The stats are final for the 2022 football season and after checking all the numbers and formula’s the results are final. The #1 Special Teams unit in the country for 2022 was South Carolina and that means that Pete Lembo wins my Special Teams coach of the year for the second time in the last four years!
Every week on philsteele.com on my Phil Steele Plus section we update all the special teams’ stats which take into account the following categories: Net Punting, Opponents net punting, Kick Return average, opponents Net Kickoffs, Teams Net Kickoffs, Blocks/TD’s and FG Kicker rating. The categories are graded by the number of times they were used during the year.
Shane Beamer is the son of Frank Beamer who was the longtime head coach at Virginia Tech. I started the special teams award in 2012 but had I started it back when I started the magazine in 1995, I am sure Virginia Tech would have won the top Special teams award in many of those years with their special teams responsible for a lot of wins. Knowing the importance of this unit he hired Pete Lembo as his Special Teams Guru in 2021. Lembo had won my Special Teams coach of the year in 2019 while at Memphis. South Carolina ranked just #109 in my Special Teams ratings in 2020 but in Coach Lembo’s first year they improved to #18. Last year they had to replace their kicker who left as the all-time leading scorer at South Carolina, so I only had them rated #24 in the Preseason. Michigan won the title in 2021 and they were my #1 rated unit coming into the year. Michigan had another strong year and finished #4 overall in 2022. San Diego St (#5), Texas (#2) and Notre Dame (#7) all had the lead at different points of the year and all finished strong. In my magazine Preseason Special Teams rankings, I had Michigan #1, Kansas St #3, Louisiana #6, Iowa #7, Cincinnati #8, Alabama #9, Tennessee #10 and Georgia #14 and they all finished in the top 20.
If you watched South Carolina this season, they were not a dominant team as they were outgained in SEC play by 80 ypg but still went 8-4 during the regular season with Special teams being a big factor in that success. It started with two blocked punts for TD’s in the opening game. If a team scores a TD off a blocked punt, I only count it as one big play rather than two. South Carolina came up +8 in the TD/Blk category as they had 5 blocked punts, two punt return td’s off blocks (not counted), 1 kick return TD and two TDs off fakes on special teams including one in the bowl game. Their opponents had zero blocks and zero TDs off special teams.
In compiling the list of my All-Time special teams awards I would like to point out that in 2016 we improperly awarded the Special teams Award. A lot goes into the magazine each year and my focus is always on the 133 teams pages and talking to the coaches. In the 2017 magazine we misidentified the special teams coach at Western Kentucky for 2016. Tony Levine was the actual winner of the award. I have talked to coach Levine and since apologized for that mistake but unfortunately once it is printed it could not be changed. I wish I could have given Coach Levine his proper recognition in the 2017 magazine.
Special Teams are a big part of the game yet usually it is an under the radar part of the game. When you subscribe to Phil Steele Plus you get my special teams rankings updated each week during the season. This allows you to find some hidden value in matchups during the season. Below I list the top 10 teams in my Special teams’ rankings with all the categories. I will have the complete special teams list in the 2023 magazine, and you can get the complete list right now on Phil Steele Plus. Here are the top 10 Special Teams units of 2022 and you will notice that Georgia was a complete team last year with my #6 unit.
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Once again congratulations on a fine job in 2022 by Pete Lembo my 2022 Special Teams Coach of the year and here is a list of the winners for each of the 11 years of the Award.
Special Teams Coach of the Year ALL TIME WINNERS
2012 Eddie Gran, Florida State
2013 Pete Alamar, Stanford
2014 Kyle Whittingham, Utah
2015 Sean Snyder, Kansas State
2016 Tony Levine, Western Kentucky
2017 Sean Snyder, Kansas State
2018 Robbie Discher, Toledo
2019 Pete Lembo, Memphis
2020 Zac Alley & Winston Venable, Boise State
2021 Jay Harbaugh, Michigan
2022 Pete Lembo, South Carolina