Miles solves kick return questions with Davis

After a not-so-special special teams performance at Florida, LSU's punt return team looked like a completely different animal against Kentucky.

That was due mostly to the new face assigned to field kicks – Craig Davis.


"We've been working with him," Coach Les Miles said. "He kind of jumped into this thing probably three weeks ago – or maybe a little bit earlier than that. He's getting better, more comfortable, and he looked like he wanted to try it. I think the opportunity's certainly there. So he came in and showed that he's capable. I don't think that that changes anything. I think we still have to have every able body ready to do that in key contests. You never know when you might need another guy."


According to Davis, the work of turning him into a potential punt returner began only this past fall camp. There are a few very good reasons why he hadn't been looked to as a possibility for the position until now, his senior season.


"They had a bunch of great guys back there, you know?" Davis said. "Skyler (Green) and Shyrone (Carey), watching those guys do it, they made it look easy. They made it look a lot easier than what it is. But I was just clowning around with Coach one day in camp, like, ‘Coach, just put me back there.' He put me back there to catch a couple of punts after practice, and I guess he thought I looked kind of smooth. So, here I am now."


Davis had never fielded a punt previously in an organized game, beginning with his high school career. In fact, the greatest irony of the whole situation is that while at O.P. Walker High School in New Orleans, Davis was on the completely opposite end of the special teams equation. He was a punter.


"I've never returned a punt," Davis said. "I got back to return one in high school and they kicked it out of bounds."


Previously this season, the Tigers had looked to the defensive side of the ball for aid with special teams. While it didn't appear he would be a gamebreaker at the position, defensive back Chevis Jackson had done an admirable job in the role.  Fans were at least comforted with the thought of an average of nearly 10 yards per return and no worries that LSU's defense would have to come right back on the field because of an unforced error.


But that all changed at Florida when a muffed punt by Jackson resulted in a huge momentum swing and set the stage for the Gators to get back into the game. That provided the impetus for Davis' appearance last Saturday.


"A couple of weeks ago we were having some problems," Davis said. "Chevis (Jackson) had really got back in a groove fielding it. Unfortunately, last game he had a couple of bad ones, actually one, but coach just came up to me and said, ‘I've got confidence in you. So I'm going to put you back there this week.' I came out to practice this week and took it even more serious."


Davis' teammates "helped" him focus on his new responsibilities last week to get him ready for the Wildcats, including fellow wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.


"It's exciting," Bowe said of having Davis back in the punt formation. "In practice we all gathered around him and tried to distract him, but in practice he looked like he was going to come out here and do a good job. And he did."


Adding punt returner to his regular duties of wide receiver, Davis brought a new facet to LSU's special teams against Kentucky. In addition to ball security, he provided the elusiveness, flash and the sense that every kick was only an eyelash away from resulting in six points for the Tigers that Green and Carey had made commonplace.


To go along with four catches for 59 yards in the first half, Davis gained 31 yards on three punt returns, including a long of 27. Another long return by Davis was called back for a penalty. For a few seconds, his longest return of the night appeared like it was going to be LSU's first punt return for a touchdown since Green brought one back against Auburn last year. But one pesky Wildcat managed to break through the Tigers' wall of blockers and disrupt Davis' run just enough to bring him down.


"Just a shoestring tackle that got me, and I was a little exhausted," Davis said. "We've got a great special teams coordinator, Coach (Bradley Dale) Peveto. They set me up pretty good. I had great blocks from my teammates, and it couldn't be better."


Throughout his career at LSU, Davis has shown some of the surest hands of any wide receiver in history. For the rest of the season, it appears those good hands will have more chances to make great things happen on the field.


"It sure did look like he was comfortable back there, didn't it?" Miles asked rhetorically. "He'll get the opportunity to do that again."

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