Moving on to 2013, Stephenson is gone, place kicking is still a big question mark, and the status of the returns department is status quo.
Stephenson had a special season for BYU last year. His ability to turn field position in BYU's favor certainly played a role in the outcome of games. The Ray Guy Semifinalist's career is done, and nobody knows what to expect from his successor. In fact, few people even know who that successor will be. Scott Arellano and Jordan Miller are the only two punters currently on the roster, and Arellano appears to have won the job.
Under Bronco Mendenhall, BYU has changed punters three times (2005, 2007, 2009). The new punter has averaged 40.0, 39.7, and 41.0 yards per punt, respectively. At this point, there is reason to be confident that punting will be solid this season.
The level of confidence in place kicking is the opposite. Justin Sorensen came to BYU in 2008 with more hype than any place kicker in memory. He was a high school All-American after kicking field goals longer than 60 yards. Now, going into his senior campaign, he has yet to kick a field goal longer than 46 yards.
Ever since suffering a bone spur in his back at an unknown time during the 2011 season, Sorensen's kicking has been erratic. He played last season despite not working out all offseason trying to recover. The lack of training from January to August showed as he finished 2012 just 6-12 on field goals with his longest being 35 yards, and missed three point after touchdown attempts (he was perfect in 2011).
BYU brought in two competitors this year, Vance Bingham (Freshman) and Trevor Samson (Junior College Transfer). Sorensen claims to feel much better this season, and appears to have held on to his job--for the time being.
After Cody Hoffman set the school record for most kickoff return yards in a single season in 2011, the coaches removed him from the return team in 2012. It cost the Cougars dearly. Hoffman's electric returns helped give BYU momentum several times in the 2011 season. Without him returning kicks last year, it took until game nine at Georgia Tech for kick returns to have a positive impact for BYU.
JD Falslev took his first three kickoff returns over 40 yards giving BYU outstanding field position and helping the offense put up 41 points and blow out the Yellow Jackets. Falslev looks to be the return man again this season now that Jordan Johnson is out for the year with a knee injury. While Falslev is sure-handed and reliable, his speed limits what he can do. Reaching mid-field is probably all that can be expected.
Falslev will return punts again this season. He has been handling those duties since his freshman season in 2010. This is more his strength than kickoffs. Falslev had one punt return touchdown to his credit already. He can be counted on to make at least two or three game changing punt returns during a season.
While the special teams have helped carry the Cougars in the past, the offense and defense might have to bear more of a burden this season. Field position probably won't be so favorable. The offense will need to finish drives with touchdowns, rather than settle on an iffy field goal attempt.
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