2011 BC football breakdown, Part XXIV: Punt returner and kick returner


The last positions on the on-field team to evaluate for the 2011 preseason are punt returner and kick returner. We’re going to see somebody new at at least one of these spots this year, as DeLeon Gause and Chris Fox, the two returners from 2010, have graduated. We’ve already seen what a depth chart looks like without Gause, however, as he suffered an injury late last season which shook things up, and it introduces nobody new on this Eagles roster.

On last year’s late-season depth chart, running back Montel Harris was the top punt returner and wide receiver Bobby Swigert was number two. Harris fielded the most punts for returns last season with nine, while Gause managed eight and Swigert returned six. Not surprisingly, Montel ended up with the longest punt return of the season – for twenty-six yards. It’s kind of disappointing to say that the best offensive player on the team only advanced his best punt return 26 yards, and furthermore than Boston College scored a whopping zero special teams touchdowns on the 2010 season. That’s right: the Eagles took no punt or kickoff returns to the house. Furthermore, the Eagles were ranked 104th in FBS in punt return average and 118th (out of 120, by the way) in kickoff return average.

Those stats highlight how disappointing BC’s return game was last season. It’s not necessarily for lack of talent on the part of the returners, mind you, but when you’re ranking that low nationally, then all eleven guys on the field are to blame.

This year, Bobby Swigert has been named both the kickoff returner and punt returner. Montel Harris was the second-string returner on punts, but with his injury, things have doubtlessly changed. Alex Amidon is the backup on kickoff returns.

Speaking of kickoff returns, late last season, running back Andre Williams was at the top of that depth chart item while wide out Alex Amidon was second. (Williams may find himself getting into the two-deep at the punt return position with Montel not available.) Recording kickoff returns last year were Chris Fox (15), DeLeon Gause (13), Williams (8), Swigert (7), Shakim Phillips (4), Amidon (4), Billy Flutie (1), Luke Kuechly (1), and Ryan Lindsey (1). Four of those guys aren’t on the team anymore, so some new guys will have to be picking up the slack. The good news is that there are plenty to choose from.

This is one area where the Eagles are going to have to get better. Hopefully, as the main kick returner, Swigert can deliver some pop and get the Eagles good field position, if not do much more. It’s one thing to not score any return touchdowns in a season, because not every team does, but it’s quite another to be coming in near the bottom of the nation in return yardage. That backs the offense up which in turn makes them have to go farther to score, and we all saw how that turned out last season. While I think BC’s offense will be better than last year, they can use all the help they can get, and if the return game looks like last year’s, they won’t be helping.

The final part of the 2011 breakdowns is tomorrow on the sidelines: the coaches.