The 2018 Sam Houston State Bearkat football season is nearly upon us, with Coach K.C. Keeler’s group set to open up the year on September 8 vs Prairie View at Bowers Stadium.
This is the fourth of an eight-part preview, position by position of this year’s squad, leading up to the 2018 season opener.
HUNTSVILLE – Even though offense and defense will be primarily in the spotlight for most teams throughout the country, if you ask K.C. Keeler which unit may be the best for the 2018 Sam Houston State Bearkats, he will tell you that it very well could be special teams.
The Kats have used the third phase of the game as impact plays throughout recent years, and the 2017 season was no different. Sam Houston led the Southland Conference in both punt return average, kickoff coverage and made field goals a year ago and with all of its primary pieces back for 2018, odds are that the unit should make an impact once again.
“If you look at it, possibly the strength of this team could be special teams,” Keeler said. “Tucker Addington is one of the best long snappers in the country. Adrian Contreras is a phenomenal holder. Tre (Honshtein) could be a potential all-American. And we have some of the most dangerous returners in the nation.”
No kicker in all of FCS got as much work as Honshtein did in 2017, booting kickoffs, field goals and PATs for the top-scoring team in the country. He attempted 23 more PATs than any other kicker in the Southland Conference while also nailing 22 field goals, a single-season record at Sam Houston.
To put it in perspective, he averaged eight kickoffs per game and more than 15 total kicks per game which was nearly three kicks per game more than any other kicker in the SLC. His big leg also made a difference for the Kats in kickoff coverage as he boomed 50 of 112 kickoffs for touchbacks.
He enters his senior season eyeing the SHSU school records for career field goals and PATs, but should have the overall load lightened by the addition of true freshman Bryson Porzenski. The North Carolina native was one of the prizes of the latest Bearkat signing class, hitting a career long 52-yard field goal in high school while pushing 91 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks as a senior.
The Kats also return Connor Crow after a 2017 season that saw him play a key role, taking over punting duties for the second half of the season after Cameron Hearn went down with an injury against Northwestern State. He served admirably, averaging better than 33.5 yards per punt and pinning 10 of his kicks inside the 20.
Crow adds to the overall depth of the Bearkat kicking game, one which welcomes back not only Hearn, but also has added Australian Matt McRobert. Hearn averaged nearly 40 yards per punt in the first five games of the year before his injury while McRobert comes highly touted and hails from the same training organization as former Bearkat punter and current New York Jet Lachlan Edwards.
“Cameron is a really talented kid who we thought would compete for all-conference honors before his injury,” Keeler said. “We also brought in Bryson and Matt and all indications are that they are two studs. All of the feedback that we’ve gotten about them says that we got two big-time winners.”
The return game could also prove explosive for the Bearkats with players such as Davion Davis, Jaylen Harris, Nathan Stewart and Caleb Jolivette all involved. Davis had never returned punts in his Bearkat career until midway through 2017, but was one of just two players in the FCS to return multiple punts for scores and even earned multiple all-America honors for his craft.
Meanwhile, Harris was an all-conference kick returner in 2016 and became the first Kat since 2011 to return a kickoff for a score when he raced 97 yards for a tide-turning touchdown early in the season against Prairie View. Add in Stewart and speedster Caleb Jolivette, and the Kats should sport a number of weapons in the return game in 2018.