Dri Archer's Kickoff Return Factor

Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

Kent State's dynamic RB/WR/KR/PR/whatever has not returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the last six games. It's not from a lack of trying: teams keep kicking away from him. But how much difference has that made for the Flashes starting field position?

There is not a good place to find average starting field position off kickoffs in college football. And it's hard to look at historical numbers because this year teams started kicking from the 35-yard line, not the 30.

I did some quick digging at Kent State's starting field position since Archer's last kickoff return, which was the EMU game. In the six games since, Dri Archer had his mitts on four kickoff returns for a total of 35 yards. My recollection on those kickoffs is they were short kickoffs and he didn't have much room to run. But there is definitely something to this stat: Kent State opponents are averaging 51 yards per kickoff, lowest in the country, and with CFBStats going back to 2008, that would be the lowest during that time. Again, kicking five yards closer to a touchback makes shorter kicks the norm, but this is a full three yards shorter than they're kicking to Oregon.

Caveat: I am probably missing something here, notably touchbacks, onside kicks, penalties and the curious kickoff fair catch. What I did here was subtract a team's kickoff return average from their opponent's average kickoff and add it to the opponent's 35-yard line. Average Kickoff Starting Position (AKOSP) is the result:

# Team KO Return
Average
Opp KO
Average
AKOSP
1 Kent State 22.7 51.0 36.7
2 Kansas State 28.7 57.2 36.5
3 USC 26.6 58.5 33.1
4 San Jose State 26.1 58.2 32.9
5 Middle Tennessee 28.5 60.7 32.8
6 Oklahoma State 27.9 60.3 32.6
7 Florida State 26.3 58.7 32.6
8 Oklahoma 28.3 60.9 32.4
9 Rutgers 30.4 63.1 32.3
10 Miami of Florida 28.0 61.1 31.8
11 Hawai'i 26.0 59.2 31.8
12 Texas State 27.3 60.9 31.4
13 Utah 24.2 58.1 31.2
14 Tulsa 28.3 62.3 31.0
15 Western Kentucky 24.4 59.4 30.0
16 Florida International 24.3 59.6 29.7
17 Missouri 26.1 61.6 29.5
18 UCF 25.2 60.7 29.5
19 Purdue 23.0 58.7 29.3
20 Alabama 25.5 61.3 29.3

The median AKOSP for a team was a little behind the 26-yard line. So Kent State is starting about 10 yards better than the average.

Either my suspicion was right or my math is wrong, but this should give you an idea of how much the threat of Archer simply lining up on kickoff returns have given opponents pause.

When discussing Archer as the MAC Player of the Year, some of these numbers are already rolled into his 37.3 yards per return and three touchdowns, but for the 24 non-Archer returns that average 13.5 yards according to the books, you may as well add another 10 yards per return to No. 1's credit.

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