Alright Cal fans. The CGB minds at large have discussed everything from the O-line to the running backs and in between, so what’s left? Special teams, of course! Twist will start us off.
TwistNHook: I miss Italian Stallion and Anger Smash!
Frank Cohen: I just spent about two months in Italy...perhaps I am now qualified to be Giorgio's successor.
Atomsareenough: I have a feeling we won't miss them too too much. We will have Italian Stallion parte seconda with D'Amato. He's experienced and should be ready to step up. I also think "Ole King" Cole Leininger will be capable, if probably not Anger-level in his first year. If he get consistently good yardage without too many shanks, I'll be happy, even if he's not booming 60-yard Anger Smashes all over the place.
Wow! Atoms will be happy? Do the others agree? Find out after the jump.
Kodiak: We're probably screwed.
If D'Amato and Leininger perform competently, it's a bonus. Just don't expect this phase of the game to be an advantage. Our position coaching is extremely suspect, as is the time and personnel allocated.
Put another way...We had one of the best punters in America in Bryan Anger, yet failed to employ his talent in a meaningful fashion that tilted field position or influenced the game. That's a travesty. We replace him with a true frosh. That's a recipe for disaster.
Over the past few years, we've set records for blocked extra points, shown off questionable protection schemes, been inconsistent in our coverage teams, and misused our kicking talent. Just close your eyes.
Unclesam22: I'm not quite that pessimistic, but I'm not pumping any sunshine either. I think we'll miss Giorgio and Anger but I don't know that it will be crippling. I just hope that PAT's aren't quite the adventure that they've been for the last few years. Taking points off the board is never a good idea and I'd like to see us not shoot ourselves in the foot consistently like we did last year.
I'm interested to see what D'Amato brings to the table and for goodness sake, I'd love to see a touchback on a kickoff just once. I'd don't even care if it's because of the wind.
And perhaps with Leininger punting we'll tighten up the punt coverage and manage to focus for the 10 seconds it takes to not commit a backbreaking penalty.
LeonPowe: Aside for the kicking I'm concerned about kickoff coverage as this hasn't been great in the last few years. Also since DJax and Tim Mixon our kick return game hasn't been a weapon for us - even if we've had great returners back there like JRoss da Boss and KA21. Knowing that DJax was a once in a lifetime player, I'd still like to see us rip off occasional 20-30 yard returns, even if they're not the wizard of returns. It seems starting with Syd we have gone to a lot more fair catches at the PR.
Avinash Kunnath: One thing worth noting is the kickoffs moving from the 30 to the 35 yard line. Will placekicking be as big an issue now? Will our focus on directional kicking pay dividends?
Atomsareenough: It's funny, I've almost factored those into the baseline at this point. I'm thinking everything coverage and protection-wise will probably be similarly uneven as it's been, so I just gave my thoughts on the new kicker/punter combo this year.
For the past few years, watching our mediocre special teams play, I've wondered if perhaps special teams is kind of an under-appreciated phase of the game, and if it were done really really well, maybe it could potentially be leveraged, Moneyball-style, into a real game changer, a way for us to beat teams with superior talent, if we spent more time on it and tried to made sure we had really positive plays from ST. Make sure our coverages neutralized the other teams dynamic returners and and created turnovers and come up with blocking schemes to generate good returns of our own, or incorporating well-executed misdirection plays... but apparently the Cal coaches don't really feel that way about it.
Berkelium97: Will we see Geynk's contract being renewed at the end of this season?
Can anyone fix Cal's coverage issues?
Atomsareenough: Well, on the plus side of the ledger, he seems to have turned Tavecchio into a very good kicker, and might do the same for D'Amato... Leininger seems like a good get, and he ostensibly came to Cal in part to learn under Genyk. Anger's success seems largely due to his talent, and I think the various styles and directional stuff we did made him more inconsistent, but on the other hand, he was drafted in the 3rd round, so what do I know.
Also, I just want to mention, after having watched Langford in the Spring Game, I'm actually kind of excited about seeing him next year.
Avinash Kunnath: I'm pretty sure Genyk is like all the new assistants: He comes on a two year deal, which is renewed based on performance. This is probably part of the reason why Marshall and Ludwig weren't canned after one year after middling results.
This is Genyk's third year, so I'm pretty sure he'll be back unless ST and TEs nosedive.
norcalnick: According to Football Outsiders FEI special teams ratings, Cal's biggest weakness were punt returns and kick off returns. I'd like to think that adding Keenan Allen as punt returner and having a more experience, healthy, confident Brendan Bigelow returning kicks might mean more explosive returns.
Of course, the flip side is that everything great about special teams last year came from Anger and Tavecchio. I'm merely hoping for special teams play that neither helps nor harms the team as a general rule.
Ohio Bear: I actually have high hopes for the return game. With Keenan Allen at punt returner and Brendan Bigelow handling kickoff returns, I think Cal has dynamic threats in those phases of the game.
I don't know what to expect out of the kicking game. Giorgio Tavecchio last year became the dependable kicker we all wanted, but now he is gone. I like the fact that Vincenzo D'Amato has some game experience, but it's been awhile since he had that experience. So I have some doubts there. And while freshman punter Cole Leininger has dazzled in practice, we're talkin' about practice, man. Practice! I will wait until real games to anoint him as the next Bryan Anger.
As for kickoff and punt coverage units: I'm just hoping for the best.