2008 Preview: Special Teams

By and large, Colorado's special teams have been less than special the past two years. Can a player like Josh Smith infuse some life into a return game that's been largely dormant?

There have been some big positives that came from the Buffs' special teams since 2006 – namely game-winning field goals. But CU has blocked just two kicks, and has allowed four to be blocked in the past two seasons.

What's more striking, Colorado has not returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown during the Dan Hawkins era. Chase McBride had some big punt returns that helped set up scores last season, and he was good at securing the ball as a returner. But you'd have to go back to 1996 to find the last season, before the past two, when Colorado didn't have a punt or kickoff return for a score.

Just who will do the returning this fall will be decided in August. Sophomore Josh Smith, redshirt freshman Jason Espinoza and true freshman Rodney Stewart will likely compete for the main punt-return duties. Smith is one of the team's fastest and most elusive players. Espinoza impressed in the spring with his ability to make defenders miss on punt returns. Stewart is shifty and quick, and coaches hope he can make an immediate impact on the field. As usual, coaches will put a premium on who hangs on to the ball the best.

Several players will also vie for the kickoff return duties. Smith is in that group, as are a number of skill position players who normally play on both sides of the ball. True freshmen Ray Polk and Darrell Scott could provide premier speed at the kick-returner position.

Coaches had hoped someone would emerge at place kicker from spring's competition between freshman Jameson Davis and sophomore Aric Goodman. Neither distinguished himself from the other and that competition will continue in August. It's likely both will get kicks this season in both kickoff and field goal situations.

Meanwhile, punter Matt DiLallo returns for his junior season. DiLallo's average per punt dropped by roughly three yards in 2007 from his average in 2006.

Hawkins set Buffs fans abuzzing recently when he dropped a hint that Scott, who punted in high school, could be used from time to time as punter. Putting your fastest and maybe most gifted runner back in that role would give opponents all kinds of worry.

One key special teams position that's settled is longsnapper, where Justin Drescher, who has been flawless the past two years, returns for his third season with that job.

The Buffs also return five of their top six special teams players, in terms of special teams statistics, this fall.

CU grades its players on a point system that includes tackles, tackles inside the 20 yard line, forced fumbles, blocked kicks, downed punts and several more categories. Jalil Brown, who'll be a sophomore this fall, led the team with 31 special teams points in 2007. Gardner McKay (19 points in '07), Joel Adams (18), Daniel Dykes (13) and Corey Nabors (11) also return.

The Roster
Austin Bisnow, So., SN, 6-0, 210
Jameson Davis, Fr., PK/P, 5-10, 195
Matt DiLallo, Jr., P, 6-1, 190
61/40.11, 35.8 net
Justin Drescher, Jr., SN, 6-1, 230
25 games
Aric Goodman, So., PK, 5-10, 180
Alex Metskas, Fr., PK, 5-7, 150
Josh Smith, So., R, 6-0, 180
Rodney Stewart, Fr., R, 5-6, 170
Tom Suazo, Sr., P, 5-10, 185

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