Saturday, August 14, 2010
Judging the punt return battle
By Pedro Moura
The punter position has been decided for a while now, with senior Jacob Harfman the clear starter.
The placekicking spot is beginning to look decided, with senior Joe Houston holding an edge over Harfman according to Lane Kiffin.
But the returners?
Far from decided. Kiffin and special teams coach John Baxter have rotated a cadre of players in for kick and punt return practice so far in camp with no clear leaders thus far.
The candidates for the job include freshmen Dillon Baxter, Robert Woods and Nickell Robey -- plus Curtis McNeal and Ronald Johnson.
What exactly does Kiffin want in a punt returner?
"That catches the ball, first of all," Kiffin said. "You want to take possession of the ball and not give it up. We want guys that hit (the hole). Guys that dance usually struggle back there to try to make too many moves."
He continued, calling it a "very healthy competition" and indicating that the freshmen have struggled making the transition to the college level. Essentially, he wants a seasoned, tried-and-true veteran back there -- not the risk-reward type.
"That's a hard transition from high school to college because in high school, returners take it and they go all over the place because they're better than everybody else. You get to this level, you got a lot of fast players you're playing against."
"We have to train our guys to do that."