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2017 SEC unit rankings: Which team has the best special teams?

SEC unit rankings-special teams
PHOTOS BY USA TODAY SPORTS

GN ends its SEC unit rankings series with a look at special teams.

While SEC special teams units as a whole have issues, a case can be made — and a strong one, at that — that the league is home to the nation’s best kicker, best punter, best kick returner and best punt returner.

The previous position group stories in this series featured offensive backfields, receiving corps (including tight ends), offensive lines, defensive lines and linebackers and secondaries.

Read ’em all and let us know what you think.

One thing with the rankings: Proven production (generally) trumps potential.

SOUTH CAROLINA’S DEEBO SAMUEL, by Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

14. South Carolina

The good: WR Deebo Samuel is a top-flight kickoff returner.
The bad: There’s a new kicker and a new punter. The kickoff coverage last season was the worst in the nation; foes averaged 28.7 per return with three TDs. Punt coverage was mediocre.

13. Mississippi State

The good: P Logan Cooke returns. The kickoff coverage was good last season.
The bad: K Westin Graves had to give up football because of a back injury and there are questions about who replaces him. The return teams were mediocre, and while opposing teams returned just nine punts, the punt coverage was awful, ranking last in the league and 120th nationally, allowing 15 yards per return with a TD.

12. Arkansas

The good: WR Jared Cornelius has the ability to be a dangerous punt returner. The coverage units were OK last season.
The bad: P Toby Baker will be missed; he was one of the best in the conference. K Cole Hedlund has struggled for each of his first two seasons. The Hogs need to find a kick returner.

11. Georgia

The good: The potential exists for a good kicker. Rodrigo Blankenship did a nice job as a sort of stopgap in that role last season, and grad transfer David Marvin was one of the best kickers in the FCS ranks at Wofford.
The bad: The Bulldogs need new return men. There are enough athletes on the roster to think coaches can find two capable return men, but until that happens, it’s a question. Kickoff coverage was bad last season. P Marshall Long averaged just 38.7 yards per attempt and must improve.

10. Missouri

The good: P Corey Fatony should be among the league leaders in average. WR Johnathon Johnson should again be one of the best punt returners in the league; he may return kickoffs as well.
The bad: The kickoff coverage must improve; it was poor last season. The same goes for K Tucker McCann, who missed four extra points and was 6-of-12 on field goals, including a grimace-inducing 3-of-6 on attempts of 20-29 yards.

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