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Thursday, October 18, 2012
Midseason report: OU special teams

By Brandon Chatmon

Nobody cares about special teams until they cost you a game and then they become a major factor.

Fortunately for Oklahoma, that hasn’t been a issue this season, as the Sooners special teams have more than held their own.

Here’s what we’ve learned about OU’s special teams after five games of action:

Special Teams MVP: Tress Way. The senior punter has been superb, averaging 42.9 yards per punt and has put 9 of his 20 punts inside the 20-yard line. In addition, four of his punts have been 50-plus yards. His two dropped snaps resulting in blocked kicks, on a field goal attempt against UTEP and a PAT attempt against Texas, are the lone valleys of his 2012 season.

Most surprising player: While it shouldn’t be a surprise, the consistency of Michael Hunnicutt has been a terrific development. He’s only missed one kick this season. He had one PAT blocked and one field goal blocked but both of those were the result of dropped snaps/poor holds. And he was solid on kickoff duty against Texas with five touchbacks on 11 kickoffs.

Defining moment of the first five games: Very few people saw it, but Trey Millard’s block on kickoff return against Texas was a thing to behold. The Longhorns’ Kevin Vaccaro, Kenny Vaccaro’s little brother, tried to run Millard over and got flattened instead. Millard laid the wood then stood over him looking down at the carnage. There is no better example of OU’s domination of the Red River Rivalry. The play also is an example of the type of dominant player Millard is on OU’s special teams.

Most concerning moment of the first five games: The blocked punt against UTEP. A miscommunication led to an easy touchdown for the Miners. It’s the type of momentum-changing play that can cost games. Fortunately for the Sooners, they haven’t seen a repeat of that play.

Player to watch the rest of the season: Jalen Saunders. The Sooners' brand new toy is terrific in the open field and has experience as a kickoff and punt returner. He could bring some excitement to the Sooners return teams if they elect to use him.

Unsung hero: Millard. He does so many things that his special teams contributions get overlooked, but he could easily be considered the MVP of OU’s special team units. On coverage teams, return teams, you name it, Millard excels.