RETURNING STARTERS: P Bryan Anger, K Giorgio Tavecchio, KR Keenan Allen
WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: Coleman Edmond
POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Kaelin Clay
THE BREAKDOWN: Spring practice is a time for competition, but it remains to be seen how competitive it will be at kicker. Jeff Tedford has made it clear that he believes in Tavecchio as his No. 1 kicker, but the senior-to-be has been inconsistent on field goals and hasn’t proven he can consistently produce in the cluth. He did substantially improve his kickoffs last season, something that pleased Tedford.
But Tavecchio could use some competition on field goals, and the Bears still have two other kickers this spring. Vince D’Amato shared time with Tavecchio two years ago but took a back seat last season. Sophomore Jed Barnett also is on the roster.
These are the guys that Tavecchio competed against last season, and he won the No. 1 job through his performance in practice. It will be incumbent on the other two kickers to elevate their play in practice to have a chance to dethrone Tavecchio.
Anger is back at punter. Enough said.
One player that will be hard to replace is Jeremy Ross at punt returner. Ross emerged as one of the Pac-10’s top return men last season and did a good job helping the Bears with field position. Allen could be a candidate to take over those duties, especially if somebody else emerges as the kick returner. Edmond got some reps returning kicks near the end of last season. Clay could have the perfect job description as a returner. He has top-level speed, and although he’s expected to be in the rotation at wide receiver, he doesn’t figure to get a heavy workload of snaps because of the presence of Allen and Marvin Jones as starters. That could make it easier for Clay to take on return duties.
The spring also will be a chance for special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk to start figuring out how to improve his coverage teams, which actually got worse than they were the year before in Pete Alamar’s final season. Whether it be schemes or personnel, Genyk can use the next month to see what works and what doesn’t.