USFL Special Teams Standouts and Slip-ups; A Week 9 Review
As we approach the thrilling conclusion of the 2023 USFL Season, it's time to celebrate the Special Teams players who have truly made their mark and acknowledge those who faced challenges. The USFL Special Teams Power Rankings can still be found on Twitter, so don't forget to check them out after you're finished reading for a more generalized overview of each specialist. Without further ado, let's shine a spotlight on the Special Teams players who stood out and slipped up;
1. Nick Vogel - Kicker - HOU Gamblers | 5/5 FG /47Y Long / 6KO / 73.8Y Avg. / 3 In.35Y
While Nick Vogel has not had the season he, and many Gambler fans, were expecting thus far, his 5/5 FG performance showcased just how good he can be when he is "on". He delivered a flawless performance, going 5 for 5 on field goals, from 25 yards, 39 yards, 34 yards, 36 yards, and a long of 47 yards. This is exactly what Nick needs to help him get back on track before the season ends. Not only did he do well on field goals, but he also had a stellar time kicking off, doing so 6 times for a huge average of 73.8 yards per attempt (USFL Avg. is 68 yards). He had 1 of those kickoffs travel 80 yards for a rare touchback and had 3 of his kickoffs remain inside the 35-yard line, showing off his excellent ball placement ability. I love how Vogel plays the game of football.
2. Matt Mengel - Punter - PIT Maulers | 7 P / 39.4 Avg. / 3 In.20Y / 1 50+ / 1 FC
Matt Mengel had an outstanding performance in Week 9, punting 7 times for an average of roughly 40 yards per punt. While this was Mengels "worst" week in terms of gross punt average, he had, what I would consider, one of his best weeks when you look at the surrounding statistics. His 1 punt over 50 yards was an 83-yard punt that travelled from the PIT 12 to the MICH 5. This is now the record for the longest punt in the 2023 USFL Season! Additionally, he had 3 punts remaining inside the 20-yard line and forced 1 fair catch with the huge hang time his punts have. Following his huge punt, he took part in the USFL's first-ever Punter Interview where he can be quoted saying; "That one I knew was gonna be a bomb, for sure" - Matt Mengel
3.1 Jerry Elder - Punt Returner - NO Breakers | 1 PR / 45 Yards
3.2 Corey Coleman - Punt Returner - PHI Stars | 1 PR / 41 Yards
Both Jerry Elder and Corey Coleman showed off their electrifying skills as punt returners in Week 9. Elder, the Breakers starting safety, showed off his athleticism with a huge 45-yard return, hurdling the Memphis Showboats Punter Brandon Wright. Coleman, the USFL Receiving Yards League Leader, turned on the jets and ran sideline-to-sideline on his 41-yard return. These two players provided their respective teams with crucial field position advantages, making them standout performers in the USFL.
Brandon Aubrey - Kicker - BHAM Stallions | 1/1 FG / 5/5 PAT / 7KO / 4 In.35Y / 2 TB Alex Kessman - Kicker - MEM Showboats | 1/1 FG / 50Y Long / Now 4/4 on FG >50Y
Matt Coghlin - Kicker - NO Breakers | 1/1 FG / 43Y Long / 4/4 PAT / 6 KO / 4 In.35Y / 1 TB Luis Aguilar - Kicker - PHI Stars | 4/4 FG / 46Y Long / 3/3 PAT
Chris Blewitt - Kicker - PIT Maulers | 4/4 FG / 46Y Long / 1/1 PAT / 5KO / 2 In.35Y
Hunter Niswander - Punter - HOU Gamblers | 3 P / 53 Avg. / 43.3 Net Avg. / 1 In.20Y / 2 50+
Matt White - Punter - NO Breakers | 5 P / 50 Avg. / 40 Net Avg. / 2 In.20Y / 1 In.10Y / 3 50+
Terry Wright - Kickoff Returner - PHI Stars | 7 KOR / 32.1Y Avg. / 2 Ret. >30Y
CJ Marable - Kickoff Returner BHAM Stallions - 4 KOR / 30Y Avg. / 3 Ret/ >30Y
Cam Echols-Luper - Kickoff Returner - NJ Generals | 4 KOR / 36.3Y Avg. / 85Y Long
Marcus Simms - Kickoff Returner - MICH Panthers | 2 KOR / 38Y Avg. / 2 Ret. >30Y
Josh Simmons - Kickoff Returner - PIT Maulers | 2 KOR / 40.5Y Avg. / 65Y Long
KO Coverage Unit - BHAM Stallions | 5 KO / 19.2 Avg. Yds Alwd.
1. Coverage Team - NJ Generals | 1 P / 41 Yds Alwd. / 7 KO / 32.1 Avg. Yds Alwd. / 1 Pen.
The New Jersey Generals had a disappointing performance in Week 9, allowing the aforementioned 41-yard punt from the PHI Stars Corey Coleman. On top of that, their kickoff coverage allowed an average of over 32 yards per return, which handed their opponents a favourable field position which contributed to the Stars winning. Something needs to change, as over the last 2 weeks, the KO Coverage team has allowed 347 yards on 11 returns, an abysmal average of 31.5 average yards allowed (League average of 26 Yards).
2. Cam Echols-Luper - Punt Returner - NJ Generals | 1 PR / 1 PRet. Yard
This is the second time that Cam Echols-Luper had made my list for not calling for a fair catch when it might've been the best outcome possible. Cam has not shown that he can effectively return punts and his inability to generate significant yardage has hindered his team's field position all year. He has only averaged 3.6 yards on 9 punt returns and has not had a return longer than 14 yards. I would expect the Generals to look elsewhere for a punt return in Week 10.
3. Nick Sciba - Kicker - NJ Generals | 4/5 PAT / 7 KO / 1 In.35Y
Well, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel here, and it might seem like I'm picking on the Generals but hear me out. We truthfully were treated to an abundance of great Special Team performances in Week 9. Sciba has been an incredibly consistent kicker for the Generals but has struggled over the last 2 weeks. In Week 8, he missed his first field goal of 2023, though it was a 50+ yarder. This week, he missed his first PAT of the 2023 season, from 32 yards out. He also kicked off 7 times and only had 1 of those kicks remain inside the 35-yard line, which is lower than I'd like to see. I am rooting for Sciba to return to form and remain perfect through the last week of the USFL Season.
Vinny Papale - Kickoff Returner - MEM Showboats | 1 KOR / 3 KOR Yard
Coverage Team - PHI Stars | 6 KO / 32.2 Avg. Yds Alwd. / 1 Pen.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work.
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