Baxter Earns Special Teams National Honor|
Dec. 7, 2011
USC second-year associate head coach and special teams coordinator John Baxter was selected as FootballScoop's 2011 Special Teams Coordinator of the Year presented by SpeedTracs on Wednesday (Dec. 7).
Baxter's special teams unit blocked seven kicks/punts in 2011, good for third nationally. His field goal and punt block units featured highly rated 6-foot-7 junior offensive tackle Matt Kalil, who tied for first nationally with four blocks. USC's constant pressure on kicks contributed to the Trojans' opponent conversion percentage of only 57% (15th nationally).
USC also featured an All-Pac-12 first team placekicker in freshman Andre Heidari, who made 15 of 17 field goal attempts (88%, ranking fifth nationally) and connected on all 50 of his PATs. Heidari was one of only two freshmen in the country to go the season perfect in PAT attempts. The freshman was extremely consistent kicking on the road as well, converting on 89 percent of his kicks (8 of 9).
USC junior punter Kyle Negrete also had a strong year, averaging 40.1 yards per punt and knocking almost half (19 of 39) inside the 20. His strong directional punting limited opponents to only 10 returns all season.
Baxter joined USC in March of 2010 after 13 seasons at Fresno State building a reputation for some of the most consistent and potent special teams play in the nation.
Said USC head coach Lane Kiffin: "We've known John since our days at Fresno State in the mid-1990s and we immediately came to appreciate his abilities as a special teams coach and as an educator. Upon becoming USC's head coach last year, we made sure he was one of our first hires. It is obvious that his coaching skills, his attention to detail and his creativity in all phases of our special teams have paid huge dividends. Under John's direction, our special teams play has become a model throughout the nation. For the second year in a row, we blocked seven kicks and some of those were game-changing or momentum-turning plays. Our kicker, punter and returners are among the most effective in the nation. Further, his work with our players in their academic pursuits, through his innovative 'Academic Gameplan' program, has gone a long way to turning out well-rounded student-athletes."