Special Teams Traditionally an area of strength, the Tribe’s placekicking role appears to be on solid ‘footing’ with the return of sophomore Drake Kuhn (5-10, 185). After a shaky start to his career (started by missing four of his first nine career attempts), Kuhn did a remarkable job of refocusing and finished the season hitting on his last nine attempts (including three in the NCAA Playoffs). He continued the steady work into the spring, where he was very consistent in his ball striking and accuracy. Kuhn concentrated his offsea-
2010 CAA CHAMPIONS
son conditioning drills on increasing his leg strength, which should pay the greatest dividends when he is handling the team’s kickoff duties. In addition to his game experience from a year ago, another big plus for Kuhn will be the return of his long snapper, junior Andy Topping, and holder, Brent Caprio. Topping is a proven commodity in the role and will also handle the deep snapping duties. As the team heads into fall camp, a major question remains in replacing three-time all-conference punter David Miller. One of the best punters in Tribe history, Miller finished his career by averaging more than 40 yds/ attempt (202 career punts), including averaging 43.0 yds/punt last fall, earning him All-America honors. Redshirt freshman John Carpenter (6-1, 190) currently sits at the top of the depth chart, as he came to campus off a stellar scholastic career that saw him earn first-team all-state honors in Maryland as a senior. He is a great talent with an electric leg but will concentrate on developing more consistency this fall. Junior Tyler Bailey (6-1, 195) returns as the only player on the roster who has punted in a collegiate game. He did a credible job as the starting punter during two games last season (averaging more than 38 yds/punt on five attempts) and will press for starting duties throughout the fall. The return of both Webb and Grimes to the punt and kick return duties, respectively, will make both areas a strength. Webb has been named to the all-conference team as a return specialist in each of his first two seasons in the role. He averages 8.8 yds/attempt with 49 career returns. Last year on 19 returns, the explosive junior averaged a career best 9.8 yds, including a 64-yard touchdown punt return versus VMI. Grimes returns as the reigning CAA Special Teams Player of the Year and has earned three-career all-conference honors. Last season, Grimes averaged a career best 24.9 yd/ return (19 attempts) and has a career average of 22.3 ypr in 66 attempts. With the heavy workloads that both Webb and Grimes carries over the course of a season, depth at both return positions is crucial. While there are a host of candidates, Terrell Wells will likely fill in at the punt return position, while both Ryan Woolfolk and Meltoya Jones are able replacements at the kick return spot.
2011 SEASON OUTLOOK
Junior strong safety Brian Thompson (5-11, 210) also comes into the fall poised to challenge for postseason recognition. He followed a solid debut season as a starter with an outstanding spring drills session and will look to carry that progress into the fall as one the team’s leaders in the secondary. The staff will look to him as one of the team’s key playmakers this fall, as he has outstanding athleticism and an aggressive style of play. Senior Jake O’Connor (6-0, 195) emerged from the spring as the starter at free safety, but he will continue to battle for the spot throughout the fall with sophomore Jerome Couplin (6-2, 202). O’Connor is a heady veteran who has seen significant playing time at both safety and special teams in his career. He is an extremely consistent performer with a high football IQ and a fearless style of play. Couplin had a productive spring cut short by an injury, but he has the size, speed and coverage skills to be a significant contributor. Depth at the strong safety position will be provided by Ivan Tagoe (6-1, 220), a hard-hitting redshirt freshman with good size and speed. Junior Ethan Lee (5-11, 182) will challenge for reps at free safety, after converting from cornerback this spring. He saw some spot action last season. Both Tagoe and Lee are expected to make contributions on special teams this as well. Takeo Hester (5-10, 180) is the top reserve at corner and has the ability to play either the boundary or field positions. He is a physical player with good athleticism who will contribute on the special teams while gaining more experience this fall.
Published on Aug 8, 2011