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Cincinnati Football: The Unspoken but Crucial Returners in 2016

They usually don't get all of the glory and the media attention, until they mess up that is. They are the unspoken heroes that kick game-winners and pin the other team on their own four-yard line with seven seconds left. These are the guys that matter in crunch time, and the Bearcats have two really good special team leaders.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

There are countless things for the Bearcats to look forward to going into next season. From the return of soon-to-be senior quarterback Gunner Kiel to the reloaded secondary and linebacker corps, the Bearcats will be on the rise next season. They will have a much improved defense and an offensive line with another year of experience under their belts to help balance the offense between run and pass.

All of those things aside, there is another big factor returning for the Bearcats next season that is seemingly going unnoticed and that is kicker Andrew Gantz. For the Bearcats and their fans, the name Andrew Gantz is all too familiar due to his ridiculous efficiency, accuracy, and ability to kick game-winners like he has ice in his veins. Hopefully for the Bearcats, that continues going into his junior year next season. Oh, and did I mention he was only a sophomore?

Andrew Gantz - 2015: B+, 2016: A

There really isn't a good place to start with this kid last season. He was beyond impressive and showed the poise of a senior who has been doing this kind of stuff for four years. Gantz was only a sophomore last season. On the year, he kicked 49/50 extra point attempts which was good for a solid 98% on the year. Follow that up with being 21/27 on all field goals this year and a solid 19/22 from anything below 50 yards.

He had a long of 51 yards, a total of 112 points, and managed to be a perfect 100% in the 30-40 yard range. It doesn't stop there, because Gantz was also the guy who kicked 85 kickoffs for the Bearcats this season for an impressive 5,341 yards with 31 touchbacks. He averaged 62.8 yards a kickoff and only managed to kick it out of bounds three times in all thirteen games. Not bad for a sophomore who will be back in the fall.

Sam Geraci - 2015: B+, 2016: A

It was the year of the sophomore special team prodigies at Cincinnati last season between Geraci and Gantz. The lesser known of the two is Geraci, simply because he doesn't kick game winners, but that doesn't mean he isn't making a huge impact. Geraci managed to punt the ball 44 times last season for 2,036 yards for an average of 46.3 yards per punt, which is pretty good for anyone, let alone a sophomore.

His longest managed to go for a booming 63 yards, pair that with 21 punts inside the 20, and 17 that were over 50 yards and you have yourself one of the best young punters in all of college football. Not to mention, he was only blocked once last season.

The Bearcats should be more than set in their special teams for next season.