August Camp Preview: Special Teams

With Mason Crosby back for his senior year, the Buffs are set at placekicker going into the 2006 season. However, a solid punter and longsnapper must emerge in the coming weeks. Inside, a look at the CU special teams.

Ask Colorado special teams coach Kent Riddle about his placekicker heading into the 2006 season and he gives a sly smile and says, "I think we're going to be OK there."

Most people who vote for the preseason All-American squads agree with Riddle that Buffalo senior Mason Crosby is probably the best kicker in the country.

Crosby was named to first-team All-American squads in at least six national preseason magazines. He was the first Buff kicker ever to be named consensus All-American in 2005 and, for the second consecutive year, was named to the Playboy Preseason All-American squad. The 21-year-old from Georgetown, Texas, led the NCAA in average-distance-per-field goal last fall (41.2 yards) and has booted 11 field goals longer than 50 yards during his career.

What's to like about Crosby is his humility and work ethic. While he's on everyone's all-world list, Crosby is concerned about getting better. He wants to better his 2005 mark of 21-of-28 field goal attempts this fall.

And while there are no questions about Crosby's ability or dedication, there are some questions that involve him as the Buffs begin preparations for their Sept. 2 opener vs. Montana State.

First, replacing graduated longsnapper Greg Pace is a concern. Pace was nearly flawless for four seasons. The combo of Crosby, Pace and holder Nick Holz was probably the best in the country last fall. And the Buffs struggled finding a consistent replacement for Pace in the spring. Pace's departure is also why the Buffs signed longsnapper Justin Drescher out of Southlake Carroll, one of the top high school football programs in the country the past few years.

If Drescher can't cut it in August camp, look for senior Bryce MacMartin — who began to snap well late in spring ball — to get a long look.

Crosby could also figure in the punting situation, as the Buffs replace another graduate, John Torp. Crosby, who hadn't punted much since high school, showed the strongest leg among the contenders in the spring, even if he tended to hit knuckleballs. But it may not be the wisest move to risk fatiguing Crosby's leg as a punter and kicker, and the senior has said he's prefer not to pull double-duty if possible.

Redshirt-freshman Matthew DiLallo has had a good summer, but will need to prove his nerves are ready against real competition. He'll compete with junior walk-on Isaac Garden and, if necessary, Crosby in camp.

"We've got some really good options so I'm not concerned about it at this point," Riddle said. "Those guys have really worked hard this summer, and I think we'll be able to continue the tradition Colorado has had of great punters."

While junior Stephone Robinson will likely be the punt return man (he's averaged 8.6 yards and returned two for touchdowns the past two seasons), Riddle also liked what he saw from Terrence Wheatley and Gardner McKay at the position. As for kickoff-return duties, look for a duo to arise from Robinson, Wheatley, Terry Washington and Hugh Charles. In fact, don't be surprised if Charles becomes the focus in the KOR department as the staff looks for ways to utilize his speed.

And finally, the third issue surrounding Crosby is the one about the NCAA record. Will he or won't he get the opportunity to break the 68-yard mark? Dan Hawkins is known for going for a first on fourth down. However, look for him to line Crosby up some time for a record-breaking attempt as the Buffs find themselves in fourth down near midfield.

Special Teams Key Players
16 Mason Crosby, PK/P, 6-2, 210, Sr.
14 Matthew DiLallo, P, 6-1, 190, Fr.-R
70 Justin Drescher, LS, 6-2, 245, Fr.
39 Kevin Eberhart, PK, 5-10, 190, Jr.
18 Isaac Garden, PK, 6-0, 180, Jr.
57 Bryce MacMartin OL, 6-2, 285, Sr.
1 Stephone Robinson, PR/KR, 5-9, 185, Jr.


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