Nick Pollard (Franklin, Tenn.) led the way, earning Southern Conference All-Freshman honors as a placekicker. Senior Joel Bradford parlayed his rugby-style punting into a SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week award and freshman Chaz Moore (Memphis, Tenn.) finished the year ranked in the top-20 in the nation for kick return yardage.
"I don't know if people realize how good of a year Nick had," stated head coach Russ Huesman. "He was one of the better kickers in the league. We didn't kick a lot of field goals and he missed a couple early, but we made some corrections and he was automatic as the year went on."
Pollard (6-0, 180) finished the season 10-14 on field goals and 31-33 on PATs. His 61 points smashed the UTC freshman scoring record of 49 set by Rodney Allen in 1989. His 31 PATs were also a Mocs rookie record while his 10 field goals were second all-time among UTC freshman.
After starting the season 2-6, Pollard made his last eight field goals. He finished a perfect 9-9 from inside 30 yards and has made 14-straight PATs. He was third in the SoCon in both FG% (71.4%) and field goals made (10).
"His kickoffs were just as solid," added Huesman. "He put them where we wanted them. I hope our fans understand how good of a job he did for us last year, and I expect that same kind of effort."
Pollard also appears to be the heir-apparent to the rugby-style punting duties Bradford perfected last season. Bradford took over punting for the last four weeks, averaging 39.1 yards on 29 kicks. He used a rugby style to get the ball on the ground quickly, making it hard to field. It resulted in two turnovers, while the athletic Bradford converted two fake punts. He was named the SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week after hitting three punts more than 50 yards with four inside the 20 at Samford.
Pollard posted good numbers in the Spring Game on March 31. He averaged 41.3 yards on seven punts. That included two that were over 50 yards and two that were downed inside the 20.
"We worked Pollard with the rugby punts all spring and he did a really good job," continued Huesman. "He has a knack to do it and as of right now, if we had to play a game he would go in there and do our punting. As far as a backup, we've got to find one. We really haven't found one yet, but we will see what happens there."
The kick and punt return jobs are still up in the air, but Moore (5-10, 165) is definitely one of the front runners for the position. He ranked 19th in the nation with a 26.0-yard average on kickoff returns last year and fans should expect to see him back in that same role in 2012.
The Mocs have a number of guys vying for the other deep spot on the kick return team. Chris Awuah (Marietta, Ga.), Marquis Green (Palmetto, Fla.), Tommy Hudson (Moultrie, Ga.), J.J. Jackson (Marietta, Ga.) and Ron Moore (Sanford, Fla.) have all returned kicks during their careers and could fill the position. This same group is also competing to replace Bradford as the punt returner.
"We will have a bunch of candidates for both jobs," said Huesman. "Chaz did a nice job for us last year and he will be back there again. The rest of it is still up for grabs."
UTC will have to replace three-year starter Brock Oliver at long snapper. Oliver played in 42 games in his career, including each game in each of the last three years. His backup, Blake Coddington (Chattanooga, Tenn.) is entering his fourth year in the program in 2012 and should be able to step in and handle the duties. He came off the bench in three games as a sophomore in 2011.
"The long snapper will be Blake Coddington (6-3, 210)," added Huesman. "I feel like we are not taking a step back at all. He has a lot of ability and he will be fine doing it."