Game Changers: College Football’s 10 Best Return Specialists

Special teams play can define a game, season, or even a player’s career. Any team with an effective return specialist can attest to the momentum, field position, and emotion that results from a big punt or kickoff return.

It’s ironic that both types of returns are direct results of contrasting play from a defense. Punt returns are a result of good defense, while kickoff returns signify the start of a half or a team allowing points.

Here are the 10 best return specialists returning to college football in 2010.

Tyron Carrier, Houston

Used primarily on kickoffs, Carrier tied for the national lead in 2009 with four touchdowns from kick returns.

A main target for Case Keenum in the Cougar offense, the 5’8″, 162-pound Texas native returned 34 kicks for 986 yards and four touchdowns last season.

As a freshman he recorded 601 yards on 27 kick returns for one touchdown. In his two seasons with the Cougars, Carrier has recorded nearly 4,000 yards in total offensive production.

Chris Owusu, Stanford

Owusu finished the 2009 season fifth in the nation with an average of 29.9 yards on kick returns. Between his return skills, receiving ability, and explosive play, the Stanford athlete should be considered one of this biggest game changers in college football.

Last season the California native returned 39 kicks for 1,167 yards and three touchdowns.

Brandon Boykin, Georgia

An important part of the Bulldog secondary, the 5’10”, 182-pound safety also provided much-needed field position for the Georgia offense in 2009.

In his first season returning kicks, the Georgia native averaged 25.9 yards on 38 kicks for 985 yards and three touchdowns in 2009.

Titus Young, Boise State

Young was selected over Maryland return artist Torrey Smith and Dennis Johnson of Arkansas due to the fact Young didn’t return as many kicks during the 2009 season.

With an average of 26.9 yards per kick return, the Bronco wide receiver totaled 833 yards with two touchdowns and a long of 100 yards last season.

During three years in Boise, Young has accumulated nearly 3,000 yards in total offense and scored 22 touchdowns.

Dwayne Harris, East Carolina

At 6’1″ and 205 pounds, the East Carolina receiver has the size and agility to become a legitimate 2011 NFL prospect. Harris originally returned punts as a freshman and has since been used primarily as a kick return specialist.

In 2009, he returned 37 kicks for 1,000 yards with three touchdowns and a long of 99 yards on the season. Harris is approaching 4,000 yards of total offense during his collegiate career as a Pirate.

Warren Norman, Vanderbilt

As a freshman in 2009, the 5’10”, 188-pound running back became an integral part of the Commodore offense. Along with nearly 800 yards rushing, the Georgia native was busy returning a total of 40 kick returns during the course of the season.

Norman finished the year with 1,050 kick return yards and three touchdowns at a clip of 26.3 yards and a season long of 99 yards.

Jeremy Kerley, TCU

A huge target for Andy Dalton in the Horned Frog offense, Kerley is a game-changing return specialist.

With the benefit of a strong defense, the 5’10”, 192-pound receiver was given plenty of opportunities with 103 punt returns during the past two seasons. Last season he totaled 532 yards on 60 punt returns with two touchdowns, along with 19 kickoff returns for 479 yards.

Antonio Brown, Central Michigan

The senior Chippewa receiver should be considered one of the most productive offensive players in the country based on his body of work over the past three seasons.

Impressive enough is the fact he has totaled over 3,000 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns during his collegiate career. Between kickoff and punt returns, Browns has accumulated over 3,300 yards in return yardage with five touchdowns at Central Michigan.

Greg Reid, Florida State

The Seminole defensive back led the nation in 2009 with an average of 14.9 yards per punt return. A sophomore in 2010, Reid is a much-needed game changer for new coach Jimbo Fisher.

The 5’9″, 175-pound Georgia native finished last season with 26 kick returns for 664 yards and 26 punt returns for 387 yards and one touchdown.

Damaris Johnson, Tulsa

Possibly the most impressive statistic for Johnson is the fact he totaled nearly 1,400 overall return yards with only one touchdown in 2009. The underrated Golden Hurricane receiver returned 46 kickoffs for 1,131 yards, and 20 punts for 256 yards last season.

As a freshman he returned 42 kickoffs for 1,156 yards and one touchdowns.

Honorable Mention

Dyrell Roberts, Virginia Tech

A wide receiver for the Hokies, Roberts finished last season ranked third in the nation with an average of 31.9 yards per kick return. In two seasons he has returned 40 kickoffs for 1,119 yards and one touchdown.

Kenjon Barner, Oregon

As a freshman, the California native was a momentum changer during many key games of the 2009 Oregon season. Barner totaled 1,020 yards on 41 kickoff returns, with one touchdown that went for 100 yards.

Robbie Frey, Connecticut

In 2009, Frey recorded an impressive 29.5-yard average on 21 kick returns. The junior running back ran a kick back 100 yards and finished the season with 620 yards in kick returns and one touchdown.

Tracy Lampley, Southern Mississippi

As a freshman, the Golden Eagle running back was a potent return specialist. Lampley returned 30 punts for 334 yards and one touchdown. He also totaled 469 yards on 17 kick returns with one touchdown.

Leon Barry, Mississippi State

While Barry is more than productive returning kicks, his punt return average of 2.7 yards is atrocious. The little-used Bulldog receiver racked up 38 kickoff returns for 1,015 yards and one touchdown in 2009.

James Nixon, Temple

If only Nixon could receive a few more opportunities to return kicks. The Owl wide receiver finished last season ranked seventh nationally with an average of 29.2 yards per kick return. Nixon totaled 497 yards on 17 kick returns with two touchdowns in 2009.

~ by philip d. on August 5, 2010.

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