The Bears are in the fortunate position to return a player at every position with at least one year of experience starting in his role. That is a definite luxury in a rather overlooked area of the game. To say that there won’t be any changes on special teams would be a mistake though, as we will likely see some turnover especially in the return game.
The Bears are returning their kicker and punter though. Aaron Jones returns for his junior season. Over his career, Jones has scored 208 points overall, including converting 96.8% of his extra points. While Jones was stellar during his freshman season, he had some struggles last year, especially in the middle part of the season. From September 24th through November 5th, Jones converted just 1 of his 7 kicks attempted over those 6 games. However, Jones seemed to find his rhythm to end the year as he converted 6 of his last 7 kicks.
With two more years left in Waco, Jones will likely be the all-time leading scorer in Baylor history sooner than later, as Alfred Anderson holds the record currently with 220 points. The all-time leader for kickers is just 7 points ahead of Jones (215 by Terry Syler). Jones already has the most career PAT kicks attempted and converted.
Joining Jones as the returning punter is Spencer Roth, who performed solidly for a true freshman pushed into duty. While Roth struggled early, he turned it on late as well, averaging 42 yards per punt in the Bears season ending 6-game winning streak. Before that, he was at 38.61 yards per punt. With the Bears offense being so explosive, Roth had the fewest punts in the NCAA (2.7 per game). More than likely, Roth will be asked to punt more often for the Bears, and they will need more from him in terms of yardage and hang-time.
Two roles that you never hear mentioned unless something terrible happens are the long-snapper and the kick holder. Zach Northern and Brody Trahan performed those duties admirably last season, and will return to those roles it appears. Hopefully, we don’t get to hear their names much at all, and they continue their stellar play.
The Bears also return all of the players that primarily returned kickoffs and their main punt returner, though both positions could see a new player emerge. Levi Norwood was the primary punt returner and one of the main guys used to perform kickoff returns, a position that the Bears struggled with at times.
Norwood could be best described as solid and steady as the punt returner. He did not make many mistakes, but he rarely broke any big returns either for the Bears. I thought this was the best strategy, with such an explosive offense waiting to take the field.
The kickoff returners on the other hand struggled early in the year with fumbles and rarely made any big plays. The Bears averaged just 20 yards per return on kickoffs, led by Antwan Goodley at 23.7 yards per return, which was 61st in the country. However, there could be a new and exciting face returning kicks for the Bears. Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum is an accomplished return specialist, averaging 24.8 yards per return over his career, highlighted by a 25.7 yard average in 2009. With Stonum eligible right away, he could have the inside track on improving a weak spot for the Bears last season.
Stonum could have competition from another newcomer to the squad, and someone he is competing with for reps at the inside receiver position. Corey Coleman was an accomplished returner in high school, and could be used in that role at Baylor as well.
The final option for the Bears is a name we all know pretty well, Terrance Williams. Last year, Kendall Wright returned punts for the Bears whenever the opposition was punting from deep in their own territory. This was Wright’s first opportunity to do this in college, and maybe the Bears look at using Williams in a similar way. However, Williams will have one advantage over Wright; he has done returns before for the Bears. Williams has 40 career kickoff returns (21.1 yards per return) and 12 punt returns (11.4 yards per return). With that experience, you can expect Williams to be put out there possible in high leverage situation.
Depth Chart: Post Spring
Place-Kicker – Aaron Jones 6-3, 190, Jr.
Punter – Spencer Roth 6-4, 225, So.
Long-Snapper – Zach Northern 6-1, 285, Jr.
Holder – Brody Trahan 5-11, 220, Jr.
Kick Returner –
1. Antwan Goodley – 5-10, 220, So.
2. Demitri Goodson – 5-11, 180, Sr.
3. Levi Norwood – 6-2, 190, So.
4. Darius Jones – 5-11, 185, Jr.
1. Levi Norwood – 6-2, 190, So.
2. Demitri Goodson -5-11, 180, Sr.
Other Options –
1. Daryl Stonum – 6-2, 195, Sr. *Transfer from Michigan
2. Corey Coleman – 5-10, 180, Fr.
3. Terrance Williams – 6-2, 205, Sr.