USC Gamecocks Football

April 17, 2013

Gamecocks' special teams: Spring football recap, storylines

A review and recap of how South Carolina's special teams fared this spring. Who's got the lead for the kicking job? Can anyone knock Victor Hampton from the punt return role?

A review and recap of how South Carolina's special teams fared this spring (the second in a series of positional reviews of the Gamecocks):

Top performers

Landon Ard, Patrick Fish, Victor Hampton

Spring awards

... Most improved kicker: Landon Ard

... Most improved punter: Tyler Hull

... Jim Carlen Special Teams Player of the Spring: Patrick Fish

Projected depth

Kickoffs and placekicking
1 - Landon Ard (RS So.)
2 - Nick St. Germain (RS Fr.)

1 - Tyler Hull (Jr.)
2 - Patrick Fish (RS Jr.)

Kick return
1 - Bruce Ellington (Jr.)
2 - Damiere Byrd (Jr.)

Punt return
1 - Victor Hampton (RS Jr.)
2 - Pharoh Cooper (Fr.)

Long snapper
1 - Coleman Harley (RS So.)
2 - Ryland Culbertson (RS Jr.)

1 - Patrick Fish (RS Jr.)
2 - Brendan Nosovitch (RS Fr.)

What we learned

1. Ard takes the lead for kicking job

Redshirt sophomore Landon Ard has the edge on kicking duties going into the summer. He handled some of the kickoff duties last year, was usually the first player to line up and attempt kicks this spring, and didn’t miss in the spring game. Nick St. Germain was brought in last year as the Gamecocks’ first recruited scholarship kicker since Ryan Succop, but he is still struggling with consistency.

2. Fish finds a niche

Backup punter Patrick Fish is in line to take over the team's holder job, a post held down last year by quarterback Seth Strickland. Special teams coach Joe Robinson praised Fish for stepping up and taking over the spot. Quarterback Brendan Nosovitch also took snaps there this spring.

Questions moving forward

1. Can anyone knock Hampton from the punt return role?

While everyone expects Victor Hampton to be South Carolina's best cornerback this season, he'll also get the first shot to replace Ace Sanders as the team's punt returner. He didn't do anything this spring to lose the job, but Robinson says coaches will continue to evaluate their options - including Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd, Ahmad Christian and incoming freshman Pharoh Cooper.

2. Can walk-ons make any noise this summer?

Tyler Hull came in last August and was almost immediately the starting punter. Time will tell if something like that could happen again, but the Gamecocks will bring at least two kickers in this summer and give them a chance to compete. Elliott Fry of Carrollton, Texas, and Max Huggins of Myrtle Beach are both preferred walk-ons who will attempt to win the kickoff job. Huggins picked the Gamecocks over Clemson and booted a 57-yard field goal his senior year.

He said it

Joe Robinson on punters and kickers: "They're all running pretty close. To be honest the competition has helped them all step up. I'm really pleased with the way they're hitting the ball. I don't know that there's been separation as much as I think they're competing very well and stepping up their game."

Robinson on kickoff returns: "That's a place where I've got to do a better job. We did a good job protecting our punt returner last year. We didn't do as good a job helping Bruce out. We've got to do a lot better job helping Bruce be more effective."

Robinson on punt returns: "There are a bunch of guys that are going to be back there. We're going to see who takes the bull by the horns this summer and decides he wants to be a part of it, then narrow it down when we get in here in the fall to the two or three guys that are really catching it the best and doing the best job."

Robinson on Victor Hampton: "I really like Vic. I think he's very, very courageous. He can be explosive, He's tough and he's fearless. We've got to be sure that we secure the ball every time and put ourselves in a position to be successful. He's working his tail off at it. I think you'll see improvement with him throughout the summer."

Robinson on Pharoh Cooper: "He's got tremendous potential. We'll see if he can get out here and realize some of that potential in the fall. He'll certainly get a big time look once he gets here."

Robinson on Landon Ard: "His lift is real good on his field goals. Landon needs to become consistent with everything he does. He can't let a single kick affect the rest of his day. Maybe more than anything else from a mental standpoint, he's really had a good spring in trying to handle the pressure of the full-time job."

Robinson on Nick St. Germain: "He's had some inconsistent days. He's had a couple of days in the stadium that haven't been too good. We know what he can do. We've got to figure out, can he do it consistently?"

Robinson on holders, long-snappers: "Patrick Fish, you talk about a guy that's worked hard, when the last season ended he knew there was an opportunity there. Our kickers have a tremendous amount of confidence in him. We're trying to develop some backups there but he's done a super job. Snappers have been inconsistent. We need to become a little more consistent at that position."

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