FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ bye week has arrived with the Hogs 5-3 overall and 1-3 in SEC play.
At SEC Country, we’re spending the week off assessing the performance of each position group through eight games.
Here’s our breakdown of how the Hogs have performed on special teams so far this season:
By the numbers
0: Punts for senior Toby Baker in a win over Alcorn State, the first time in his two seasons as the starter he hasn’t punted.
7: Career blocked field goals for left tackle Dan Skipper.
10: Punts for Baker in a loss at Auburn, tying the most of his career in a single game.
26: Touchbacks by Arkansas opponents while the Hogs have just 10.
45.56: The average distance for Baker’s 34 punts, which ranks ninth nationally and second in the SEC.
54: Senior kicker Adam McFain’s longest made field goal this season, the longest by an Arkansas kicker since 2013.
As expected, Baker has been sensational this season. He’s consistent and reliable in almost any situation. He was one of the heroes in the Hogs’ overtime win at TCU, booming six punts for an average of 50.7 yards. The season he’s put together makes him a contender for the Ray Guy Award and gives him a chance at getting looks from NFL teams.
McFain has suddenly given Arkansas a reliable option kicking field goals. Since taking over as the starter for Cole Hedlund against Alabama (Oct. 8), McFain has made all four of his field-goal attempts.
The biggest special teams play of the season to this point was actually made by an offensive lineman. Skipper’s blocked field goal against TCU prevented the Horned Frogs from winning in regulation in the Hogs’ overtime victory. The 6-foot-10 left tackle has blocked two field goals this season and is just two shy of the NCAA record for career blocks.
Overall grade: B+
The positives for the Hogs’ special teams are pretty clear. However, they’ve struggled with kickoffs and returns. Their inability to kick touchbacks, or kick the ball very deep at all, nearly cost them the TCU game and makes covering kickoffs a difficult task. They’ve also had penalties negate a few big returns, including one that cost punt returner Jared Cornelius a touchdown. Those shortcomings are what prevents this group for earning an A.