With spring ball having come and gone, we've been updating our Big 12 position group rankings over the past two weeks.
We conclude the series with a look at special teams. On Friday, we'll recap the rankings.
1. Oklahoma State (3): Senior kicker Ben Grogan should end up breaking Oklahoma State’s career records for points scored and PATs this year. Punter Zach Sinor had an impressive year for a freshman, as did returner Jalen McCleskey. Kickoff specialist Matt Ammendola impressed in the spring game. All in all, the Cowboys are in good shape.
2. Kansas State (1): Even with elite returner Morgan Burns gone, you know special teams will remain a strength for the Wildcats. Dominique Heath will only keep getting better as their speedy punt returner, and kicker Matthew McCrane and punter Nick Walsh are proven guys who were both honorable mention All-Big 12 picks last fall.
3. Oklahoma (2): The Sooners lost a valuable special teams weapon when former All-America kick returner Alex Ross transferred to Missouri following spring ball. John Humphrey could’ve been a solution to return punts, but he transferred to Arizona State. OU does still have a second-team All-Big 12 kicker/punter in Austin Seibert to rely upon, and Joe Mixon can return kicks.
4. TCU (4): This No. 4 spot might be a little high for the Horned Frogs since they’re breaking in a new placekicker (Jonathan Song) and a new punter (Adam Nunez). But they get a few bonus points for possessing KaVontae Turpin. He’s the best returner in the Big 12 and can get even better as a sophomore.
5. Iowa State (6): Kicker Cole Netten can be one of the conference’s better kickers if he can stay consistent, and kickoff man Chris Francis pushed him this spring. Big receiver Allen Lazard averaged nearly 20 yards per punt return last year, and Trever Ryen has proven to be reliable in a return role as well.
6. Baylor (7): Kicker Chris Callahan has had many ups and downs and needs to be more consistent, but Baylor can turn to punter Drew Galitz for long-distance field goals as well. He had a solid year as a true freshman punter and will take on kickoffs as well. Lynx Hawthorne is a quality punt returner, and the Bears have all sorts of options for kick returners.
7. West Virginia (5): WVU moves down this list after former Groza Award finalist kicker Josh Lambert received a three-game suspension from the Big 12. The fact Lambert missed the spring, too, meant junior Mike Molina is currently handling the punting, kicking and kickoff duties. The Mountaineers do still have a few talented returners.
8. Texas Tech (8): Kicker Clayton Hatfield and punter Michael Barden are both sophomores but should be solid this season. Nobody can replace Jakeem Grant, but Cameron Batson and a few others will try. Tech did add one of the nation’s top special-teams coaches, Joe Robinson, to make sure this unit keeps improving.
9. Texas (9): Texas does have Aussie punter Michael Dickson, a sophomore with a big leg. Texas does not have a placekicker, nor did one emerge this spring. So some unproven newcomer will probably take on those duties. Speedy sophomore Ryan Newsome will be the Longhorns’ new return man and was prolific in that role as a high schooler.
10. Kansas (10): The Jayhawks bring every contributor back from a special teams unit that wasn’t too successful in 2015. David Beaty’s decision to hire veteran Big 12 assistant Joe DeForest as his special-teams coach should help, but KU must improve in pretty much every aspect of the game’s third phase.