Special teams is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Heck the No Fun League has considered going as far as removing kickoffs from the game. But here at Hustle Belt we love our special teams play. Part of what makes #MACtion so exciting is watching someone break off a 95-yard kickoff return, or a punter pin the opposing team inside the 10-yard line. Named after former Ohio and current Arizona Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil this award will be given to the best special teams player in the MAC at the end of the season. Here's a look at the early favorites:
1. Dri Archer (Kent State) — A First Team All-American as a kickoff returner in 2012, Archer was easily the most dangerous return man in the nation. Teams were so fearful of Archer's abilities to punish them that they quit kicking to him all together. Now expected to take an even bigger role in special teams (he'll return punts as well) his opportunities will have to go up. That means more highlights like this one
2. Bernard Reedy (Toledo) — In 2012 Reedy led the MAC in special teams yardage, and for good reason. Though not as fast as Archer, he's an incredibly dangerous return man in his own right. Reedy gets more touches than Archer, which helps pad his stats in comparison, but he's still a phenomenal return specialist. He totaled four special teams touchdowns, but may need a few more in 2013 to leap frog Archer.
3. Jeremiah Detmer (Toledo) — That's right, this award isn't just for return men, kickers and punters are eligible too. After all, it is named after a punter. Detmer finished fourth in the nation in 2012 with 24 field goals made, converting nearly 83 percent of all kicks he attempted. Detmer is equally as valuable to the Rockets' special teams as Reedy is, averaging just shy of 9 points-per-game in 2012. He'll need to nail some game-deciding kicks to take home this award. He's proven he has the poise, and the leg to do so.
4. Tommylee Lewis (Northern Illinois) — Lewis has been an excellent kick returner in his two seasons at Northern Illinois and in 2012 finished fourth in the conference in kick return average. He possess excellent speed, and has three kickoff return TD's in his career. But, he'll need to become a bigger factor in the punt return game to take home this hardware.
5. Jamill Smith (Ball State) — This is a tough one. There are plenty of players who deserve to make this preseason watch list (and in due time certainly some of them will move up and make the list) but for now Smith pulls up the five spot. The former walk-on has proven himself a dangerous return man, despite not having a single special teams touchdown to his name. Smith will need to keep up his yardage, and finally score a touchdown if he wants to move up this list.
Who do you think will win this award? Will we see a surprise candidate emerge this year? Who will have a down year? Can a non-return man actually win this award? Share your thoughts below.