September 3, 2009

Not so special

When Kent State and Coastal Carolina open the 2009 season on Thursday at Dix Stadium, it won't take long for each team's head coach to determine just how much progress his team has made-at least in special teams.

In finishing 4-8 last season, the Golden Flashes struggled on kickoffs and kick coverage, extra points and field goals. The Chanticleers finished 2008 at 6-6 and with their own issues in special teams.

Coastal Carolina managed to convert just 11-of-22 field goals and 26-of-31 PAT's (84-percent). The Chanticleers also struggled in the return game where they averaged just under 16 yards per kickoff return and 3.9 yards per punt return while allowing their opponents to record over 21 yards per kick return and 9.8 yards on punt returns.

The good news for the Chanticleers? They return many of their specialists.

"A lot of those kids that are going to be back there are a year older," said Josh Hoke, the Myrtle Beach Sun News' Coastal Carolina beat writer.

Joining redshirt junior kicker Justin Durham and junior punter Ben Erdman, an all-Big South Conference selection, is freshman Zach McGehee, who will handle the kickoff duties.

"He will be a kid that will step in and most likely he'll be the kickoff guy on Thursday," said Hoke about McGhee. "He's got a big leg; he's a kid that will put it to the 5, to the goal line; that will help some of those coverage issues on kickoffs."

Hoke believes the returning starters will play better and more consistently because of the experience they gained last season.

"Those kids are just a year older," he said. "They struggled at times last year, have struggled in the preseason, so it will be interesting to see how they go out and play."

The Chanticleers aren't short on playmakers that can crate big plays in the return game.

Redshirt freshmen Adrian Sullivan and Tre Henderson are expected to handle kickoff returns while sophomore Josh Norman is slotted to return punts.

"The return game, they've got plenty of kids that can handle those roles," Hoke said. "They struggled in them last year, but I think a lot of it was those kids not used to being out there. I think now that they are a year older I think they'll be OK."

Neither the Golden Flashes nor the Chanticleers can predict how their special teams units will perform under the lights at Dix Stadium on Thursday, but both teams know just how important that aspect of the game is to collecting a victory.

"Definitely I think that's a swing spot in this game," Hoke said. "Both teams are not necessarily very good at it, it could be interesting to see if somebody takes a kickoff back or a punt back or muffs a kick, what impact that's going to have."

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