ASU Football: Special teams positional breakdown

TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 08: Place kicker Zane Gonzalez
TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 08: Place kicker Zane Gonzalez /

After arguably having one of the best kicker-punter duos in the nation last season, ASU football will turn to untested players to fill the voids.

ASU football, in the midst of its worst season under head coach Todd Graham, did get to see some record-setting performances last season.

While running back Kalen Ballage stole a lot of headlines with his FBS record-tying eight touchdown performance, kicker Zane Gonzalez completed his stellar college career by breaking Dustin Hopkins’ NCAA record of most field goals made in a career.

Gonzalez completed 23-of-25 field goals last season (best record in the Pac-12) and was named the recipient of the Lou Groza Award given to the best place kicker in college football.

After tying the Senior Bowl record with three field goals made, the Cleveland Browns drafted Gonzalez in seventh round of the NFL Draft and will battle for the starting job.

More from Devils in Detail

Punter Matt Haack also had a very strong senior season for the Sun Devils last year ranking third in the Pac-12 averaging 43.9 yards per punt.

As a team, Arizona State finished second in the conference in punting averaging 42 yards a punt thanks to a number pooch punts by the quarterbacks.

With Gonzalez and Haack both graduated from the program, Arizona State will have new faces heading the special teams.

At place kicker, it’s a three-way battle between freshmen Brandon Ruiz and Christian Zendejas and redshirt junior John O’Brien.

Ranked as a top-five kicker nationally in this freshmen class, Ruiz probably has the slight end in the competition.

At punter, Arizona State went internationally and will have Australian Michael Sleep-Dalton.

Sleep-Dalton was redshirted last season after coming from JUCO school, City College of San Francisco, where he was ranked the No. 1 punter in the JUCO transfer class.

With the success of Utah’s Australian punter Mitch Wishnowsky, Sleep-Dalton will look to become the next successful Australian punter in college football.

Another position to watch is who will be returning kickoffs and punts.

Last season that duty went to senior wide receiver Tim White, who finished second in the Pac-12 in punt return average (12.7 yards) and 11th in kick return average (21.5 yards).

Ballage did get some action returning kicks, but with his workload certainly to be big, Graham will try to keep him fresh as possible.

Next: ASU Football: Secondary positional breakdown

There will likely be some growing pains with a young special teams, but the new kicker-punter duo will look to write history of their own.