Special teams can be a bit of an afterthought at times, but that shouldn’t be the case. After all, special teams can be an equalizer for less talented teams and a thorn in the side of otherwise elite ones.
We’ve seen countless examples of special teams making — or breaking (see: kick-six) — teams’ title hopes over the years. When looking at LSU’s history, there’s no shortage of impact special teams contributors.
We’ll take a look at the best in this breakdown, as well as the top coaches who have come through the Tigers’ program over the years.
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Starting K: Cade York
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Forget recency bias. Putting anyone else here would be sacrilegious. York was simply automatic from long range, holding school records for both longest field goal (57 yards) and most field goals made from 50+ yards (15). He’s LSU’s second all-time leading scorer, and he also ties for second in career made field goals with 54. Oh yeah, did I mention he did all that in just three seasons? York was one of the rare specialists to leave college early, and it resulted in him becoming a fourth-round pick for the Browns in 2022, making him the highest drafted kicker since 2016. He’s already impressed in camp and the preseason, and he should be Cleveland’s starter this fall.
Backup K: David Browndyke
David Browndyke has made the most FGs in Tiger history with 61 from 1986-89. His career FG% is 81.3% (61-75). pic.twitter.com/nFOAerDG14
— Vintage LSU Football (@vintagelsuftb) July 18, 2022
Before York came along, Browndyke was the undisputed top kicker in school history. His 61 career makes from 1986-89 remain the program record, and unlike York, who never finished better than Second Team All-SEC, Browndyke received First Team honors from the UPI as a sophomore in 1987. You could still certainly make an argument for Browndyke to hold on to the top spot, but York’s accuracy from long range is simply unrivaled in Baton Rouge.
Starting P: Donnie Jones
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A four-year starter and member of LSU’s national championship team as a senior in 2003, Jones was one of the nation’s top punters while in Baton Rouge. He averaged 42.1 yards per punt on his career, and 22 of his 64 punts that season landed inside the 20. He also owns the record for the longest punt in school history, booting one 86 yards against Kentucky in the Bluegrass Miracle game in 2002. Jones was a longtime NFL punter, spending 15 years in the league while winning a Super Bowl and earning Second-Team All-Pro honors twice.
Backup P: Brad Wing
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A fan favorite during his time with the Tigers and one of the first Australian punters to gain notoriety in college football, Wing was about as electric as a punter can possibly be. His titanium leg earned him a fierce reputation, as during the 2011 season, opposing teams only attempted to return 17 of his punts for a total of six yards entering the national championship game. He was a Second-Team All-SEC selection that season, and he had a long touchdown run on a fake punt called back due to taunting during the play. He spent a few years in the NFL after college, attempting 325 total punts.
Starting Returner: Skyler Green
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Though listed as a wideout and making some contributions in the passing game during his career, Green is best remembered for his skill as a return specialist, specifically when it comes to punts. His four career punt return touchdowns are the most in school history, and he also ranks second in career punt return yardage with 1,064. His stunning 18.5-yards per return in 2003 led the nation that season, and he earned multiple All-SEC and All-American honors while in Baton Rouge. He was also named the SEC’s Special Teams Player of the Year in his final season in 2005.
Backup Returner: Trindon Holliday
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Another player who had some production in the passing game but made his bones as a returner, Holliday scored eight touchdowns at LSU — four on the ground and two each on punt and kick returns. He was also a track and field star, earning a reputation as one of the fastest college sprinters in the country. He had a unique build at 5-foot-5, and he would ultimately become the shortest player to play in the NFL in the last three decades.
Head Coach: Charles McClendon
The instinct may be to put Nick Saban here, and I couldn’t fault you if you did. After all, he brought the school its second national title and first in nearly 50 years. He’s the best college coach of all time, but that’s mostly thanks to what he’s done at Alabama. Instead, we’ll give McClendon — the longest-tenured coach in program history and all-time wins leader with 137 — the nod. The coach from 1962-79, McClendon won the SEC in 1970 and a pair of Sugar Bowls in 1964 and 1967. He was a two-time SEC Coach of the Year, and he was a 1986 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Offensive Coordinator: Jimbo Fisher
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This one was pretty easy. As LSU’s offensive coordinator from 2000-06 under both Saban and Les Miles, Fisher was the architect of the title-winning 2003 offense. He eventually left Baton Rouge for Florida State to serve as the offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting behind Bobby Bowden. After Bowden retired, Fisher won a national title with the Seminoles in 2013 before ultimately leaving for Texas A&M and a massive payday in 2018. LSU has flirted with Fisher to no avail during each of its last two head coach openings.
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Aranda
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While there is admittedly stiffer competition here, mostly coming from [autotag]Will Muschamp[/autotag], Aranda is simply the better coach. He led one of the nation’s top defenses at Wisconsin before making the jump to the SEC, where he orchestrated a dominant LSU defense in 2019. He segued that into the Baylor job, where after a 2-7 Year 1, he went 12-2 in 2021. The Bears won the Big 12, and Aranda earned a massive extension to keep him in Waco for the near future.
Assistant Coach 1: Kirby Smart
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A longtime Saban assistant before taking the job at his alma mater, Smart was the defensive backs coach in Baton Rouge during the 2004 season early in his career after a two-year stint as a graduate assistant at Florida State. Smart would later serve as Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama, and he’s coming off a national championship season at Georgia.
Assistant Coach 2: Frank Wilson
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Regarded as one of the nation’s top recruiters (especially when it comes to the New Orleans area), coach [autotag]Brian Kelly[/autotag] made the wise decision to bring Wilson back to Baton Rouge after stints as the head coach at UTSA and McNeese. He has been the primary recruiter for a number of five-star recruits, such as [autotag]Leonard Fournette[/autotag], [autotag]Malachi Dupre[/autotag], [autotag]Jarvis Landry[/autotag] and, most recently, [autotag]Harold Perkins[/autotag].
Assistant Coach 3: Ed Orgeron
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Despite winning a national title as the head coach in 2019, Orgeron’s tenure doesn’t stand up to McClendon’s or Saban’s when viewed holistically, especially in the wake of its collapse last season. But we can certainly include him here. He served as the defensive line coach under Miles from 2015-16, and when Miles was fired four games into the latter season, he served as interim coach and ultimately landed the job full-time. The rest is history.
Assistant Coach 4: Corey Raymond
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Do you enjoy LSU’s claim to the title of “DBU?” If so, you largely have Raymond to thank for it. Raymond coached defensive backs (and later corners, specifically) for the Tigers from 2012 until last season. During that time, he landed elite players like [autotag]Derek Stingley Jr.[/autotag], [autotag]Kristian Fulton[/autotag] and [autotag]Jamal Adams[/autotag], just to name a few. He was also a primary recruiter for receiver Kayshon Boutte. He was hired by new Florida coach Billy Napier as the cornerbacks coach this offseason.