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2011 Nebraska Football Spring Preview: Special Teams

He's gone, and he ain't comin' back.
He's gone, and he ain't comin' back.

In the better late than never department..... 

Quick! Name the last kicker besides Alex Henery to kick a field goal for the Huskers.

Congrats if you picked Adi Kunalic. In 2007 he kicked one field goal. Unfortunately, like Alex Henery, he's gone.

You don't have to say much more about Nebraska's special teams than they're faced with replacing Alex Henery, who's handled almost all the field goal kicking the past four years.

To make bad news worse, Henery handled all of the punting duties in 2010 while Kunalic handled all of the kickoff duties.

It doesn't get all much better in the return games. Niles Paul is gone. Paul, who infuriated Husker fans at times and thrilled them others, handled 14 of 23 punt returns in 2010, 19 of 39 kick returns. If you're one of those who's glad that Paul is gone, consider that he was largely responsible for Nebraska being ranked first in punt returns in Big 12 with 12.91 average, fourth in kick returns with 22.95 average. Paul ranked 23rd nationally in punt returns with an 11.43 average. On kick returns he was 45th nationally with a 25-yard average while scoring one TD, a 100-yard return against Oklahoma State (you remember, the one that got Eric Martin suspended).

Is the cupboard bare? It sure seems that way. Redshirt freshman Jason Dann has left the team, meaning that junior punter and placeholder Brett Maher will try to duplicate Alex Henery and handle all of the placekicking, punting, and kickoff duties this spring. Given his experience as a holder, maybe he'll hold the ball while kicking it as well.

Dann's departure means that the only other punter/placekicker on the roster in senior Jon Damkroger, who has yet to kick or punt in game.

It will remain this way until fall when new recruit Mauro Bondi joins the team. One has to hope that either he's one of the best kickers in the nation right away, or that Maher has never had a chance because he's been behind one of the best kickers in the history of college football the past couple of years.

There is some good news. P.J. Mangieri, who's handled nearly all the longsnapping duties over the past two seasons, returns.

Paul's absence leaves the return game open, although junior Tim Marlowe showed some decent flashes last year in the kick return game, handling 13 for a 21.9 yard average with a long of 42 yards. He returned three punts, averaging 5.3 yards with a long of 17.

Rex Burkhead returned punts towards the end of the season, although he appeared to be more of a safe bet than a threat to break a big one. Given Burkhead's status as the only real experienced running backs, I doubt you'll see him back there again in 2011.

2010 vs 2011

Do I really need to compare these situations? I don't think so.