In a disappointing season for California, the special teams until hasn’t helped the cause. Outside of a pretty good field goal kicking unit led by Vincenzo D’Amato, there’s plenty of holes that Oregon can take advantage of.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN
- 71.4 percent field goals made (15-21) and 89.7 percent extra points (16-19).
- Averaging about five punts a game.
- Rank 10th in punting and fifth in field goals in the Pac-12
Cole Leininger has definitely shown that he’s in his freshman campaign as the lead punter, but he beat out a sophomore to start over him. In his 48 punting attempts, 11 of them have landed inside the 20, he has booted eight of them over 50 yards, and there’s been just one touchback. He averages 40.7 yards a kick.
D’Amato is responsible for kickoffs, field goal kicking, and extra points. Converting over 70 percent is likely the teams’ bright spot on special teams – their coverage hasn’t been. The Golden Bears have given up the second-most yards on kickoff returns and the second-highest average at 27.03 yards. Oregon has given up the most amount of yards on kickoffs with a total of 1,457, but remember that they’ve had to kick the ball off 68 times compared to California’s 34.
Punting coverage isn’t any better, ranking dead last in the Pac-12 with an 11.21 yard average. Colorado has given up plenty more yards on punts, but they’ve had to punt the ball far more than any other conference team as well.
On a national scale, California fairs even worse ranking at 104th on opponent kickoff returns and third-worst on opponent punt returns.
Kickoff returns are generally handled by sophomore running back Brendan Bigelow who’s the only player that averages as high as 23.6 yards a return. Freshman Chris Harper will be filling in for the injured Keenan Allen on punt returns. He only had an opportunity to return one punt in last week’s game against Washington.
Brian Spaen is the lead editor for Autzen Zoo. See his banter with other FanSided writers and love for his favorite west coast professional teams by following him on Twitter.