With ACC Rookie of the Year Deondre Francois returning on offense and nine starters back on defense, Florida State is looking to compete for college football’s ultimate prize in 2017. When talking about the Seminoles, however, it’s that other facet of the game that gets overlooked.
Florida State’s special teams were far from good in 2016. In fairness to the Seminoles, they were trotting out two true freshman specialists. But there is much more to special teams than just making field goals and booming punts.
Ricky Aguayo, now a sophomore placekicker and the brother of former Lou Groza Award winner Roberto Aguayo, got off to a strong start last season. In the opener against Ole Miss, Aguayo broke a single-game FSU record by making all six of his field-goal attempts.
For the remainder of the season, however, Aguayo went 13-of-20. The issue wasn’t with short kicks; like his brother during his time at FSU, Aguayo has yet to miss a field goal of shorter than 40 yards. He went just 4-of-11 from beyond, though, following the opener.
The outlook going forward is more good than bad. Aguayo’s numbers as a freshman were slightly better than former FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins’ 2009 freshman numbers. Hopkins ultimately blossomed into an All-American. That’s not to say that Aguayo will attain similar accomplishments; however, he could be a solid kicker for the Seminoles over the next few years.
Some have insinuated that Logan Tyler could at some point do the kicking and punting for FSU. FSU used Tyler toward the end of 2016 as the long-distance kicker, which included a 53-yard make against Boston College — the longest of the season for the Seminoles.
Despite his huge leg, though, Tyler finished toward the bottom of the ACC in yards per punt (40.3) last season. The bigger concern for FSU when it came to punting may have been in coverage; the Seminoles allowed an average of 19 yards per opponent punt return.
The Seminoles’ return game itself was less than stellar. That was especially true after Bobo Wilson suffered a foot injury that ended his season.
In the home opener against Charleston Southern, Wilson returned a punt 89 yards for a score, becoming the first Seminole to take a punt to the house in four years. Following the injury to Wilson, the Seminoles had trouble just catching punts. Nyqwan Murray muffed punts in the final two games of last season, leading to Florida’s only touchdown in the regular-season finale and setting up Michigan at the 1-yard line in the Orange Bowl.
Though FSU did a decent job in kickoff coverage in 2016, the Seminoles ranked in the middle of the pack in the ACC in return average. (Although, Keith Gavin’s burst up the middle in the Orange Bowl helped set up the winning score.)
For the most part, Florida State has nowhere to go but up on special teams.
If the Seminoles are to win a national championship in 2017, shoring up that area is a must.