We are now less than one week away before Ole Miss kicks off their season and we have arrived at our last positional breakdown of the 2017 Ole Miss Rebels. The Rebels bring back one of the best kickers in College Football, however, there is still room for improvement for the unit as a whole. The exit of Carlos Davis has new playmakers competing for playing time at kick and punt returner. There are several questions to be answered so here is our Ole Miss special teams breakdown.
Ole Miss Special Teams Breakdown
As previously stated, Ole Miss has a legitimate scoring threat in senior kicker, Gary Wunderlich. A native of Memphis, Wunderlich was rated by Rivals as the top high school kicker in the class of 2014. He has done nothing but live up to and even exceed his lofty expectations and has improved every season. In 2014, his freshman season, Wunderlich hit six out of eight attempts after securing the starting spot midway through the season. During his sophomore campaign, he went an impressive 19 of 25. Last season, Wunderlich elevated his game to the next level and hit 22 of 23 attempts including a clutch game winner in Ole Miss’s upset of Texas A&M. It is also important to note that he has only missed two PAT’s throughout his career. Wunderlich will be in the thick of the conversation of being the best kicker in College Football in 2017.
The punting job for Ole Miss will be split between Wunderlich and Will Gleeson. Gleeson, an Australian, will be used in rugby-style punting situations. He punted the ball 28 times in 2016 and averaged 44.1 yards per punt. Wunderlich is a more traditional end to end punter and has a huge leg. He punted the ball 21 times in 2016 and averaged 43.7 yards per punt. While Wunderlich and Gleeson are two different types of punters, they are both very good at what they do. Ole Miss will be solid kicking the ball in both place kicking and punting.
For the past two seasons, Carlos Davis was the return specialist for Ole Miss at both kick and punt return. During his career he had 40 kick returns and 19 punt returns. Unfortunately for the Rebels, Davis graduated after last season. This has created an open competition in spring and fall camp for the return duties and whoever wins the job will be inexperienced. Throughout fall camp, Matt Luke has been impressed with true freshman DD Bowie and sophomore Jaylon Jones at both kick and punt returner. The pair of defensive backs have gotten almost all of the reps there during fall camp. AJ Brown has seen some time handling punt returns as well but is safe to assume that Bowie and Jones will be the return men when the Rebels kick off against South Alabama.
In regards to the kicking game, the Rebels will be solid. Wunderlich is a very impressive kicker with a huge leg that proved he could make a game-winning kick in crunch time last season. Gleeson and Wunderlich both excell in their respective punting styles but expect them not to see the field a whole lot at punter as the Rebels should have one of the more explosive offenses in the country. The return game, however, is an unknown. Bowie and Jones have no experience returning kicks at the college level. If they can keep away from turnovers and occasionally help field position, they should be fine. Overall, special teams could be a real strength for Ole Miss in 2017.