Key traits for return men

When he was returning kicks for the Baylor Bears in the early 1990s, Trooper Taylor always looked for a crease in the coverage unit. So, now that he's coaching kick return specialists for Tennessee, what does he look for?

"Decision-making is the first thing," said Taylor, who also oversees Vol receivers. "The second is dynamics – somebody that can make somebody miss or stick his foot in the ground and change the game. The other thing, obviously, is you've got to be able to field the ball."

Consistency is a a high priority, as well.

"He's got to be a guy you trust because so many things can go bad back there," Taylor said. "One bad decision can make you start on the 5-yard line instead of the 20."

While consistency is a must, experience is not. Taylor isn't at all concerned that freshman Denarius Moore is paired with junior Arian Foster on kickoff returns. Nor is he concerned that freshman Dennis Rogan is the backup to senior Jonathan Hefney on punt returns.

"Players are players," Taylor said. "The veteran thing is good but dynamics is dynamics. If a freshman has proven he's mature enough to handle it, I think he ought to have the opportunity to do it."

Moore and Rogan are under consideration as both kickoff and punt return specialists, even though there is a different skill set required for each job.

"Yeah, there is," Taylor said. "It's different because of the timing you have to catch it. On a kickoff return there's more space between you and the coverage team.

"On a punt return there might be two gunners standing in your face at that time. There's a different dynamic to it and a lot more maturity there. You've got to have the guts of a burglar because you can get really hurt back there on a punt return."


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