Calling this season’s special teams unit an adventure is quite the understatement. This unit lacked consistency much of the season, particularly at the kicker position, which showed in their performances.
At kicker, Nebraska had six different players attempt a kick this season, which is five too many. The season started with an injury to returning starter sophomore Barret Pickering that held him out of the first seven games.
The team then turned to backup Dylan Jorgensen for the season opener, where he hit all his extra points, but missed his lone field goal attempt. He then picked up an injury, forcing the team to turn to starting punter Isaac Armstrong at kicker for the next game and a half. In that stretch, he made six of seven extra points, but made only two of five field goal attempts, causing him to lose those responsibilities.
In his stead, sophomore safety Lane McCallum took over the kicking duties. McCallum was shaky but serviceable, connecting on 10-11 extra points, but only 2-4 field goals, including a game-winning 24-yard field goal against Northwestern. He held that position until Pickering returned against Indiana.
Pickering held the starting job position for three games until he was injured once again and missed the last two games of the season. This time, head coach Scott Frost turned to an ex-club soccer player in sophomore Matt Waldoch. He was perfect in the final two games, making all nine extra point attempts and all four field goals. Senior walk-on Harrison Martin also had one field goal attempt, which he made.
Punting was the only constant for the Huskers, as Armstrong held those duties all year long and averaged 40.9 yards per punt, good for seventh in the Big Ten. Nebraska will need to find a replacement for him as this was his senior year. Freshman transfer William Przystup appears to be next in line although he may see competition from freshman walk-on Grant Detlefsen.
The Huskers’ return and coverage units were not the best this season, especially on kick returns and coverage. On the coverage side, the Huskers were one of only five units nationally to allow two or more touchdowns on kick returns. In average yards per kick return, the Huskers are mediocre, sitting at 65th in the country, which may hint at the fact the Huskers have a good scheme but just lack consistent execution.
For kick returns, Nebraska is 13th in the Big Ten averaging only 18.1 yards per return. This number should be higher considering the caliber of athletes on this team.
Punt coverage and return were better in both categories than their kicking counterparts. Punt coverage was especially impressive as they finished third in the Big Ten and ninth nationally in punt return average, allowing only 2.27 yards per return.
The punt return unit was not as impressive as they were middle of the pack nationally, ranking 63rd with eight yards per return, including one 76-yard punt return for a touchdown from JD Spielman in the season opener against South Alabama.
Overall, this unit has tons of room for improvement and consistency will be a big key in achieving this next season.