Utah State returns the majority of its special teams players from a year ago including senior placekicker Josh Thompson, junior placekicker Nick Diaz, junior long snapper Nate Needham and junior placekicker/holder Jaron Bentrude.
One player not back on special teams is punter Tyler Bennett who graduated after serving in that capacity for the last two years. Overall, Bennett finished his Aggie career ranking second all-time with a punting average of 42.8 yards as he punted 119 times for 5,099 yards.
The leading candidate to replace Bennett will be Bentrude who punted twice during the 2012 season for an average of 29.0 yards per kick. Bentrude also kicked off 71 times for USU a year ago and averaged 63.1 yards per kick with 26 touchbacks.
As for placekicking duties, Utah State returns plenty of talent and options here including Thompson and Diaz.
Thompson was 4-of-6 (.667) on field goals and 11-for-12 on extra points a year ago and set single-season school records for extra-points made (57) and attempted (58) during his sophomore season in 2011.
Thompson ranks tied for fifth at Utah State for career extra-point percentage (.971), tied for fifth in career extra points made (68) and sixth in career extra point attempts (70).
Diaz made 10-of-13 (.769) field goals in 2012 and was a perfect 40-for-40 on extra points, marking the seventh time in school history that an Aggie kicker was perfect on PAT’s. Diaz’s 40 extra points made and attempted also ranked second all-time at USU for a single-season behind Thompson. As a sophomore, Diaz was named the WAC’s Special Teams Player of the Week after making both of his field goals against New Mexico State, including a career-long of 53 yards.
Utah State also returns redshirt freshman Brock Warren here as he was 5-of-6 on extra points and 0-of-1 on field goals during the first two games of the year before missing the rest of the season and receiving a medical redshirt due to injury.
During the 2012 season, Utah State ranked third in the WAC and 35th in the nation in net punting (38.4 ypk), third in the WAC and 37th in the nation in punt returns (10.3 ypr), and fifth in the WAC and 66th in the nation in kickoff returns (21.5 ypr).
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
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