Spring Preview: Special Teams
We are back with the last position of the Spring Preview. This group is often over looked but plays a critical role for the football team.
That's right! Its time to preview special teams!
There are four kickers, two long snappers, and two punters in this special teams unit. One senior, three juniors, a sophomore, and two freshmen. The tallest are Reese Burkhardt and Kyle Greenwell both standing at 6'1". The farthest from home is Matt Quinn and Wilson Beaverstock who both come from the Mobile, Alabama area. The closest to home is Xander Echols who hails from Chelsea, Alabama. This is a talented and experienced group. Lets take a look at them.
#19 Matt Quinn - 5'10" 185lbs - Redshirt Junior - K
Matt Quinn has been exactly what you would expect from a place kicker. He is consistent and trustworthy. There is not a lot of hesitation from coach Clark when the opportunity to get 3 points comes up. Matt has been the starting place kicker for the Blazers for two years. He is 22 of 28 on field goals and 80 of 82 on PAT's for his career. His longest field goal was 52 yards against Southern Miss in 2021. Matt has a career total 146 points. Barring some sort of freak injury Matt will be a solid kicker for us again. PAT's should not be a problem and anything inside of 50 yards should be fairly automatic. Look for Matt to pad his already impressive stats at UAB.
#39 Xander Echols - 6'0" 215 - Redshirt Freshman - LS
Xander is a Chelsea High School (AL) alum and will be a long snapper for UAB. Rubio Long Snapping, probably the number one rated long snapping coach, rated Xander as a 5 star long snapper. Although he is waiting his turn currently expect Xander to be able to step in and do his job with no problems. Xander did not play in a game last season.
#43 Reese Burkhardt - 6'1" 210lbs - Sophomore - K
Reese is considered the kickoff specialist currently for the Blazers. The Andalusia High School (AL) kicker played in all 13 games last season for the Blazers. Of his 76 kickoffs in 2021, 41 were touchbacks. Look for Reese to increase those touchback numbers in 2022. If the opponent can not return the ball than they can't hurt our kickoff team.
#44 Caden Long - 5'11" 175lbs - Redshirt Freshman - K/P
If you have been a Blazer football fan for many years than the last name Long probably resonates with you. Caden Long is the little brother of former UAB kicker and current NFL player Ty Long. Caden was rated a 5 star punter and kicker by Kohl's Professional Camp. Expect him to make an impact in the future. Caden did not play in a game last season.
#45 Cole Kizziah - 5'10" 205lbs - Redshirt Junior - LS
Remember two years ago when everyone was worried about the long snapping for the CUSA Championship game at Marshall after four-year starter Jacob Fuqua went down with an injury? Then, fresh from his apartment on a last second call up, came walk-on Cole Kizziah. He stepped in to the Championship atmosphere and hit perfect snap after perfect snap including three long field goals that helped seal the win for the Blazers. It was an impressive performance for Cole as he was called up at the last second to take on the role in such cold weather. Cole played in all 13 games for the Blazers in 2021 and was a CUSA Honorable Mention.
#97 Wilson Beaverstock - 6'0" 205lbs - Redshirt Junior - K
Wilson has been a backup for the Blazers in the kicking game for several years now. In 2020 he did handle 18 kickoffs sending 5 of those for touchbacks. Wilson was a Recipient of C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal and C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll. Wilson did not appear in a game last season.
#99 Kyle Greenwell - 6'1" 210lbs - Senior - P
Kyle Greenwell has been the starting punter for UAB since he stepped foot on campus not missing one start in his career. Kyle has punted 232 times for a total of 9,667 yards on his career. His average hovers somewhere in the range of 41 yards a kick. The longest punt of his career came against North Texas last season for 73 yards. He has placed 68 punts inside the 20 yard line for his career. When it comes to the battle of field position Kyle has been solid for the Blazers. Yes there has been a shank or two throughout his career but Kyle has helped place the Blazer defense in good positions most of the time and rarely hurts the team. Expect Kyle to continue being a solid piece of the Blazer special teams.
I was definitely able to get more information than I thought I would for special teams. The conclusion I have come to is we should have no problems when it comes to special teams this season. Kicking, punting, and snapping should be fine. What will be something to keep an eye on regarding special teams is, can they improve on punt and kickoff coverage? We have been great at times but have given up big plays. Also, who will be returning kicks this year? For kickoffs I believe we still go with Starling Thomas V and Jermaine Brown although there are plenty of other options. On punts expect us to continue to go with Starling. While we did not do anything spectacular in the return game last year we also did not lose a game because of it. That still does not satisfy my want to see Starling make a spectacular return that we all know he is capable of. So in conclusion we have yet another deep and experienced position group which seems to be a theme with the 2022 Blazer football team.