The Times Free Press has been taking a daily positional look at the 2017 University of Tennessee football team leading into preseason practice. The series concludes today with a look at special teams:
Evan Berry is Tennessee's most decorated player in preseason honors. The senior is an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American as a kick returner. His four career kickoff-return touchdowns are tied for most in school history. He is less than 200 yards away from becoming the school's all-time leader in kick-return yards. Sophomore wide receiver Marquez Calloway returned a punt for a touchdown against Tennessee Tech last season and is an obvious candidate to replace Alvin Kamara as the regular punt returner. Senior place-kicker and kickoff specialist Aaron Medley is back along with senior punter Trevor Daniel to form a solid, veteran duo of kickers.
Brent Cimaglia is a freshman kicker out of Page High School in Franklin who was ranked among the top 10 kickers in the country by three of the four major recruiting analysis services. The 6-foot-1 Cimaglia went 9-of-17 on field goals over his final two high school seasons and did not miss an extra point during that time. He recorded touchbacks on 71 percent of his kickoffs. Finding scholarships for kickers and punters can be tough, even for those with obvious talent, so Tennessee's staff obviously is optimistic for Cimaglia's future in the program. Joe Doyle is a freshman punter from Knoxville's Farragut High School. The preferred walk-on was a state Mr. Football semifinalist and participated in the Army and Under Armour All-American games last year. He launched a 60-yard punt in Farragut's state championship victory.
Berry can change a game in the 10 to 15 seconds it takes to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Expect opposing teams to kick away from him. Daniel and Medley have been through some nail-biting moments throughout their careers. Tennessee might not have won last year's game at Georgia without a late-game punt from Daniel that pinned the Bulldogs deep in their own territory, leading to a strip-sack touchdown that put the Volunteers ahead. Medley is nearly automatic from inside 40 yards. Including his career 99.4 percent clip on extra points, he is 201-of-207 on kicks inside 40 yards.
Medley is inconsistent on long kicks. He has the leg strength but is just 9-for-25 from more than 40 yards in his Vols career. That includes a 1-for-6 mark from 40 to 49 yards in 2016. He did not attempt any kicks from more than 50 yards last year.
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