Football: Spring practice review — special teams

HELPED HIS CAUSE: Jed Barnett. The Bears are going to need a punter next season, and Barnett undoubtedly wants a scholarship. Barnett showed some pretty good potential as a punter during the spring, and it should give Cal hope that they have at least one candidate to replace Bryan Anger next year.

WORK TO DO:  Vince D’Amato. Despite Giorgio Tavecchio’s inconsistencies the past couple years, D’Amato hasn’t been able to overtake him. Tavecchio has improved his kickoffs but still has work to do with field goals. The media didn’t get to see a whole lot of special teams work this spring, but Jeff Tedford has said that field goal kicking was once again inconsistent. Tedford has stood by Tavecchio, but D’Amato still may have a chance, especially on field goals, if Tavecchio doesn’t get the job done, especially in clutch situations.

WHERE WE STAND: The Bears have one of the best punters in the nation in Anger. That isn’t worth any further discussion. It will be interesting to see if D’Amato can close the gap on Tavecchio during fall camp. Tedford places a lot of weight on how his kickers perform in practice, and Tavecchio has always done well in practice. So any change that might happen would probably have to wait until Taveccho faltered in a game. There still appear to be several candidates in the return game, although Keenan Allen appears to be the front runner as punt returner.

MOVING FORWARD: Tedford fired special teams coach Pete Alamar after the 2009 season after several years of spotty return coverage. Under Jeff Genyk last year, the Bears’ return coverage actually got worse. Genyk needs to find the right combination of personnel and schematics to improve both punt defense and kickoff defense. The Bears have some intriguing  prospects in their own return game. Allen, as fluid an athlete as you’ll see, could be a dynamic punt returner. Cal has had some strong punt returners the past couple seasons with Syd’Quan Thompson and Jeremy Ross.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.