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SEC ranked among nation’s best in several special teams categories in 2016

Christian Kirk
Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports

No, an SEC team didn’t win the national championship. But the conference did have arguably the best some of the best special teams groups in 2016.

Now that the bowl season is over, the season’s statistics are official. And that means SEC standouts from punting to kicking to the return game earned final first-place finishes across the 128-team Football Bowl Subdivision.

At the head of the punt return class was Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk, the only player in the country to return three punts for touchdowns in 2016. Alabama safety Eddie Jackson had two in just eight games before suffering a season-ending injury.

Ole Miss kicker Gary Wunderlich led the nation by converting 95.7 percent of his field goals, nailing 22 of his 23 attempts. That also means the Rebels were second nationally as a team in field goal percentage. (Hawaii made all 13 of its field goals this season to lead the nation in field goal percentage.)

Auburn’s Daniel Carlson led FBS with 2.15 field goals per game, converting 28 attempts in the Tigers’ 13 games. His best outing came on Sept. 24, when he booted six field goals for all 18 Auburn points in an 18-13 win against LSU.

As a team, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt also made every extra point attempt this season.

Florida’s Johnny Townsend, meanwhile, finished first overall in punting with an average of 47.9 yards per punt. Alabama’s JK Scott wasn’t far behind, finishing fourth at 47.2. As a result, the Gators and Crimson Tide were third and fourth nationally as a team in punting average.

On kickoff and punt return coverage, Auburn was the best in both in the SEC. On kickoff returns, the Tigers allowed an average of just 18 yards (14th nationally) and on punt returns, they gave up only an average of 3.17 yards (8th nationally).

SEC players ranking high in the statistics weren’t limited to special teams, though. Among the other distinguished performers:

* Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham tied for second in the country with four fumble recoveries. Only Washington’s Keishawn Bierria, who recovered five, had more.

* LSU running back Derrius Guice finished fifth in the nation with an average of 7.58 yards per carry.

For a full list of stats, go to cfbstats.com.

RELATED: GN’s final 2016 SEC Power Rankings

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