One recurring theme on ND football message boards, chats, blogs, and water-cooler talk is how awful the Notre Dame special teams have performed in 2007. So I decided to take a look at special teams and really analyze their level of awfulness. Here’s what I’ve found…
Notre Dame’s Kickoff Return Team:
- Receives the kickoff, on average, just ahead of the 9 yard line (9.05).
- Returns a kickoff an average of 19.2 yards
- And starts a drive after a kickoff, on average, at the 28.25 yard line, meaning, on average, they must drive 72 yards for a touchdown on possessions after a kickoff.
Notre Dame’s Kickoff Team:
- Kicks the ball, on average, to the 11 yard line (10.92)
- Allows the opponent to return the ball an average of 25.23 yards.
- On average, force the ND defense to begin defending the field after a kickoff on the opponent’s 36 yard line (36.15), meaning they have an average of 64 yards of buffer between them and their end-zone.
All told, that means:
- Our kickers, who are much maligned in typical conversation (“Why can’t we recruit a kicker who can kick it into the end zone!?”), are not the problem. Compared to our opponents, they’re only giving up a little less than 2 yards per kick. That should be a pretty trivial amount. And, in fact, we’ve only faced one opponent in 5 that has consistently placed the ball in the end-zone (PSU).Â Granted, there’s no available statistics for things like hang-time or “pooch kick,” so these numbers may mislead a bit.
- If our “opponent” were a single team, ranked nationally, they’d come in as about the 22nd best return team in the country.
- Notre Dame actually comes in as the 103rd ranked kickoff defending team in the country.
- The difference in average yards allowed on a return between Notre Dame and the top-25 teams in return yards allowed is 5.78 yards.
- Notre Dame loses 6.03 yards of field position, on average, kick for kick.
- If Notre Dame had not allowed a return of 68 yards against Penn State and a return of 52 yards against MSU, their average allowed return would be 18.9 yards. (And ND would be close to a top 25 average in yards allowed.)
- If Notre Dame had not allowed Penn State to start a drive on ND’s 27 yards line, and had not allowed MSU to start a drive on ND’s 45 yard line, ND’s opponents would be starting drives after kickoffs, on average, at the opponent’s 31 yard line.
- ND is 100th in kickoff return yardage.
- The difference between ND’s average kickoff return yardage and that of the top 25 of kickoff return yardage is a little over 5 yards.
- ND does not “always allow teams to start their drives around the 45.” At least not after kickoffs. They’ve only allowed that to happen twice (the previously mentioned long kickoff returns by PSU and MSU). I was sort of stunned to see that. I was convinced that we were always allowing it. We weren’t. But, we have allowed those 2 long kickoff returns, as well as a kickoff return to the 41 by Purdue at really inopportune moments in games (when momentum was still swinging around in the game and up for grabs).
Here’s some interesting numbers broken down by ND games:
|Team||Avg Return Allowed||Nat’l Rank||Avg Return Allowed vs. ND||Avg Return||Nat’l Rank||Avg Return vs. ND|
One thing I hate seeing is that we didn’t do “better than average” against poor special teams squads like Michigan (sucks!). In fact, we allowed Michigan (sucks!) to have a “better than average” day against us. Frustrating.
*Note: Some of my numbers don’t mesh exactly with the official NCAA numbers. Not sure why, but the differences are negligible. I went about calculating some numbers manually because I wanted to understand them at a more granular level than the NCAA stats provide.