Indiana football 2012: the special teams.

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 9: Placekicker Mitch Ewald #16 of the Indiana Hoosiers puts the Hoosiers on the board in the third quarter with a 36-yard field goal against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Many programs that have gone from mediocrity or worse to consistently winning have done so with their special teams (Frank Beamer's Virginia Tech program, whose ascent will be remembered by any IU fan who remembers the end of the first half of the 1993 Indpendence Bowl, comes to mind). It remains to be seen if IU will be able to make such a transition, on special teams or otherwise, but the Hoosiers do return some solid experience on special teams.

Kickers:

Mitch Ewald: A redshirt junior, Ewald is IU's all-time field goal percentage leader, having made 29-35 on his career so far. Last season, he was 10-10 inside 40 yards and 3-6 between 40 and 49. As a freshman, he was 13-14 from inside 40 and 3-5 from 40 or longer. That means that on his career, he is, again, perfect on extra points and 23-24 from inside 40 yards. In other words, automatic. And he's not bad from distance, either. Ewald was a top 5 kicker nationally as a high school recruit and has lived up to his reputation. He has good experience in the clutch, too, hitting kicks against Purdue in 2010 to tie the game at the end of regulation and to win the game in overtime.

Nick Freeland: IU is in a pretty rare position in that they have a backup at the PK position with meaningful experience. A fifth year senior, Freeland was IU's regular kicker in 2009 and is 16-27 on his career with a long of 38. He isn't Ewald, but the Hoosiers would be fine if Freeland had to step in.

Punters:

Mitchell Voss: Voss, a redshirt, junior, has had an unusual path. As a freshman in 2009, he punted for Ferris State (Division II), where he averaged 39 yards per punt. In 2010, he attended IU but did not play football. He was on the team in 2011 but didn't see any action. He's certainly not a seasoned veteran, but hopefully the D-II experience will be of some use. Voss also will be the holder for field goals and extra points.

Nick Campos: Listed second on the depth chart is Nick Campos, a walk-on true freshman from Wheaton, Illinois.

Kick returners:

Shane Wynn (KR/PR): Wynn is the primary kickoff returner and while he wasn't overwhelmingly consistent last year, he did break a big one against Illinois, a 99 yard TD to open the game. He responded well as a true freshman and it's reasonable to think he will be better this year. Wynn also is listed as the second team punt returner.

Nick Stoner (PR): Stoner returned 1 punt for 10 yards and 6 kickoffs for 120 yards last season. He's also listed in the second string as a WR.

Ricky Jones (KR): I discussed Jones a bit in the WR preview on Monday. He wasn't able to break the two-deep as a WR but will be seeing the field next to Wynn on kickoff returns.

Long snapper:

Matt Dooley: the sophomore served as the long snapper as a true freshman last season, and obviously Ewald's excellent numbers are to some degree a reflection on Dooley as well.

I hope that IU makes enough progress on offense and defense for special teams to make a difference. IU returns plenty of experience at all positions other than punter, and hopefully Voss will be used much less than Adam Pines was last season.

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