Let's take a look at the good, the bad, and the future of Cougar special teams.
Position Coach: Tony Levine is the special teams coordinator, and will be entering his fourth year at that position next year. He also coaches the inside wide receivers and tight ends.
Key Figures in 2010: Matt Hogan (Sophomore kicker, 14-17 FG), Richie Leone (Freshman punter, 41.4 yard punt average), Tyron Carrier (Junior kick returner, 23.5 yard average, TD), Patrick Edwards (Junior punt returner, 15.4 yard average, TD), Wesley Scourten (Senior kick blocker, 5 blocked kicks)
How It Went Down: While the 2010 season didn't match the quality of special teams highlights of 2009 - the "was it intentional?" onside kick at Oklahoma State, the Matt Hogan 51-yard game-winner at Tulsa, Tyron Carrier's four kick return touchdowns - the unit still had its moments.
Hogan was the firmly entrenched starting kicker, after winning the job over Ben Bell and Jordan Mannisto in 2009, despite being the only member of the trio (at the time) without a scholarship. While he didn't boot any miraculous walk-off winners, or even match his spotless 12-for-12 freshman field goal record, he was a perfect 13-for-13 inside of 40 yards.
Leone replaced the graduated Chase Turner, and didn't miss a beat. His overall punt average was a hair over a yard less than Turner's '09 mark, but he hung up three more kicks for fair catches (over a third of his total punts), and pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line 12 times, with only two touchbacks. He also won the job on kickoffs, booming seven touchbacks against just one kick out of bounds.
The return game shone through on occasion as well, with a trio of returns for scores. Edwards returned a punt 74 yards for a score against Memphis, Carrier took a kickoff 91 yards to the house to help cement a win over SMU, and also returned a blocked kick 90 yards for a score against Southern Miss.
The lasting legacy of the 2010 Cougar special teams unit will be that while it wasn't spectacular, it consistently did its job. They scored on returns, and didn't allow any returns for scores. Hogan missed just three field goals, while Scourten blocked five kicks. Can you really ask much more of your special teams than that?
You could argue that no position consistently did its job better than the special teams in 2010. And I wouldn't disagree with you.
2010 Position Highlight: Carrier's kick return against SMU (starting at the 1:17 mark in this video). The Cougars had taken a 14-point lead into the half, but SMU struck first in the second half, cutting the deficit to seven. Carrier took the ensuing kick all the way back, sucking the life out of the Mustang comeback attempt. Houston would go on to win, 45-20.
The Future: The future looks bright. Both of the guys who put their foot to the ball were underclassmen this year, and both returners have another year of eligibility left. One thing to keep an eye on in 2011 will be Carrier's race for an NCAA record. His kick return score brought his career total to six, leaving him just one shy of C.J. Spiller's career record.
Life after Carrier might not be so bad, either. If there is anything UH has consistently done in recruiting, it is target speed. Current sophomore Isaiah Sweeney got a couple looks in garbage time this year, and one could imagine current verbal commitment C.J. McElroy, a diminutive speedster, becoming Carrier 2.0.