Five To Watch: Special Teams Print E-mail
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Wednesday, August 13 2008
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Ball State All-American Punter Chris Miller
We wrap-up our series of reports focusing on five players to watch in the Mid-American Conference with a look at five special teams performers who could be difference makers this season.


1) Chris Miller, P, Ball State
Miller has been a consistent special teams weapon for the Ball State Cardinals since his freshman season in 2005 and has garnered more postseason and preseason honors than any other Ball State player during that time, including being named Playboy Magazine preseason All-American the past two seasons and this season finds himself again on the preseason short list of players named on the Ray Guy Award watch list.
Last season Miller ranked third nationally averaging 45.4 yards per punt and was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. Miller not only displayed a strong leg but uncanny accuracy as well, placing better than one-third of his punts inside the opponent's twenty-yard line. With another strong season Miller could become the first MAC player to capture one of the national specialty awards, potentially adding to an already impressive list of honors and accolades.
Miller, an All-MAC first-team selection in 2005, 2006 and 2007 as well as a first-team American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-American selection in 2007, is ranked by NFL Draft Scout as the number four punter available in the 2009 NFL Draft.

2) Bryan Williams, KR, Akron
The Zips are moving Bryan Williams from running back to strong safety this season but it is not likely they will be moving him off special teams duty. He is, after all, the nation's active leading return specialist.
Williams paced the MAC in 2007 by averaging 31.9 yards per kick off return which included a 95-yard touchdown return against Ohio, earning him MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week honors on his way to being a unanimous postseason All-MAC selection. Williams had several games of over 100 return yards, including a 151 yards against Ohio, 117 yards against Kent State and 105 return yards against Connecticut. His kick return average set an Akron single season record and was the second-highest in MAC history, behind only Marshall's James Williams who averaged 32.9 yards per return in 1999.

Heading into this season, Williams was a consensus preseason first-team All-MAC pick and second-team All-American kick returner as selected by Consensus Draft Services. 

3) Antonio Brown, KR, Central Michigan
Antonio Brown made an immediate impact as a freshman not just as a receiving threat for the defending champion Chippewas, but he was also a significant factor on special teams, and in particular on kick off return duty.

 Brown racked up 1,048 yards in kick off returns in 2007, averaging 26.2 yards per return which included a 90-yard touchdown against Northern Illinois. Brown also set a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) record for all-purpose yards by a freshman, tallying 2,267 yards. His standout season earned him MAC Freshman of the Year honors in addition to being named first-team Freshman All-American as a kick returner by both the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and
Brown's all-purpose yardage total from 2007 also set a Central Michigan single-season record and ranks third all-time in Mid-American Conference history.

4) Andre Jones, PR, Akron
Senior wide receiver Andre Jones makes up the other half of Akron's special teams "dynamic duo," and, like teammate Bryan Williams, Jones topped the MAC in his area of expertise.
As a junior in 2007, Jones topped the conference by averaging 14.5 yards per return which also placed him eleventh nationally in punt return average. Jones was the only player among the official MAC statistical leaders to average double figures in punt returns in 2007 and along the way in 2007 and was named mid-season second-team All-American as a punt returner by the Sporting News.
Jones was also a key factor in one of the more talked about plays in 2007 when he scored on a kick off return after taking a lateral on the last play of the game to defeat Western Michigan, 39-38. Jones' average of 32.8 yards per kick off return would have topped the MAC but he did not have enough returns (9) to qualify statistically among the conference leaders.

5) Alex Steigerwald, PK,
When it comes to consistency, it is hard to look past the accomplishments of Toledo placekick Alex Steigerwald over the course of the past two seasons.
Steigerwald's career field-goal percentage of 95.2 percent would rank as an all-time NCAA mark if the junior placekicker had enough attempts to qualify -- needing 24 more attempts to qualify for the record. Last season Steigerwald, a second-team All-MAC selection, was perfect on thirteen field goal efforts and over the course of his career has missed one field goal, making him a gaudy 20-21 over the course of his Toledo career.
Coming into the 2008 season Steigerwald carries a streak of 14 straight successful field goal attempts with his only career miss coming from 36 yards against Ball State on November 14, 2006. The junior placekicker was also the only kicker nationally with at least ten attempts to not miss a field goal last season.

Available Now - MAC Report's 2008 MAC Football Preview e-magazine, featuring the most in-depth analysis and feature-packed preseason MAC football publication ever published. Get your copy today by clicking here.

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