Fall Camp Primer – Special Teams

Dates to Remember:

– August 4th (Tuesday) … Players report for Fall Camp

– August 5th … First practice … 8:35 a.m. workout

– While the final fall camp schedule has not yet been released, practices tentatively scheduled as open to the public are the Aug. 5, 6, 7, 8, 15 and 21 workouts.

– August 24th … First day of classes

– September 3rd … Colorado at Hawai’i, 11:00 p.m., MT, CBS Networks

Previous posts … Fall Camp Primer – Offense and Fall Camp Primer – Defense

Questions to be answered this fall … Special Teams


Okay, so who is going to be CU’s field goal kicker (and kickoff specialist) this fall?

Hard to say for sure.

And there is little to go on from this past off-season to help Buff fans discern an answer.

Spring scrimmage numbers … Junior Diego Gonzalez made four-of-seven field goal attempts, hitting from 33, 38, 40, and 45 yards out, while missing from 32, 35, and 42. Sophomore Chris Graham made five-of-seven field goal attempts, hitting from 35, 35, 38 and 42 yards out, while missing from 27 (blocked) and 40.

No help there.

If you want to go with the “pencil depth chart”, Diego Gonzalez is listed first.

Advantage: Gonzalez.

If you want to go with the fact that Chris Graham, a former walk-on, was granted a scholarship this past week (though only a sophomore), you have to believe that the coaching staff sees Graham being on the team – and earning his keep – over the next three seasons.

Advantage: Graham.

The battle this Fall Camp will almost certainly comes down to these two.  There are no walk-on kickers currently on the roster or on the horizon to challenge for the job.

And don’t count on Alex Kinney as being a dual threat.

Incoming freshman Alex Kinney had impressive – high school – numbers.  Kinney scored 58 points his senior year as he made all 34 of his extra point kicks and 8-of-12 field goals, including a 57-yard boot that tied the eighth-longest in state history. In addition, 51 of his 54 kickoffs went for touchback.

But the word is that Kinney has been practicing mostly as a punter this summer, not as a field goal kicker.

So … it will be either Gonzalez or Graham.

Both were on the roster last year, but neither had an attempt (Graham had two kickoffs, one going for a touchback; Gonzalez had one kickoff).

This is a battle which could go all the way through Fall Camp … and perhaps into the season.


Is it a given that Alex Kinney will be the punter?

A safer bet than trying to pick the field goal kicker.

As a kicker, Kinney was impressive. As a punter, he was even more impressive. Last fall, Kinney averaged 41.6 yards for 47 punts, with a long of 66 and nine inside-the-20.

On the “pencil depth chart” (which doesn’t include true freshmen) the punter is listed as Diego Gonzalez “or” Chris Graham “or” walk-on junior Cameron Silzer.

No help there.

For now, we’ll go with Kinney and hope. After all, CU just went with two four-year starters at both punter and kicker.

So, we’ll leave you with the Kinney bio – and keep our fingers crossed that Kinney is the answer:

He earned All-Colorado and first-team All-State honors from the Denver Post, Mile High Sports Magazine and Six Zero Strength & Fitness as a senior, when he also garnered All-USA Colorado (USA Today/American Family Insurance) and first-team All-Front Range League recognition at both kicker and punter.


Are there fewer fair catches in CU’s punt return future?

Colorado was 90th in the nation in punt returns last fall. Nelson Spruce led the team, with 12 returns for 90 yards, with Shay Fields returning six punts for 27 yards.

That’s it.

Meanwhile, CU’s opponents had 23 punt returns, going for 245 yards and a touchdown. The average punt return for CU’s opponents was almost double that of the Buffs.


As poorly as Colorado did returning punts last season, it was a step up from 2013, when CU’s punt return line consisted of:

Nelson Spruce – nine punt returns for 45 yards.

So … Colorado went from ridiculously awful in 2013 to just a bottom quarter team in 2014.

Will it get better in 2015?

It should, and there are three reasons why:

Speed. Talent. And Speed.

When your team depth is non-existent, what should be backup players are your starters, and the special teams are made up of players who should be on the scout team.

Now, into the third season under Mike MacIntyre, and the second off-season of little attrition, there is some quality depth on the team. Shay Fields is listed as a co-starter with Nelson Spruce as CU’s punt returner – a step up right there.

There are wide receivers and defensive backs who have talent (and speed) who can concentrate on making the punting and punt return teams better …

… and perhaps generate CU’s first punt return for a touchdown in ten years (Stephone Robinson v. Kansas, 2005).


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