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Friday, May 27, 2022

Football

UH football 2021 season grades: Special teams


UH football Senior cornerback Marcus Jones was the only player in the nation to have multiple touchdowns from both punt and kickoff returns. | James Schillinger/The Cougar

Senior cornerback Marcus Jones was the only player in the nation to have multiple touchdowns from both punt and kickoff returns. | James Schillinger/The Cougar

We wrap up our 2021 UH football season grades by looking at how UH football’s special teams performed over the course of the season.

Field goal trouble

By far one of the most important positions amongst the special teams unit is the kicker, given that the position is meant to convert points for the team whether it is through a point-after attempt or a field goal.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, this was one of the few positions lacking in 2021.

Senior kicker Dalton Witherspoon was the go-to kicker for UH, while he was nearly flawless during his extra-point attempts, he had trouble converting during field goal attempts as he made just 66.7 percent (16-24) of his field goals. This was good for just 90th in the nation for field goal percentage.

Witherspoon had a stretch of games where his position as the starting kicker began to be called into question and the UH football team found themselves going for it on fourth downs rather than kicking it more often than not.

Explosive return game

The most impressive part of UH football’s special teams unit was the return game headlined week-after-week with senior cornerback Marcus Jones’ renowned kick returns. Jones’ most noted move came against SMU where he took back a kickoff in the final seconds of the game to give UH the lead.

Jones ranked first in the nation in punt return touchdowns and second in the nation in kickoff returns for touchdowns. He was the only player in the country with multiple touchdowns in both return categories with two in each.

Jones led the nation in yards per kickoff return, averaging 34 yards per return and he ranked fourth in yards per punt return at 14.4 yards per return.

The Cougars return game was electrified under Jones, his efforts earned him the honor of being named the 2021 Paul Hornung Award winner for being the most versatile player in college football as well as the American Athletic Conference special teams player of the year.

Performance grade

The kicking portion of the Cougars special teams unit could have been better, the unreliability often put the team in difficult situations where they chose to go for it on fourth down rather than kick.

UH football also had a solid performance in the punting category, averaging 40 yards per kick and pinning teams back on a regular basis.

The return game makes up the bulk of this grade, when Jones was able to set the offense up with better field position or even scoring all on his own often shifted the momentum of the games.

The Cougars’ return success gives the special teams grade a solid bump.

Season Grade: B+

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