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I was just looking at stats from last year, and saw some disturbing ones regarding punt returns. We returned 19 punts for the year, TOTALING 35 yards. Yep, we averaged 1.8 yards per punt return and our longest of the year was 11 yards(which means the other 18 punts went for 24 yards total!) . Our opponents punted 18 times for 153 yards, or 8.5 yards per return. By comparison, in 2010 we returned 31 for 219 yards, or 7.1 per return. Does anyone feel that this will improve this year, and who may be the players to make the difference? I've said all along that to have a chance against SEC teams, we have to win the field position battle, which includes an elite kicking game and return game.
I feel we CAN'T perform as badly as last year..I just want validation that we have some young guys that will step up and give us production in this very important part of the game.
It was more than a little weird to see UK struggle so royally in the punt return game last year. That's something that that Cats have taken a lot of pride in over the years. They never could find the right guy for that duty last season, and I think the whole unit left a little to be desired. Many times, the return guy had 2-3 people on top of him as soon as he caught the ball.
They had a ton of guys working at that spot this spring. It will be interesting to see who emerges.
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Absolutely agree. If you're not going to score points constantly and thump people with an stone-wall defense, you need to make the most out of hidden yards. Punt and kick returns (and conversely, punt and kick coverage) can make the difference in a game or two per year... which could be huge! It could be the difference in 4-8 and a new coach and 6-6 and a bowl bid.
And by the way, scoring touchdowns and forcing turnovers in coverage is great, but I mean just picking up 10 yards on each punt return and five more yards on kickoff returns... small, steady improvement could be gigantic for the team.
I think this problem has A LOT to do with personal. Cobb was / is the greatest returner in my life time, 22 y/o, and Lyons and Burton before that were special. Last year, McCaskill and Burden were underwhelming. I think the Collins or Robinson or Sweat will be the upgrade we need to make the punt returns better. Oh, and our ST coach has one more year of experience, which makes......1 year total i think?
For UK to be a good football team they have to be great in special teams. All phases kinda like VA tech.
Good special teams play and solid defense will let you finish on the + side of .500 more often than not.How important are all phases of special teams?
*2006 @ Knoxville - A missed 30 something yard FG in the 2nd or early 3rd quarter forces UK to go for a TD from inside the 5 in the closing moments, instead of a chip shot, game winning FG. We also missed a PAT. A win here and UK finishes 8-4 and quite likely in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl or Outback Bowl.
*2007 in Lexington vs UT - A blocked FG from a little over 30 yards in the 2nd OT forces a 3rd OT. A win here and UK again finishes 8-4 and in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl or Outback Bowl.
*2008 in Lexington vs Carolina - A long kickoff return for 84 yards sets up Carolina for their 1st TD at a point in the game where they had yet to make a 1st down. A blocked chip shot FG is returned for a TD by Carolina for a 10 point swing. That's 17 points given up by special teams in a 7 point loss.
*2008 in Lexington vs Vandy - Not one, not two, but THREE roughing the punter penalties extend Vandy drives after the UK defense had stopped them. One of the drives went for a TD...in a 7 point loss. A win in the Carolina and Vandy games has UK finishing yet again at 8-4, and a far better bowl than the Liberty.
*2009 @ Carolina - Two long kickoff returns give Carolina great field position inside the UK 40, and while trying to pin the Chikins deep in the 4th quarter, UK instead shanks a punt for 5 yards to give Carolina the football at their own 44. The Cats go on to lose by 2. A win here, and you guessed it, 8-4 regular season again, and a better bowl
*2010 @ Ole Miss - Two kickoffs that go out of bounds give Ole Miss excellent field position, and a long punt return sets up an easy TD from the UK 5 in a 7 point loss.
*2010 @ UT - After a late 3rd quarter TD ties the game at 14-14, the UK defense comes out and gains even more momentum with an outstanding 3 & out. The special team gives the momentun right back as they are caught napping on a UT fake punt that goes for a 1st down. Win the OLe Miss & UT gameand UK again finishes 8-4.
That's 7 games in 5 seasons that special teams has played a big part in losing, Not by not making spectacular plays, but the routine plays you NEED to make at this level. Those games cost us better bowls with better exposure, and maybe even 2-3 9 win seasons as well as preception from recruits....and I won't even get into games (like the win at Auburn and the win against MTSU) where they very nearly cost us a win...
As for the topic at hand, yeah, the return game was just horrible last year, including the kickoff returns as well.
Its a damn good thing we had a great punter to basically stonewall the other team or we really would have been in bad shape on special teams. You better believe those yards add up. Hopefully we'll find somebody who will work out this year. If you have to put a frosh back there then so be it. Its an important enough part of the game to waste a redshirt year.
Ortmeyer took a lot of heat for the blocked FG's and punts (rightly so) but our return units were very good under him. Whether that's because of scheme or personnel can be debated, but there's no question we have to improve in that area,
When Joker took over (or maybe it was upon hiring Nord, I can't remember the exact timing...), I remember him saying in an interview on the importance of special teams that the whole coaching staff would be working together to coach special teams as he (and some of his staff) had seen it done in some places he (and his staff) had worked. I wonder if this division of labor and working together with a staff that didn't really work well together/wasn't totally bought in may have had an effect on how well the special teams played the past couple of years. Maybe it was everyone's fault or whoever was doing blocking assignments for return teams (perhaps any number of staff no longer present) just wasn't cutting it. *shrug*
Everyone wants to look at the return guys as the problem on ST, but the biggest problem in the punt return game last year was blocking schemes or personnel trying to execute the blocking scheme. As bad as our return guys were last year, like Jeff said they often had defenders all over them as don as they caught the ball. Nord needs to make some serious adjustments in his return schemes.
Gotta disagree there. Return guys always have to make people miss. I'm not saying that the blocking scheme wasn't a problem but great or even good return guys make people miss and get up field. Randall Burden seriously! It wouldn't have mattered if he had a 30 yard head start. Just wasn't a return guys in any stretch of the imagination.
UK simply hasn't even had a Sun Belt worthy return guy back there since Cobb left. Yeah, blocking was part of it, but UK was basically just hoping the guy assigned to punt return could catch the punt and allow the offense to take over.
You say that like its been a long time since Cobb left. We've only played one season without the guy. If I was a big time WR/Return guy I'd have to give UK a look. You can start as a frosh and be a do it all guy here. Maybe Sweat or Tiller or somebody else in this class will be that guy.
with all of those missed field goals and shanked punts, now you see why the staff has extended scholarships to Specialists because they see the importance and are trying to address it. Trying to sew up the field goal kicker and the punter.
Hopefully Collins, Robinson, or Sweat make a huge upgrade to the return game. FYI, Cobb is one of the greatest players to ever play at UK. He is really the face of the program, but was not as good of a college return man as Derek Abney who was around in your lifetime too. I remember two returns for TD's against Florida when Florida was Florida in the swamp. Abney had 6 PR for TD's and 2 KO's for TD's. That is sweet! Maybe one of the new guys can get that kind of production going.
yeah, Abney was absolutely electric!! He wouldn't do much dancing as I remember, he would get it, plant his foot and go!! And if once he got going ahead and there was nobody in front of him then he was GONE..... And no matter what anyone says, returning 2 kicks for touchdown against Florida, who have been our HUGE nemesis as far as ST go, that's impressive.
I would like to see UK get more aggressive and block a few punts this season. Instant game changer and big momentum swing. Especially in tight games.
Agreed. Personally I think we could improve in every aspect of special teams. That should be our calling card every year. Its a way we could make up some ground in the SEC. Hopefully since I believe that we've gotten better all around athletes in the last couple of classes we will improve. Thats really what special teams is about ATHLETES.
This post was edited by tWhit 21 months ago
We could do like Florida under Meyer and bullrush over the snapper. Of course it's not against the rules but it is kind of an unwritten coaching fraternity agreement that he chose to disregard.
As for the punt return game, unless lose the SEC leader in punt returns early (like we did last year) and all the guys we were then counting on get injured, I expect us to have a respectable, if not feared punt return game this season.
Those were scholarship guys making those mistakes. Meanwhile, our current walk-on kicker has been placed on the Groza watch list for this season.
The one thing that Nord deserves a TON of credit for is makign sure we don't get kicks blocked like we did under Ortmayer. It was PAINFUl to watch Vandy, UF and others block punt after punt after punt and field goal after field goal after field goal against us.
The same game where on 4th-2 Joker decides to pin UT deep only to have the ball go into the end zone for a touchback.
I should have mentioned that as well, but I really thought getting caught napping on the fake was unbelieveably huge at that point. We had just tied the game, and made a great three and out stand and had all the momentum. Sniff that fake out and we have the football in UT territory. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.....
People point to that play in hind-sight. At the time, in the game it was a pretty good move...
While I didn't agree with not going for it, the botched exchange between Hartline & Locke and getting caught napping on the fake punt played far greater roles on the loss. Don't fumble, and it's 14-0 and UT is reeling. Stop the fake, it's still 14-14 and we are already in FG range.
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