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Special Teams Roundup

With the training camp scheduled to open tomorrow, I will wind up our analysis of the post spring depth chart by doing a little roundup on our special teams.  I didn’t bother to do this post last couple of years keeping the focus just on offense and defense. But then we got this reminder on the importance of special teams in the very last play of 2007:

Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

CRN gave an indication on how much emphasis he is going to put on special teams by bring in one of the best special teams coaches in the game in Frank Gransz, Jr. Here is a little snippet on Gansz’s extensive professional and college experience:

Gansz, who has an extensive background at the professional and collegiate levels, was the special teams coordinator for the Ravens in 2006 and 2007, coaching with Neuheisel. In 2007, the Ravens placed ninth in the NFL in punt returns (9.7 yards) and 10th in the league in kickoff returns (23.5). In addition, place kicker Matt Stover made 27 of 32 field goals and all 26 PATs. His 27 field goals tied for 10th in the league.

Prior to his stint with the Ravens Gansz also put together some great special teams at Kansas City.

Given the uncertainty with our offense and the lack of experience in defense, special teams is going to be more important than ever as our team will have to scrape for every point and look for every opportunity to grab momentum of games through blocked kicks, punts … whatever it takes to change complexion of the games. 

Luckily for Gansz (and Neuheisel) this is one unit there aren’t as many glaring concerns (notwithstanding the last play the Vegas Bowl) as there are in other areas of the team. From Kevin Pearson at the Press Enterprise:

Specialists - - This is the one area where there shouldn't be any concerns. Kicker Kai Forbath and punter Aaron Perez are among the best in the nation and NFL prospects. Sorting out the return game and making up for the loss of kick returner and special teams stud Matt Slater will be the biggest challenge.

 More from Dohn:

UCLA's best unit could be this one, led by placekicker Kai Forbath. He made 25 of 30 field goal attempts as a freshman and was 5 for 5 from 50 yards or more. And Forbath is expected to add kickoffs to his duties this season.
Punter Aaron Perez had 35 of his 91 punts downed inside the 20-yard line last season, and averaged 42.3 yards as he became a reliable, consistent performer.
What needs to get worked out is the return game, and there figures to be plenty of auditions. Receivers Terrence Austin and Ryan Graves ,and cornerback Courtney Viney are the leading contenders to return punts, but others could materialize.

As Dohn noted in rest of his post suspended RB Christian Ramirez was penciled in as KOR Specialist in the post spring depth chart. It will be interesting who the coaches call on to take over for Christian. Lot of folks think Jonathan – Jet Ski – Franklin would be an ideal candidate to try out for that spot taking advantage of his speed.

Also as the Daily Bruin notes today coaches may call on Kai to take over as the kick-off specialist over senior Jimmy Rotstein and freshman punter Jeff Locke "could also compete for the kick off duties as well. Whatever it takes to get an edge and foster competition.  It will only make the team better. And as mentioned given the questions around both our offense and defense coaches will need explore all options to maximize efficiency of the best unit in this team.