Ah yes, special teams. That OTHER facet of the game that so many ignore.
Offenses get the publicity, defenses get the nod as the unit “that wins championships,” but special teams? For most, it’s just…there.
But the consistently good teams are always solid on special teams and put the focus on it in practice to make sure they have the edge in that regard.
In terms of which teams have some of the best individual special teams players, Blitz put his list together. What do you think?
ADEN DENNIS, JUNIOR, HUNTINGTON NORTH
Dennis makes a point on his Hudl with the phrase “I am a running back.”
Well, yes he is, as well as a very good defensive edge player. But he is also a very accomplished kicker.
Similar to Nick Miller of South Adams (mentioned later), the junior has a booming leg that keeps opponents on their toes, but also can lay the wood if returners get through the main line of defense.
CARTER DIXON, JUNIOR, HOMESTEAD
When asking SAC coaches about the best kickers in the league, Dixon came up the most.
The junior has put seven of his 31 kickoffs into the end zone, while also averaging over 42 yards per punt.
Dixon is exceptional as a placekicker as well, as solid as they come on PATs and a threat from 40 yards or more in the field goal game.
GARRETT KLEFEKER, JUNIOR, COLUMBIA CITY
There may be no single player at Columbia City that enjoys the new stadium turf more than Klefeker.
Now with a smooth, level surface to kick from every home game, the junior has excelled. Nearly one-third of his kickoffs this year have gone for touchbacks. Meanwhile, he has connected on 24-of-25 PATs and has nailed a pair of field goals, including a 44 yarder against Churubusco.
JULIO MACIAS, JUNIOR, WEST NOBLE
The classic soccer player/football kicker, Macias is stout both on the pitch and on the field.
As a sophomore a year ago, Macias struggled with accuracy in both PATs and field goals, but did hit a 48 yarder for the Chargers against Glenn in the playoffs.
While West Noble struggles this season, Macias is still a weapon on kickoffs and in placekicking. The junior is ranked No. 7 in the Class of 2022 kicker ratings at ProKicker.com.
CARSON MCCAULEY, SENIOR, LEO
McCauley has been a regular on the national circuit for kickers and punters for a few years now, and everywhere he goes he has impressed.
Ranked as a 4.5 star recruit by Kohls Kicking, considered by many to be the gold standard in college football specialist recruiting, McCauley’s hang time and leg speed are exceptional. He is also rated the No. 19 punter in America by Kornblue Kicking.
On Sept. 11 against New Haven, McCauley broke his own school record with a 71-yard punt that was down at the 1-yard line. The week before, he downed a pair of punts inside the 5-yard line against Norwell.
McCauley may very well be the best punter in the entire state.
NICK MILLER, SENIOR, SOUTH ADAMS
Miller is a solid punter for the Starfires, averaging close to 37 yards per kick and downing four inside the 20.
But where Miller is truly terrifying is as a coverage guy after the punt or on kicks.
Miller is a freight train going down the field. Typically if a return man gets past the gunners, he only has a small-ish kicker to beat to score. Against South Adams, you have a freight train barreling at you in Miller, who is a punisher in every sense of the word.
CRISTIAN SANCHEZ, SENIOR, EAST NOBLE
One of the top kickoff specialists around, Sanchez is known to boom the ball downfield with consistently. He has notched six touchbacks on the year on 24 kickoffs, good for a 25 percent touchback rate.
As a placekicker, Sanchez has been on point, perfect on PATs while connecting on a trio of field goals thus far for the Knights.
ALEX CURRIE, JUNIOR, ADAMS CENTRAL
In addition to being a menace on both offense and defense, Currie is also arguably the top return man in all of the ACAC.
The junior is a threat to take it to the house at any time in the return game. His strength is not to be underestimated, evidenced by the amount of tackles that Currie breaks on a consistent basis.
KAM JOHNSON, SENIOR, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
Johnson returned his second kickoff for a score of the season last week against Bishop Dwenger, the latest example of his game-changing abilities on special teams.
The senior reads his blocks well and accelerates on a dime.
For the season, Johnson is averaging 33.6 yards per kick return and 41.5 yards per punt return.
Yeah, probably shouldn’t kick to this guy.
BRAUNTAE JOHNSON, FRESHMAN, NORTH SIDE
The most electrifying freshman in northeast Indiana, the hype surrounded “Tae Tae” Johnson heading into high school was on the basketball court.
But Johnson’s season on the gridiron has garnered him plenty of accolades away from hoops.
There may be no one faster on the field than Johnson, who can speed away from tacklers while also being slippery enough to shake off an arm tackle.
The freshman scored his first return for a touchdown last week against Homestead, planting his foot to make one move on in the middle of the field then ran away from the Spartans coverage team.
For the year, Johnson is averaging 13 yards per kickoff return with eight total touchdowns (seven receiving).
Not bad for a freshman.
KAEDEN MILLER, JUNIOR, LEO
Not only is Miller a pain to deal with from his running back spot, the junior is also deceptively deadly as a return man.
Last year as a sophomore, Miller set a school record with a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown against East Noble.
This season has been more of the same, with Miller returning a punt 82 yards for a score in Week 4 against New Haven.
NICK NONDORF, JUNIOR, CHURUBUSCO
The do-everything junior for Churubusco fits a multitude of roles on offense and defense for the Eagles.
You can add special teams to that as well.
Nindorf is averaging 28 yards per kick return and 32.4 yards per punt return, including a 94-yard touchdown against Lakeland.
Even his kicking is impressive as he is averaging close to 37 yards per punt.
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH