on kickoffs specifically, so here is a visualization of every kickoff Tech has returned this year and all of the kickoffs that were returned against the Bulldogs:

The orange lines are touchbacks, which aren't really returns. But only four out of eleven times a returner actually "returned" did Tech start their possession beyond the 25 yard line. Oh, and that longest return that reached the 40? That was mostly due to a penalty, not an actual return.

Even more troubling is Tech's kickoff coverage. There hasn't been a single return against Tech that hasn't at least gotten to the 20 yard line. And 16 out of 21 times, the returner made it past the 25.

And as you can guess, that isn't great. Tech is giving up 29.2 yards per kickoff return if you include the touchbacks in that average. If we only look at kickoffs that have actual returns, Tech gives up 30.1 yards per return.

That number is even higher than the season average of all three FBS teams Tech has faced so far:

Tech's Struggles Defending Kickoffs
Player School Average Kick Return (Yds)

Tra Minter

South Alabama

25.2

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

LSU

21.7

(By Committee)

North Texas

26.6

So it's not that Tech has just faced amazing returners. Tech is just making good returners look great.

Even more troubling is that Tech this week faces a kickoff returner better than any they have faced so far in Andre Wilson.

Wilson, a former JUCO transfer from Trinity Valley CC, only received one offer to play at the college level, but has become an integral piece of the Blazer offensive attack. The receiver was an All-Conference Honorable Mention a year ago, after leading UAB with 677 yards through the air and three times more touchdowns than any other WR on the roster.

Although he trails fellow senior Collin Lisa in receiving yards this season, Wilson is a well-known threat who torched Tech for 105 yards a year ago. So that hardy seems like a secret weapon, right?

Well that's because I'm not worried¹ about Andre Wilson the pass catcher. I'm worried about Andre Wilson, the kickoff returner.

In the Blazer's first four games, Wilson has averaged 28.2 yards per return. That's good for 15th in the country by players with at least five returns. The speedster also averages a respectable 9.5 yards per punt return.

So combine Wilson's return ability with Tech's inability to defend the kickoff and you get a recipe for disaster.

The only good news here is that Andre Wilson has failed to return a kick (or punt) for a touchdown in his two years with the Blazers. So maybe Tech will find a way to slow Andre down.

But on the other hand, maybe we'll see something like this (again):

¹: Okay, I'm a little worried

Nathan is also a contributor to gtpdd.dog, a lighthearted Louisiana Tech blog. Be sure to follow @gotechplsdntdie on Twitter.