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Thursday, February 28, 2013
Position breakdown: Special teams

By Sam Khan Jr.

While there was one area where inconsistency reigned, special teams overall were solid for Texas A&M in 2012.

The kick and punt coverage units were good, and the Aggies were solid in the return game, particularly on punt returns. Punting was an area where the Aggies were solid as well.

The 2013 season brings a new special teams coordinator, Jeff Banks. Formerly at UTEP, Banks is a former college punter himself, so diagnosing the punting and kicking game comes naturally.

Taylor Bertolet
Texas A&M needs kicker Taylor Bertolet to return to his high school All-America form.
Place-kicker Taylor Bertolet, who handled field goals and kickoffs last year, is back.

His redshirt freshman season brought inconsistency. Bertolet, who was an Under Armour All-American coming out of high school, showed his strong leg by connecting on a 54-yard field goal and hitting 3-of-4 kicks from 50 yards or deeper.

But between 30-49 yards out, Bertolet struggled. He went just 2-of-9 from that distance while going 11-of-13 from all other distances. Overall he went 13-for-22 for the season (59.1 percent). He also missed seven point after touchdown kick attempts, hitting 67-of-74 extra points.

Those are areas where the Aggies will need to see improvement this season. There are four other place-kickers on the roster from last season: sophomores Davis Plowman, Seth Hiddink, Seth Wicks and junior Josh Lambo.

At punter, the Aggies will have to replace Ryan Epperson, who has graduated. Drew Kaser, who competed with Epperson during fall training camp last season for the starting job, figures to be the favorite to win the job this year.

The Aggies will also bring in a pair of preferred walk-ons in the fall: Allen (Texas) High School's Shane Tripucka, an Under Armour All-American, will be a punter at Texas A&M, while Dallas Jesuit's Cody Wicker will be a place-kicker. So each will add to the competition at their respective positions.

In the return game Trey Williams returns after handling the kickoff return duties a season ago. The running back did not break a touchdown but did have a long return of 76 yards. He averaged 22.3 yards per return on 25 returns last season. Don't rule out Brandon Williams -- the transfer running back from Oklahoma -- as a possibility. He got work during spring and fall on kick returns, so he could be an option as well. Brandon Williams had to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Sabian Holmes was another player who got consideration last fall for kick return duties.

The punt return job will be open after Dustin Harris' graduation. This job will be wide open going into spring and likely won't be determined until the fall. Several incoming recruits could be factors, perhaps someone like ESPN 150 receiver Sebastian LaRue. On campus, someone like junior LeKendrick Williams, who returned a kickoff for 54 yards last season and is known for his speed [he's nicknamed "Beep Beep"], would be worth keeping an eye on.