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Wisconsin football: special teams 2019 review and 2020 preview

There is actually a lot to talk about for special teams!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Central Michigan at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the next week or so, we here at B5Q are going to run through every position group on the Wisconsin Badgers football team and give you a recap of how they did in the 2019 season. In the same damn post we are also going to give you a preview of what we think 2020 is going to look like! Without further ado, here is your review/preview of the Wisconsin special teams.

2019 statistical leaders

  • Anthony Lotti - 45 punts, 1,788 yards (39.73 avg.), long of 59 yards, three touchbacks, 17 punts inside the 20
  • Collin Larsh - 12-of-18 (66.7%) on field goals, long of 44 yards, 53-of-54 on extra points
  • Zach Hintze - 89 kickoffs, 5,643 yards (63.4 avg.), 69 touchbacks (NICE!)
  • Jack Dunn - 24 punt returns, 200 yards (8.3 avg.), long of 41 yards
  • Aron Cruickshank - 23 kick returns, 674 yards (29.3 avg.), long of 95 yards, two touchdowns

2020 returning statistical leaders

  • Lotti and Connor Allen (three punts) graduated and they did all the punting in 2019, so there’ll be somebody new!
  • Larsh is returning.
  • Hintze graduated and did all the kicking off in 2019, so there’ll be somebody new!
  • Dunn is returning.
  • Nakia Watson - two kick returns, 28 yards (14 avg.), long of 28

2019 special teams overview

The special teams unit for the Badgers this past season was a real mixed bag. The kickoff specialist, Zach Hintze, was amazing and rarely gave the opposition a chance to return a kick which was extra nice when the Wisconsin kick returner, in this case Aron Cruickshank, decided he was going to start making house calls.

Both of Cruickshank’s touchdowns came after the other team had marched down the field and scored on their own opening drive. He had a real penchant for taking the wind out of sails. He was No. 8 in the nation in yards gained per kickoff return and tied for No. 2 in the nation with those two TDs. Since he’s only a sophomore this posit...what’s that? No, that can’t be right.

Folks, we are getting word that Cruickshank has entered the TRANSFER PORTAL and will be exploring his other options. While this is a bummer for Wisconsin’s return unit we hope that Cruickshank finds a school that might feature him more in the base offense.

The punting game in 2019 wasn’t great. Anthony Lotti had consistency issues and then, in the last two games of the season, he just started dropping the football when it was snapped to him. It was pretty wild tbqh. He actually got benched in the Rose Bowl in favor of Connor Allen.

The place kicking game also wasn’t that great in 2019. Hintze did make a 62-yard field goal against Purdue which was pretty awesome. Collin Larsh will be back in 2020 but will undoubtedly face a competition in camp.

I don’t know nearly enough about special teams coverage units to talk about them to a dog, let alone you smart people, but I do know that the Badgers blocked a punt against Ohio State and forced a safety on a punt against Central Michigan and both of those things are good.

2020 special teams preview

Wisconsin’s special teams needs to improve more for them to ever truly compete for conference titles. There shouldn’t be a sense of impending doom every time the place kicker trots on to the field to attempt a field goal or the punter saunters on and takes his position and all you can see is the ball going right through his chest and out of the end zone for a safety.

You should hopefully NOT be thinking these things!

There will be a new punter in 2020, this is for certain. Will there be a new kicker in 2020? If there is, it might be the same guy who is the new punter! There will be a new kickoff specialist and there will be a new kick returner (unless Cruickshank doesn’t like what he sees in the transfer portal and decides to come back to Madison, but that seems unlikely) as well.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dunn (pictured above) will still be fielding punts for another year because there is apparently no one else in the entire state who is willing to do it.

Name to watch for 2020

I think that redshirt freshman P/K Blake Wilcox is going to make us all forget about our special teams kicking woes. Dude has a huge leg and I think he’ll win the punting job easily and maybe even contribute on kickoffs too.

2020 spring depth chart projection (2020 eligibility)

  • Kicker - Collin Larsh (RS junior)
  • Punter - Blake Wilcox (RS freshman)
  • Kickoff specialist - Wilcox
  • Kick returner - Isaac Guerendo (RS sophomore)
  • Punt returner - Jack Dunn (RS senior)
  • Long snapper - Adam Bay (senior) ((he’s really good, we don’t need to talk about him))