RoT Madness, First Round: Voting for USC Football Special Teams

Sep 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; USC Trojans defensive back Adoree Jackson (2) scores on a 79-yard punt return in the third quarter against the Utah State Aggies during a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; USC Trojans defensive back Adoree Jackson (2) scores on a 79-yard punt return in the third quarter against the Utah State Aggies during a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

As RoT Madness heats up, we turn to the special teams bracket for some interesting matchups including USC football greats Anthony Davis and Adoree’ Jackson.

Here’s how the special teams bracket stands, featuring a bunch of returners, plus a punter and kicker.

Snubs include Steve Jordan and Andre Heidari, but returners are the name of the game in the special teams bracket, featuring a variety of record holders.

Who should advance to the 2nd round? Let’s vote.

No. 1 Anthony Davis vs. No. 8 Mike Battle

While Anthony Davis surely could’ve made the running backs bracket –he sits third on USC’s all-time career rushing list with 3,724 yards– he takes the cake as the No. 1 seed for special teams due to his remarkable return prowess.

His six punt returns for a touchdown stand as a school record and helped him earn notoriety as the Notre Dame Killer. In 1974, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting following a dominant day in USC’s historic comeback against the Irish.

As a running back, Davis became the first in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in three different seasons. His 44 rushing touchdowns are third to Marcus Allen and LenDale White, while his 50 total career touchdowns are second only to White’s 57.

Mike Battle is a tough draw as a No. 8 seed for Davi. An All-American defensive back in 1968, Battle was also a potent punt returner, thrice leading USC in yardage, in addition to his team-high five interceptions in 1967.

All told, Battle ranks second on the school’s all-time punt return yardage list behind only Johnny Williams, on a record 99 returns. He took back three for touchdowns and amassed 1,014 yards.

1st Round Matchup: Anthony Davis vs. Mike Battle?

No. 4 R. Jay Soward vs. No. 5 Tom Malone

A two-way star at USC, R. Jay Soward made his name for being an electrifying player with the ball in his hands. Naturally, that meant special teams success. In four seasons, he scored six special teams touchdowns, including three punt returns and three kick returns.

Soward ranks third in returned touchdowns, and third on USC’s all-time career kickoff return yardage list with 1,414 yards.

Additionally, Soward caught 161 career passes and scored 23 touchdowns to tie Johnnie Morton for what was then a school record. In 1996, he set the Trojans’ single game yardage mark with 260 yards on just six catches. It’s since been eclipsed by Marqise Lee’s 345, but still stands as a freshman record.

As far as punters go, Tom Malone is undoubtedly the greatest in USC football history. He twice led the Pac-12 in punting average, including a school record 49.0 yards per punt average in 2003.

Unfortunately, he was on a team with two eventual Heisman winners on offense, and finished the season five punts shy of qualifying for the national lead. Nonetheless, the big year allowed Malone to become the first ever Trojan punter to earn All-American honors. He finished his career with 56 career punts of 50 yards or more.

1st Round Matchup: R. Jay Soward vs. Tom Malone?

No. 3 Curtis Conway vs. No. 6 Quin Rodriguez

From 1990 to 1992, Curtis Conway led the Trojans every year in both punt returns and kickoff returns. His 96-yard return for a touchdown in 1992 against Oregon still stands as a school record for the longest, while he holds records for career kickoff return yards (1,723) and kickoff returns (73). He ranks fourth all-time in punt return yardage.

Conway earned All-American honors in 1992 as a return specialist, and finished his career at receiver with 71 catches for 1,004 yards and six touchdowns.

Quin Rodriguez is USC’s most prolific placekicker and the 1990 Special Teams Player of the Year. His 57 makes are a school record, including 11 of more than 40 yards. His longest came in the 1990 Sun Bowl, connecting on a 54-yarder in a loss to Michigan State.

1st Round Matchup: Curtis Conway vs. Quin Rodriguez?

No. 2 Adoree’ Jackson vs. No. 7 Nelson Agholor

Remember Adoree’ Jackson? He could’ve made the defensive backs bracket, but his three-way efforts made him a prime candidate for the special teams subregion, making No. 2 the No. 2 seed.

Jackson is the all-time leader in combined returns for touchdowns at USC with eight. He’s tied with Nelson Agholor (spoiler alert!) with four punt returns for scores, and his four kickoffs returned for touchdowns trail only Anthony Davis.

Then of course, he won the 2016 Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, and scored six career touchdowns from scrimmage as part of 54 touches as a receiver and a running back. In the 2016 game against Notre Dame, he scored in three different ways: on a kickoff return, punt return and reception.

What made him so special however, was how electrifying Jackson was with the ball in his hands. He brought the Reggie Bush vibe back to USC, and added his own sizzle with his versatility.

Standing in Jackson’s way is the man with whom he’s tied with for career punt returns for touchdowns: Agholor. The Tampa native also holds the school record for punt return average in a season, with 19.1 yards per return in 2013. He’s eighth all-time in punt return yardage.

As a receiver, Agholor sits ninth on the all-time pass catching list with 179 receptions, and is one of just four Trojans to ever catch 100 passes in a season. He had 104 in 2014, and is the only USC receiver to ever have back-to-back 200-yard receiving games.

1st Round Matchup: Adoree' Jackson vs. Nelson Agholor?

Be sure to vote in the first round of RoT Madness for running backs, receivers and defensive backs, then hop down below in the comments and make your case for how you voted.

Was there a player you think should’ve made the bracket that got snubbed? Did you go with your heart? How did stats play a role in your vote? Sound off.