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UCLA vs. Colorado Special Teams Preview: Just How Old Is the Buffaloes’ Kicker?

Hint: He’s one of the oldest freshmen in the FBS!

Northern Colorado v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Colorado Buffaloes were one of the biggest surprises of college football last season when they finished 8-1 in the Pac-12 and 10-4 overall. They played well enough to win the Pac-12 South before losing to the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game, 41-10. They also played in the Alamo Bowl where they lost to Oklahoma State.

The Buffs started off the season winning a neutral site game against Colorado State and two games at home before losing last week to Washington, 37-10. That’s almost identical to the final score from last year’s conference championship game.

Let’s look at the Buffs’ coaching staff and special teams.

Coaching Staff

The Buffaloes are still led by Head Coach Mike McIntyre. Rightfully so, McIntyre was the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2016 as well as the Walter Camp Coach of the Year as Colorado was bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007. It was also the Buffaloes’ first winning season since 2005.

Unfortunately, one of the challenges of winning is that it makes other schools look at your coordinators and that happened after last season as Willie Taggart poached Colorado’s defensive coordinator from last season, Jim Leavitt, to join his staff at Oregon.

As a result, the Buffaloes have a new defensive coordinator in D.J. Eliot, who joins McIntyre’s staff from the University of Kentucky where he was the defensive coordinator for the Wildcats from 2013 till last year. Before that, Eliot coached defensive ends at Florida from 2010 until 2012.

The Buffalo co-offensive coordinators remain the same. Former UCLA assistant Darrin Chiaverini is one of Colorado two co-offensive coordinators. He also coaches wide receivers.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s other co-offensive coordinator is Brian Lindgren, who also serves as quarterbacks coach. Lindgren is the guy who calls the offensive plays for the Buffaloes.

Special Teams

The Buffs have one of the more unique situations in college football when it comes to placekicking. Not only do they have a freshman placekicker from Australia, but he is also one of the oldest players in the FBS in 30-year old freshman James Stefanou. That’s right. He’s 30. But, he’s been very accurate so far, making 7 of 8 field goal attempts and all 11 extra point attempts. His long so far this year has been from 49 yards.

The punting duties for Colorado will be taken care of by junior Alex Kinney. Earlier this season, Kinney blew away his previous long of 59 yards with a 70-yard punt against Texas State.

Punt returns will be taken by junior defensive back Isaiah Oliver. Oliver can be dangerous for the Buffs. Last year, he returned a punt against UCLA for a touchdown. So, the Bruins will need to look to prevent him from doing the same tonight.

The Buffalo kick returners are a pair of freshmen. K.D. Nixon is a true freshman wide receiver from DeSoto, Texas who returned three kicks for 77 yards last week against Washington while redshirt freshman Ronnie Blackmon returned 2 kicks for 34 yards against the Huskies.

Go Bruins!!!