Utah Utes football: Ranking the best players on special teams in school history

While Tom Hackett and Andy Phillips had tremendous seasons at Utah in 2014, It isn’t the first time that Utah has had great special team performers. In fact, the Utes have had  awesome special teams contributions for years. They have had all-conference and All-American performers at kicker and punter as well as plenty of very talented kick and punter returners.

Here is my list of the best players on special teams in Utah history.

Note: This rankings are based only on what each player did while at the University of Utah.

Stats and national rankings from Sports-reference.com. School rankings and award information from UtahUtes.com.

H.M. Chris Hunter, punter (1996-99)

Hunter was a very consistent punter during his four seasons on the hill. His best statistical season came in 1997 when he averaged 43.7 yard per punt on 39 attempts.

For his Utah career, he punted 205 times for 8,454 yards. His 41.20 yards per punt is the eighth highest average in school history for those with at least 100 punts.

H.M. Keith Williams, returner (1991-93)

Williams didn’t have the ball a lot in the return game, but when he did, he made some big plays. His best year came in 1993 when he returned 21 kicks for 542 yards and a touchdown.

For his Utah career, he averaged 25.3 yards with a touchdown on 25 kick returns.

H.M. Brian Lewis, punter (2001-02)

Lewis had two very solid years as the punter for the Utes. His best season came in 2002 when he finished third in the Mountain West Conference after he averaged 42.6 yards per punt on 58 attempts.

His 41.43 yards per punt is the seventh highest average in school history

H.M. LaVon Edwards, returner (1988-1991) 

Edwards made significant contributions to the Utes as both a punt and kick returner. His most productive season came in 1988 when he averaged 23.6 yards on 18 kick returns and 11.1 yards on 26 punt returns.

For his Utah career, he averaged 21.6 yards on 53 kick returns and 8.0 yards on 112 punt returns.               

H.M. Fleming Jensen, kicker (1971-72)

Jensen was a very good kicker during his time with the Utes. He was first-team All-Western Athletic Conference in 1972 and missed just four extra points during his Utah career.

25. Dan Marrelli, punter/kicker (1972-73)

Marrelli was a successful punter and kicker for the Utes during the early 70s. He averaged 43.18 yards per punt in 1972 (the third best average in a season by a Ute to that point). A year later, he was first-team All-Western Athletic Conference as a kicker.

24. Jack Steptoe, returner (1976-77)

As well as being an impressive receiver, Steptoe also did an excellent job as a return man. His best year on special teams came in 1976 when he returned 27 kicks for 588 yards to earn first-team All-Western Athletic Conference.

For his Utah career, he averaged 21.77 yards on 38 kick returns.

23. Gil Alvarez, kicker (1979-1981)

Alzarez had two good years as the starting kicker on the hill. His most productive season came in 1981 when he was first-team All-WAC after he hit all 37 of his extra points while converting on 14-of-22 field goals.

For his Utah career, he finished with just three misses on 71 extra points and was 62.9 percent on 35 field goals.

22. Tom McNamara, Kicker (1976-77)

McNamara had one really good season as the Utah kicker. That year came in 1977 when he was first-team All-WAC after he converted on 18-of-19 extra points and 16-of-23 field goals.

21. Coleman Petersen, kicker (2011-12) 

Coleman was a very accurate kicker during his two seasons on the field for the Utes. His best year came in 2011 when he missed one extra point on 38 attempts and hit 18-of-25 field goal attempts.

For his Utah career, he hit 75-of-77 extra points and 68.4 percent of his field goals.

20. Patrick Dyson, returner (1998-2000)

Although he didn’t get many opportunities to return kicks, Dyson made big plays nearly every time he touched the ball. His best season came in 1998 when he averaged 32.9 yards with a touchdown on 11 attempts.

For his Utah career, he averaged 26 yards with two touchdowns on 36 kick returns.

19. Dan Beardall, kicker (2005)

Although he started for just one season as the kicker for the Utes, Beardall made a huge impact. He was a first-team All-MWC honoree after he hit 40-of-42 extra points and 16-of-19 field goals. His production was good enough to be named Utah’s special teams most valuable player.

18. Kevin Dyson, returner (1994-97)

Even though he wasn’t used much until his senior season, Dyson was a very good punt returner. He earned first-team all-conference in 1997 after he returned 20 punts for 223 yards and a touchdown. He also averaged 22.3 yards in 12 kick returns.

For his Utah career, he averaged 10.8 yards on punt returns with a touchdown and 23.2 yards on kick returns.

17. Daniel Jones, returner (1997-98)

Although he only spent one season return kicks and punts on the hill, Jones made a big impact. In 1998, he averaged 8.5 yards on 31 punt returns. He was even better as a kick returner where he averaged 25.4 yards with two touchdowns on 20 attempts.  

16. Andre Guardi, kicker (1983-86) 

Guardi was a very skilled kicker during his four years with the Utes. His most productive season came in 1985 when he hit all 39 extra points and 81.8 percent of his field goal attempts.

For his Utah career, he hit 125-of-127 extra points including every attempt his last three seasons. He also connected on 69.4 percent of his field goals.

15. Morgan Scalley, returner (2001-04) 

As well as being a huge part of the defense, Scalley was a very good situational return man. One of his best showings came in 2004 when he averaged 41.8 yards with a touchdown on just five kick returns.

For his Utah career, he averaged 32.1 yards with a touchdown on 18 kick returns to go along with 10.1 yards on 51 punt returns.

14. Joe Phillips, kicker (2009-2010)

Phillips had two tremendous seasons as the Utah kicker. He finished sixth in the nation in 2009 when he made 90.9 percent of his field goals. A year later. he was named first-team All-MWC after he converted on 55-of-56 extra points and made 13-of-17 field goals.

For his Utah career, he missed two of 95 extra points and hit on 84.6 percent of his field goals.

13. Sean Sellwood, punter (2009-2012) 

Sellwood was one of the best punters the Utes have ever had. He got on the field all four seasons and put up some very big numbers. His best season came in 2012 when he finished third in the nation after he averaged 46.5 yards per punt on 38 attempts.

For his Utah career, He averaged 43.8 yards on 190 punts.

12. Andy Phillips, kicker (2013-current)

Phillips has been a star kicker for the Utes in each of the last two seasons. His best year came in 2014 when he was named first-team All-Pac-12 when he finished with 113 points after he hit 44-of-45 extra points and 82.1 percent of his 28 field goal attempts.

So far in his Utah career, he has missed just one extra point while hitting 40-of-48 field goals.

11. Steve Smith, returner (1999-2000)

Smith was an explosive return man during his time with the Utes. His best year came in 1999 when he scored on three times and averaged 17.1 yards on his 29 punt returns to earn first-team All-Mountain West Conference. He also averaged 28.2 yards on six kick returns.

For his Utah career, he returned 72 punts for 860 yards and four touchdowns and averaged 22 yards on 23 kick returns.

10. Rick Partridge, punter (1977-78)

Partridge was a really good punter during his two seasons on the field for the Utes. He was a two-time All-Western Athletic Conference performer under Wayne Howard. His best season came in 1977 when he was first-team all-conference after he averaged 44 yards per attempt on 68 punts.

For his Utah career, he is third in school history in punting average with 43.8 yards per punt on 124 attempts.

9. Carl Monroe, returner (1981-82)

While Monroe is remembered primarily as a great running back, he was also a fantastic kick returner. His best year came on special teams came in 1982 when he led the nation with 30.1 yards per kick return with a touchdown on 14 attempts.

For his Utah career, he averaged 27.1 yards on 35 kick returns.

8. Shaky Smithson, returner (2009-2010)

Smithson was a dynamic punt returner during his time with the Utes. His best year came in 2010 when he was a Walter Camp first-team All-American after he led the nation in punt return yards (572) and average per return (19.1). He also finished second in the country with two punt return touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he averaged 16.2 yards with two touchdowns on 43 punt returns to go along with a 24.4 yard average on 43 kick returns.

7. Kaelin Clay, returner (2014) 

Clay had a terrific season as a return man during his only year on the field with the Utes. He was a first-team all-conference selection after he led the Pac-12 with 346 yards and three touchdowns on 23 punt returns. He also had 22 kick returns for 548 yards and another touchdown. Those numbers were good enough to lead the nation in punt return touchdowns and earn him CBSSports.com first-team All-American.

6. Reggie Dunn, returner (2010-12)

Although he didn’t have many kick returns, Dunn was a threat to take the score any time a team made the mistake to kick to him. His best season came in 2012 when was a first-team All-Pac-12 honoree and a first-team All-American after he led the nation with four kick return touchdowns while averaging 51.3 yards per kick return.

For his Utah career, he averaged 30.9 yards per return and had five touchdowns on 48 returns.

5. Tom Hackett, punter (2012-current) 

Hackett has been a standout punter for the Utes during the last two seasons. He has been a back-to-back first-team all-conference punter and won of the best in the country. His best year came in 2014 when he won the Ray Guy Award as the most outstanding punter in the nation after he averaged 46.7 yards on 80 punts.

To this point in his Utah career, he has averaged 44.2 yards on 181 punts.

4. Erroll Tucker, returner (1984-85) 

Tucker was a dominating return man during his two seasons on the hill. He was a two-time first-team All-WAC performer. His best season came in 1985 when he was first-team all-conference and was named a first-team All-American by three publications after he led the nation in punt return (24.3) and kick return average (29.1). That year, he finished with 24 kicks returns for 698 yards and two touchdowns to go long with 16 punt returns for 389 yards and two more scores.

For his Utah career, he averaged 26.6 yards with two touchdowns on 41 kick returns as well as 17.0 yards and three scores on 38 punt returns.

3. Steve Odom, returner (1971-73)

Odom was a star return man during each of his three seasons with the Utes. His best season came in 1973 when he was a FWAA first-team All-American after he averaged 29.5 yards with a touchdown on 21 returns. He added 13 punt returns for 304 yards and two more scores.

For his Utah career, he averaged 26.1 on 99 kick returns with four touchdowns to go along with a 20.3 yard average and four scores on 27 punt returns.

2. Marv Bateman, punter/kicker (1969-1971)

Bateman was a legendary punter and kicker during his time with the Utes. He was a two-time All-WAC performer and a two-time All-American. His best year came in 1971 when he was named a first-team All-American by two publications after he broke the NCAA record when he averaged 48.1 on 68 punts.

For his Utah career, he averaged 46.9 yards on 133 punts and had 118 points as a kicker.

1. Louie Sakoda, kicker/punter (2005-08)

Sakoda is the most decorated special teams player in Utah history. He is a three-time Mountain West Conference special teams player of the year and was a first-team All-American as both a kicker and a punter. His best year came in 2008 when he was a consensus All-American kicker after 56-of-57 extra points and 22-of-24 field goals.

For his Utah career, he averaged 42.1 yards on 242 punts  while hitting 86.3 percent of his 66 field goal attempts.

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