CU struggling in return game

Colorado special teams coach J.D. Brookhart disappointed in the Buffs' results on kickoff returns.

BOULDER -- California kicker Giorgio Tavecchio didn't give the Colorado Buffaloes much of a chance to return kicks on Saturday.

And, the opportunities CU did get weren't pretty. In fact, returning kicks has been an ugly part of CU's first two games. The Buffs rank 120th -- dead last -- among FBS schools with a 12.0-yard per return average. Counting FCS schools, CU ranks 229th out of 230 Division I schools (ahead of only Jackson State) in kickoff returns.

"From a kickoff return standpoint, I'm disappointed, even though we didn't have many opportunities," Buffs special teams coach J.D. Brookhart said after CU's 36-33 overtime loss to Cal.

Tavecchio's first four kickoffs went deep into the end zone or out of the end zone for touchbacks. His fifth kickoff went 5 yards into the end zone and should have been another touchback, Brookhart said. Instead, Toney Clemons decided to run the ball out and got tackled at the 14-yard line.

"I did not like our decision to come out of the end zone," Brookhart said. "That was not what we were instructed to do, so I didn't think we should have come out that one time.

"You've got to make intelligent, smart decisions."

Clemons got an earful from Brookhart, but defended his choice after the game.

"When you're a competitor and you're trying to win, those things happen," Clemons said. "I felt like I could have made a play out of it if some things went my way; unfortunately it didn't."

Regardless, Brookhart wasn't pleased. Clemons was on the field for Cal's first five kickoffs, but he was replaced by Brian Lockridge on the sixth, and final, kickoff of the game.

Brookhart was asked if Clemons will get another chance to return kicks.

"I don't know yet," he said. "I don't know what we're going to do with the kick return situation. That's been a tough one to figure out."

To this point, nothing has worked for the Buffs. Four different players -- Evan Harrington, Arthur Jaffee, Tony Jones and Lockridge -- returned kicks in Week 1 against Hawaii. Of the seven returns, four went for 10 yards or less. The longest was 17.

Jones was deep for all six kickoffs against Cal, but never got an opportunity to return the ball. Lockridge had a 20-yard return, to the 20, on his only attempt.

"We definitely were better at that last year and we can be even better this year," Clemons said. "I think we're all capable. I think I need to be back there, Brian Lockridge could be back there. Keenan Canty, Tony Jones -- there's a lot of guys that should be back there returning."

Brookhart isn't so sure about that.

"I don't feel great about anybody yet," he said.

In 2010, Colorado ranked 27th nationally, with 23.3 yards per kickoff return.

NOTES: Brookhart said Canty, Paul Richardson and Rodney Stewart will continue to field punts. The Buffs have had just one punt return -- by Richardson, for 4 yards -- to this point, though. Every other punt to the Buffs has been either a fair catch or downed. ... Against Cal, the Buffs blocked an extra point and nearly blocked a punt. Brookhart said the Buffs will continue to be aggressive in blocking kids and hopes that can become a trademark of CU's special teams. "I think we have a long way to go, and the right personnel to find in all the situations, but it's an area that (head coach Jon Embree) is committed to. We've got to make plays in the kicking game and we're going to be aggressive." ... Freshman punter Darragh O'Neill is averaging 43.7 yards on nine points. His average is 4.2 yards better than what the Buffs averaged in 2010.

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