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Friday, September 17, 2021

Football

UH football 2020 season grades: Special teams


Junior Marcus Jones finds some green grass on a return against Tulane | Courtesy of UH athletics

UH junior cornerback Marcus Jones finds some green grass on a return against Tulane. | Courtesy of UH athletics

After looking back on every position group on the Houston offense and defense and how they performed in 2020, the attention turns to the brightest spot for the Cougars: special teams.

While the UH football team struggled with consistency for much of the season, its third facet of the game was relatively a constant.

Marcus Jones shines

After transferring to UH from Troy, junior cornerback Marcus Jones not only made his name known to Cougars fans but to college football fans across the nation.

The 5-foot-8-inch Enterprise, Alabama, native not only set the American Athletic Conference single-season record for most punt return yards with 337, but also led the FBS in total punt return yards and average yards per punt return.

Jones’ biggest play of the year was a 72-yard punt return against USF, which set the record for longest punt return in TDECU Stadium history.

While Jones’ numbers are already impressive enough, what makes them stand out even more was that he accomplished all this in only seven games.

With Jones returning to UH for 2021 for a season that will hopefully resemble football before the COVID-19 pandemic, another huge year in the return game should be in store for No. 8.

Consistency in the kicking game

While punting for 1,538 yards in eight games is not a good sign for the Cougars’ offense, Laine Wilkins executed his job to perfection throughout the 2020 season.

The freshman from Perth, Australia, averaged 41.7 yards per punt, including a long of 62 yards.

Wilkins also did a solid job of pinning opponents deep in their own territory, with 18 punts landing inside the oppositions 20-yard line.

When the UH offense did find the end zone or at least get in field goal range, senior Dalton Witherspoon was reliable in the kicking game.

Witherspoon connected on all 20 points after touchdown attempts on the season and also made eight of his 10 field goal attempts, including a career-long, 53-yard kick against Navy to tie the school record for longest kick in program history

Performance review

In a 3-5 season that was filled with many struggles on both sides of the ball, the 2020 UH football special teams unit was one of the highlights of the season and the sole spot deserving of high grades.

Even in a shortened season, records were set and the Cougars‘ special teams did their jobs when called upon. With many returners for the 2021 season, most notably Jones and Wilkins, UH’s special teams should continue to be a bright spot for the Cougars.

Overall Grade: A

For more of The Cougar’s 2020 UH football offseason grades, click here

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