Special teams are as important as any unit on a football game. Often, games are decided on special team’s play. In fact, Carroll College has won several national championships on superb special team’s plays alone.
And when it comes to the kickers, punters, and the men that return the kicks, the Frontier Conference has some exciting special team’s players coming into the fall of 2011.
Here’s a look at the top returning special team’s players in the Frontier for 2011.
At MSU-Northern, solid kicking has been a main stay, but things will be knew for the Lights in that area this fall. Gone is all-conference kicker Kyle Kercher, who finished second last year in field goal kicking in the league. In fact, Kercher, who was also a starting wide receiver, and former defensive back Luke McKinley before him, meant the Lights had position players doing the kicking duties for the better part of the last six seasons. And they did well.
But this season, Northern went out and got a full-time kicker in junior college transfer Juan Garcia (6-0, 185). The outstanding kicker could also be handling punting duties for the Lights this season, although Northern does return Will Andrews who punted last year, and has earned all-conference honors for punting in the past.
The Lights should also be exciting in the return game with sophomore Orin Johnson. Johnson played with Matt Stuart on punt returns a year ago, but will be the Lights primary return man this season. Running back Stephen Silva has been an electrifying kick returner for the Lights the last two seasons, but with full-time duties at running back, Northern could look to some younger players on kickoff returns, including sophomore speedster Josh Wilson, who saw some time back there a year ago. Tyson Lucier is also getting looks on kickoff return as is trasnfer wide receiver Kyle Johnston.
The Frontier returns some of its top kickers and punters from a year ago. Back for Eastern Oregon is sophomore Nick Knell, who led the league in field goals last season. And Carroll’s Tom Yaremko is also back with his powerful leg which helped the Saints to the 2010 NAIA title. The league’s top returning punter, Rocky Mountain College’s Derek Carothers is also back for his junior season, as is UM-Western’s Dereyk Van Zee, who earned second-team all-conference honors a year ago.
And perhaps the most exciting return man in all of NAIA coming into the season is also back. EOU sophomore Kedrick Starr (5-8, 166) took both a punt and a kickoff back for touchdowns a year ago, the only player in the Frontier to do so. Montana Tech return man Trent Thomas should also be one to watch this season after he earned first-team all-conference honors last season.