By Jonathan Okanes
Monday, March 31st, 2008 at 1:51 pm in off-season stuff.
This was a problem area for the Bears last season. Things went sour before the season even started when kicker Tom Schneider suffered a season-ending injury while warming up for the opener against Tennessee. His replacement, Jordan Kay, was inconsistent. He was just 7-for-14 on field goal attempts beyond 30 yards. He’ll need to improve on that mark this season.
Andrew Larson didn’t quite reach the level of his junior year, but Cal still has lost a potential NFL punter. The Bears feel comfortable inserting redshirt freshman Bryan Anger into the lineup. Anger was a prep All-American coming and Jeff Tedford has called him one of the best young punters in the country.
The Bears’ kick coverage was a problem last year, and it didn’t help when Schneider went down. Larson, who had a stronger leg than Kay, ended up handling kick duties. With Larson gone, the kick duties fall to Kay, Joe Robles, or perhaps walk-0n David Seawright, who reportedly has a strong leg.
After his electrifying punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee, DeSean Jackson didn’t make quite the impact some expected as a returner. Much of that is because opponents didn’t give him many chances, and at times Jackson looked like forced the issue on punts that weren’t very returnable. The Bears plan on giving Syd’Quan Thompson and Shane Vereen the first opportunity in replacing Jackson. It could be a nice way to start getting Vereen on the field.
James Montgomery likely would have been a top candidate to replace Lavelle Hawkins as the No. 1 kick returner. Now that he’s transferred out, Vereen could be a good candidate there as well. Jahvid Best handled part-time kick return duties last season, but now that he’s likely the No. 1 running back, the Bears may not want him back in that role.
One thing the Bears know they have going for them is long snapper Nick Sundberg, considered one of the best in the business. Sundberg is back for his senior season.