2016 Production and Accolades
Mark Stoops was blessed to have Austin MacGinnis placekick for Kentucky in 2016. His foot is responsible for two wins, the difference between another five-win season and a bowl game in the state of Florida.
MacGinnis became the first UK kicker with two game-winners since Doug Pelfrey’s boot bailed out Freddie Maggard. The 51-yard kick that capped off Kentucky’s win over Mississippi State was a turning point for the team, proving they could win, regardless of what adversity they faced. It came in handy on the road against Louisville. Leach’s calls still give me chills.
MacGinnis earned SEC Special Team Player of the Week Honors following each game-winner. MacGinnis made 16-19 field goals (84.2%) and the junior didn’t miss an attempt in the last five games. He put just under one-third of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
With Matt House at the helm, the coverage units excelled. An opponent failed to score a return touchdown all season. The difference in yardage is hidden, but the coverage units did reveal a few stars in the making, most notably Kash Daniel.
In the return game, Kentucky’s six-year special teams touchdown drought ended thanks to future Heisman Trophy Winner Charles Walker. Drew Franklin’s analysis might be the best thing ever published on Kentucky Sports Radio dot com.
Grade: A, F
It’s hard to ask for more. Every unit improved. The only thing still missing is a kick return touchdown. And then there’s the punting game. Truly the outlier of the group, it deserves a separate grade. You need at least 40 yards per punt to be successful and Grant McKinniss averaged just 39.2 per attempt. Just a freshman, he has time to improve, but he must improve or Dean Hood will have to start looking for alternatives.
With 11 different players in six different packages, obviously it’s hard to track who is going where. However, there are three new people that will make an impact on social teams: Dean Hood, Davonte Robinson and Lynn Bowden.
Hood’s experience as a head coach will be invaluable during the important portion of practice dedicated to specialists. In the return game, the only thing missing is a kickoff return touchdown. Robinson and Bowden are two guys with enough speed and athleticism to change the (return) game in 2017.
Kentucky will be in good hands in 2017. With Dean Hood at the helm and a senior Austin McGinnis placekicking, special teams will be a strength. The only question mark is at punter, but it doesn’t have to be that way if Eddie Gran’s offense never gets stopped.