The website Football Outsiders prides itself on coming up with different ways to provide unique statistics, one of which it calls a special-teams efficiency rating.
The formula includes a little bit of everything, from field goals, kickoffs and returns, and even includes an adjustment to include the strength of opponent special teams units faced.
Last year, the Southeastern Conference finished with the five best special-teams units in college football: 1. Texas A&M, 2. LSU, 3. Alabama, 4. Auburn and 5. Florida. Georgia and Kentucky also finished in the top 10.
One interesting aspect of those top teams was that the special-teams coach for the team that finished No. 1, Texas A&M, was hired by the school at No. 3, Alabama.
Obviously, a lot of the pieces that coordinator Jeff Banks put into place continued to do well as the Aggies led the league in punting, kick returns and kick coverage, plus Braden Mann won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter.
Meanwhile, Alabama didn’t have a good season in terms of kicking and punting, so that tells you how good the Crimson Tide was otherwise.
When trying to evaluate special-teams units the programs with the most overall talent and depth have a clear advantage because they can plug in not only some prize prospects, but also reserves who otherwise can’t get on the field.
If Alabama has solved its kicking woes, and all indications during the spring were that the Crimson Tide will be better, it could challenge Texas A&M for the top spot.
Alabama also has Jaylen Waddle back as a returner.
Most of the other top teams are what one would expect.
Georgia still has kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and punter Jake Camarda. LSU is excited about the imminent arrival of freshman kicker Cade York. Auburn kicker Anders Carlson should be better as a sophomore.
Teams to watch: Florida, Tennessee.
This is the first story in a summer Friday series, ranking the top SEC teams position by position.