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How will the Special Teams do in 2014?

New, 6 comments

Well, how will they?

Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

Avinash Kunnath: As long as I don't see nonsense like seven missed tackles.

Or underpunting the coverage and six cover guys running right past the guy they're supposed to tackle...

Or messing up in the absolute reverse way one quarter later by overkicking the coverage...


They should be better. Hell, they were probably our best unit last year. We had good kicking, good punting, mostly good coverage, and nonexistent returning. We might have some troubles with field goals but other than that I don't see anything to be alarmed by.

Vlad BeloNelson Agholor just ran ANOTHER one back for a touchdown!!

I kid, I kid. (Because it keeps me from crying.) Seriously, though, special teams was not a glaring weakness of this team last year, at least not as glaring as the obvious weaknesses we had on defense. And let's give credit where credit is due. The special teams unit gave us one of the most memorable moments of the 2013 season.

)

Let's face it: injuries and youth affected this group, too. If we stay healthy, we should be better here in our coverage units.

As for the kicking game, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see. As I have followed Cal football through the years, it seems we don't realize how much we miss the last guy until we get a new guy. Vincenzo D'Amato turned into a pretty solid and reliable kicker for Cal. So whether we see Langford or Anderson or whomever, I'm hoping he can pick up where D'Amato left off.

Punting? Cole Leininger is pretty good. I just hope we see him less.

boomtho: I agree with Vlad in that ST was not a particular position of weakness last year. That being said, we've got tremendous skill players and it'd be nice to gain SOME advantage through KR's and PR's this year. I expect Lenniger to be great and the kickers to be decent but inconsistent, but I really hope (and think we can!) both improve our kick return averages and improve our coverage a little bit. We're a long ways from the ALAAMAAAAAAAAR days (knock on wood...) and I think we will keep improving!

Leland Wong: Not even worried about our punter (though let's hope Cole Leininger's leg gets a lot less action than it did last year). Breaking in a new kicker (James Langford) can be tricky, but that's not even the most worrisome. Improving our return game (for better field position) would be awesome, but I think our biggest concern is improving our coverage. Let's try to keep guys from setting records for kicks/punts returned for TDs, okay? And no accidental onside kicks that the return team takes back to the endzone.

Besides that, I'm excited to see what kind of new special teams trick plays Dykes has got cooking. Fake punt with a triple-lateral tailback pass? Yes, please.

Sam Fielder: I'd settle for plain-Jane boring consistency here. We know what Cole can do, so let's hope that Langford is automatic within 35 yards or so and steadily improves throughout the year, which the return games can generate some kind of spark for the offense. And on coverages, I'd really just settle for not giving up home runs all the time. Stay in your lanes, engage the blockers, and tackle the ball carrier.

Ruey Yen: Two highlights of last season for me was the opening drive TD scored by our special team and the fake punt when Jared Goff, who wears the same number as our punter Cole Leininger, converted a 4th down. So go special team (trying to balance out the negative Special Team memories from everyone else)! Now if our special team can just master the more regular part of their job than the trick plays (but they also, of course, do need to work on the onside kick).

Nick Kranz: I feel like when you have a really, really young team learning new schemes on both sides of the ball, failures on return and coverages teams is almost an inevitability. Thus, hopefully, this is another area that can be a potential area of improvement with a year under mostly the same coaching staff.

I would love to see a great year from Leininger, because we saw how badly Cal's defense needs every little bit of an advantage you can give them. Last year the defense brought a knife to a gun fight, then watched as the offense and special teams conspired to replace their switchblade with a butter knife. Thus ends my field-position-is-like-a-knife metaphor.