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Football: Spring practice review — special teams

By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 at 11:32 pm in Football, off-season stuff.

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.

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  • rotfogel

    Bryan Anger may be the most overrated player on our team, half the time he shanks it for 15 yards or kicks a line drive right to the return man who promptly returns it for 30 yards for a net punt of 15 yards.

    Tavecchio’s missed chip shot against Oregon was devastating as well. I hate Oregon, not quite as trashy as Oregon St, but trashy nonetheless.

  • David

    ‘shanking it half the time’ is an exaggeration.

  • rollonubears

    we have no placekickers in the pipeline. we haven’t recruited a kicker in years. this has been the achilles heel of the bears since longwell. kickers, like QBs, are often pretty bright guys and great students. they should be falling all over themselves trying to go to cal. our handling of recruiting for this position needs to change.

  • Sam

    Hey Rotfogel: People really need to be aware of statistics before they trash talk and make themselves look silly. The NCAA national statistics and opinions of the analysts who know would be a good place for you to look before voicing your thoughts.

  • Caladan

    If Tavecchio was a golfer, Johnny Miller would be all over him for choking so much.

  • Yoda

    Rotfogel, if you need to lie to make an argument it’s probably not a very good argument.

  • jpf

    I wouldn’t say he’s shanked them “half the time.” But there were a number of high stakes punts that did not go well (especially when Rugby kicking):

    - During USC game shanked a punt on our side when we were down 14-0 (that TD being arguably the nail in the coffin)
    - Oregon TD (which WAS a mistake…watch the replay as the coverage is running left and the kick was right)
    - First Nevada punt (setting up Nevada to go ahead by 2 TDs)
    - A critical VERY short shank against Arizona to start the second half setting up an Arizona FG (that made the difference in a TIGHT close game, our D gave up TWO plays the entire game–this mistake was bigger than the great catch Criner made over Hagan).

    I like Anger, but these are GAME changing mistakes. Cal has a lot of problems on offense and STs, but these mistakes by the punter should not be overlooked. Especially not if you’re supposed to be one of the “best” punters in CFB.

  • Kevin Thomas

    Jed Barnett did not kick well in the Valley Christian scrimmage – barely 30 yards into the wind. At the Contra Costa scrimmage, he was good, but only on rugby kicks.

    Rotfogel was exaggerating to make a point. Jpf was right on the money in providing facts about Anger’s inconsistency, especially on kicks in the clutch. I still like Anger, and he does hit a great punt, maybe 3 of 4, or 4 of 5 times. It’s that one shank that kills us. I’d rather he kick 5 out of 5 for 45 yards, than kick 4 punts for 60 yards, and then shank one 30 yards, that could cost us a win.

    While Tavecchio has improved a little, he can’t kick a ball into the end zone unless it is line drive with no hang time, or unless he has a big tailwind. Nearly every PAC 10 team had a guy who could kick it into the end zone. Be prepared for another season where we struggle for field position after a Giorgio kickoff.

    If Keenan Allen is the best we have at returning kicks, then we can forget gaining an edge there. He is too tall, and has a slow start. It takes a while for him to get up to speed. He did not do well at that facet of the game last year. At the Contra Costa scrimmage, two kicks were run back for probable touchdowns (play was stopped once the runner got past all the defenders) I believe the runner was Kaelin Clay.

  • Sam

    You all are amazing in your critiques of athletes. Wonder how you do in your vocation. 80%, 90%, or 100% perfect each and every time in the cozy confines of an office without any distractions or less than ideal conditions? :-)

  • Calduke

    Rollun

    A couple of years ago, someone saw something in
    a SoCals kicker.

    D’Amato is a scholarship kicker.

  • Thisiscal

    Calduke is right. D’Amato is on scholarship.

    I don’t think Keenan Allen should return kicks for two reasons:
    1. He’s too valuable a receiver especially given the fact that Maynard is QB; and
    2. I agree with Kevin Thomas that it takes him awhile to get to full stride.

    Kaelin Clay is our guy.

  • Thisiscal

    Too valuable to risk injury on kickoffs, that is.

  • Kevin Thomas

    Sam,

    Since you are wondering how we fans do in our vocations, I can only speak for myself, and I am paid based on my performance at work. If I do well, I am paid more. If I don’t, my pay can be cut, or I can get fired.

    These atheletes that we describe as not performing up to expectations are attending school on scholarships. They are paid the same whether they score a touchdown or miss a block or a tackle, drop a pass, or muff a punt. These kids have a free education on the athletic department’s dime.

    As a purchaser of season tickets, this small contribution to the atletic department means I am in some small percentage responsible for giving these kids their free rides. As such, I think I and everyone else here on this blog has every right to criticize the performance of these players.

  • milo

    There’s this kid from Georgia…the kid can hit FGs from 60 right footed and 45 left footed.

    http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Two-footed-Georgia-placekicker-creating-quite-a-?urn=highschool-278339

  • Calduke

    Milo,

    Just think if he used both feet!!!

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    You guys better have good returners on kickoffs and a great punter because you will need it. Your inept offense will have that punter quite active.

  • MikeD

    > A couple of years ago, someone saw something in
    a SoCals kicker.

    that was me, kid from Rancho Santa Margarita was booming them out of the endzone vs Mater Dei

  • Calduke

    How come he stopped booming them out of the endzone?

  • Calduke

    JO

    Need some news to stir us up.

    how about assigning letter grades(compared to overall PAC-12 levels) to the Cal Spring Practice Reviews.
    This might wake us up. We need something to critique.

    Thanks.

  • Shaka

    I want all Bears fans to remember this on opening day kickoff and every one thereafter: fan support is a proven physical force that when given loudly and genuinely results in superior performance. Better known as “home field advantage.” So when Giorgio tees it up, every Bears fan in the ballpark needs to rise, give him and the team the loud respect they deserve, and the ball will find the end zone. Unconditional fan support is the key to our success this year. The talent is there, and more is on the way.