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Special Teams Performance: Get Better In The Margins, Get Slightly Richer

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I don't believe in punts over 40 yards. They're impolite.
I don't believe in punts over 40 yards. They're impolite.
Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE

Toward the end of Bill Connelly's Vanderbilt preview, there is an interesting tidbit about special teams--the top nine teams in special teams F/+ last year each won at least nine games. Connelly estimates that special teams makes up only 10% to 15% of the outcome of a game, so obviously poor performance in that area can be overcome, but as he points out, this is a good example of how teams can squeeze a little extra out of the margins and cover up some weaknesses elsewhere.

So how did NC State's special teams unit rank over the last five years? You can probably guess.

2012: 64th
2011: 92nd
2010: 54th
2009: 117th
2008: 35th

Tom O'Brien's teams never leveraged this phase of the game, despite some fine efforts from return man T.J. Graham throughout most of those years. Graham was pretty much the extent of the marginal gains the football team could count on in any given game. The punting, well, let's not talk about the punting. Let's pretend there is no punting. There is no punt, only pain. You're thinking of the 2010 Clemson game right now aren't you. I'm sorry, everyone.

Can Dave Doeren's staff find more success here? With such a short coaching track record, it's tough to guess. NIU finished 71st in special teams F/+ in 2011 and moved up to 19th last season. One thing is for sure though--with a new quarterback and a new offense, 2013 would be a good time for the Wolfpack's special teams to take a step forward.