Position: Special Teams
Position Coach: Jamael Lett
Returning Letterwinners (Key stats): Jack Brooks (11 games played, 43-1,794 yds punt, 41.7 avg, 66 long, 11 I20, 7 50+); Diego Guajardo (11 GP, 13-of-17 FG, 24-of-25 PAT, 63 pts, 49-2,941 KO yds, 22 TBs); Frankie Onate (11 GP, 7-of-12 FGs, 17-of-17 PATs, 38 pts in 2019)
Letterwinners lost (Key stats): Jake Harwell (11 GP 3-1—4 TT); Andrew Zink (did not appear in a game in 2020)
Returning Redshirts/Squad Members (Yr., Hometown, Previous school): Noah Karwacki (R-Fr., Aurora [Colo.] Vista PEAK Preparatory School); Cooper Charlton (Fr., Enterprise [Ala.] HS)
Newcomers (Yr., Hometown, Previous school): Barret Pickering (Jr., Birmingham, Ala., Nebraska); Jack Martin (So., Mobile, Ala., Alabama); Travis Drosos (Fr., Gilbert, Ariz., Colorado)
-Guajardo became the second placekicker in as many years to lead the Jaguars in scoring last fall in earning third-team all-Sun Belt Conference honors.
-He enters the campaign having picked up preseason all-league recognition from three different organizations — Pro Football Focus (second-team), Phil Steele Publications (third-team) and Athlon Sports (third-team) — as well.
-Brooks also garnered preseason all-league honors from PFF and Athlon after ranking second in the Sun Belt in 2020 in average yards per punt.
-The sophomore enters this year third in school history with an average of 42.02 yards per kick and is fourth with 32 punts inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.
-Although he did not appear in a contest last season, Onate is set to be South’s primary back-up at both kicking positions.
-Drosos is projected to serve as the team’s primary long snapper after joining the program at the beginning of the spring semester.
-He replaces the duo of Harwell and Zink, who combined to take care of the job since the start of the 2016 season.
-While Devin Rockette has not returned a kick in his first three seasons as a Jaguar, he did have a school-record 95-yard interception return in a victory over ULM last October.
-As a true freshman a year ago, Caullin Lacy was the only individual on the team to return both a punt and a kickoff, recording 108 of his 318 all-purpose yards on special teams.
-Pickering was Nebraska’s leading scorer during the 2018 season after posting 82 points while making 14-of-18 field-goal attempts.
-On what has been his approach to implementing the new staff’s special teams philosophies: “I just want to help the guys create a culture of playing fast, aligning, getting to the football, and for our specialists getting the ball where we want it to be located. The number one thing, though, is getting them to buy into our culture and the way want to do things.”
-On what he believes is the strength of the Jaguars’ special teams unit: “I say that the strength of the special teams unit is just the talent that we have. The guys that we are implementing on those teams, the way they play and their attention to detail is a big thing for us. I think that’ll be the number one aspect of our special teams, especially for our depth chart.”
-On how to improve South’s performance in the return game: “For us, it’s just attention to detail. Our frontline on kickoff return has to make sure that they hit their landmarks, and our returners just have to hit it and secure the ball. They can’t dance around, they have to get north and south in order to get yardage for our offense.”
-On the placekicking competition throughout preseason camp: “I think the competition helped. It’s always fun to have it. You just have to work hard and do your own thing, you can’t get distracted. I thought we had a good competition.”
-On what he thinks he did best during the 2020 season: “I just kept everything the same and had good chemistry with my holder and snapper. We have a new holder and snapper this season, but we’ve already developed a great chemistry. I think we’re going to do a great job this year.”
-On the area of his game he has worked to improve the most heading into the fall: “Definitely field goals, and specifically I’ve focused on the right and left hashes. I’ve also worked on kickoffs.”
-On what he learned from his special teams experience as a freshman: “On kick return, I know I have to hit it hard every time I get the ball. On punt return, the coaches want me to go catch every ball no matter where it is and fair catch it.”
-On what he thinks he can provide the team returning kicks: “Ball placement. I have the speed to get under every ball that is punted. We have a good punt return unit.”
-On the difference in preparation to return kicks and punts: “Punt returns are more valuable to me because of ball placement. The ball can roll from the 20-yard line all the way to the one. I just have to take my time and make sure I fair-catch the ball. On kickoffs, I just have to hit the hole and get what yardage I can, so hopefully I can bust a return.”
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