Spring Practices Analysis – Special Teams

While information on CU spring football was limited (three practices open to the public, including the “Spring Showcase”, there have been notes and quotes aplenty. Grades have been assigned based upon the following measurements: C+ … Confident; C … Cautiously optimistic; or C- … Concerned.


Previously postedQuarterbacksRunning backsWide Receivers and Tight EndsOffensive LineDefensive LineLinebackersDefensive Backs

My gradesQuarterbacks: C … Cautiously optimistic … Running backs: C- … Concerned … Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+ … Confident … Offensive Line: C- … Concerned … Defensive Line: C- … Concerned … Linebackers: C … Cautiously optimistic … Defensive Backs: C+ … Confident …

Your Grades (from polls) … Quarterbacks: C … Cautiously optimistic (60%) … Running backs: C … Cautiously optimistic (64%) … Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+ … Confident (53%) … Offensive Line: C … Cautiously optimistic (52%); Concerned (45%) … Defensive Line: C … Cautiously optimistic (53%) … Linebackers: C … Cautiously optimistic (56%) … Defensive Backs: C … Cautiously optimistic (47%); Confident (40%)

Special Teams


Unlike last off-season, when the news was all about CU bringing in a 30-year old kicker from Australia, this spring has been quiet in the kicking game.

Senior Alex Kinney is entrenched at punter, while sophomore kicker James Stefanou had a freshman campaign which was good enough to assume that he will be the CU placekicker this fall.

Kinney had 56 punts last year for a 43.77 yard average. Overall, CU’s net punting numbers were 3rd in the Pac-12, 23rd in the nation.

Stefanou, meanwhile, connected on 17-of-22 field goal attempts, with a long of 53 yards. His 10-for-11 start on field goal tries is the third best start to a career ever at Colorado with one miss (.909 percentage).  The 53-yard field goal is the second-longest by a freshman in Colorado history.

Spring did nothing to change the starting lineup, with both kickers showing consistency and improved leg strength.

Also reportedly showing improvement was kicker Davis Price, who displayed good accuracy throughout the spring as well as improved leg strength, while long snapper J.T. Bale has improved his velocity and accuracy.

One change this year will be Kinney acting as the holder for Stefanou on field goals, a combination that looked good throughout the spring.

As for returners, the main kick and punt returner from last season, Ronnie Blackmon, is back. Blackmon had 12 of CU’s 19 punt returns for 96 yards, with 15 kickoff returns for a 21.0/return average (K.D. Nixon had 11 kickoff returns, with a 23.7/return average).

That being said, the Buffs tried a number of players on kicks and punts, and those are spots that likely won’t be decided until late in fall camp.



… “Coming back and being settled and being on the field in the spring and the offseason training, I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but I’m definitely settled and you know what to expect,” James Stefanou said.

… “Just a few little technical things,” Stefanou said of what he’s working on this offseason. “Not muscling up as much on the longer ones. Things like that which tend to come a little bit when you’re tired and fatigued toward the end of the year. It’s more about conditioning the body and making sure you’re doing the right things to keep strong throughout 12-14 games or however many games we play.”

… MacIntyre said Stefanou had a “really good spring,” but also said Bale made a jump with his snapping, putting more velocity on the ball and placing it with more accuracy. “Having a new holder in Alex, he’s been fantastic, and the snaps from J.T. are perfect like always,” he said. “I can’t complain; it’s been good.”


Analysis … 

Alex Kinney has improved each year he has been the punter at Colorado. As a freshman, Kinney averaged 40.1 yards per punt. That number moved up to 41.3 in 2016, then 43.8 last season.

Buff fans cannot assume, but certainly can hope, that Kinney’s numbers will improve once again, and that Colorado will again be in the top three in the Pac-12 in punting.

James Stefanou had a very encouraging freshman campaign, and did it as a 30-year old who played in the first collegiate football game he had ever witnessed, hitting a 39-yarder against Colorado State. Not bad for an Australian adjusting to life in Boulder … and as a newlywed who got married last May.

“Those are pretty big, drastic changes,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He handled all of that, to me, incredibly.”

With a full off-season in Boulder, Kinney might also move into the upper echelon in the Pac-12.

So, barring injury or meltdown, the Buffs appear to be set at the kicking positions.

There will also be a full slate of candidates for the kickoff and punt returning positions. Ronnie Blackmon and K.D. Nixon were adequate in 2017, (CU was 23rd in the nation in punt returns; 47th in the nation in kickoff returns) but the Buff Nation has a right to expect more from CU’s stable of wide receivers and defensive backs.

Perhaps a redshirt freshman (Maurice Bell? Isaiah Lewis? Chase Newman?) will earn playing time on special teams, or even a true freshman (Daniel Arias? Dimitri Stanley? Dylan Thomas?) will catch the eyes of the coaches during fall camp.

Colorado remains without a dedicated special teams coach (inside linebackers coach Ross Els has the primary responsibility for special teams), but that does not diminish the importance of these units.

Special teams excellence in 2018 could spell the difference between a bowl bid and sitting home for the holidays once again.


Grade … C … Cautiously optimistic … 

8 Replies to “Notes and Quotes – ST”

    1. From the Daily Camera (6/1/2016):
      We’ve decided to no longer allow — at least for now — people to comment at the end of stories appearing on DailyCamera.com and BuffZone.com.

      Commenting on stories, while a sound idea in principle, presents a host of challenges for us and we simply do not have the tools or adequate resources to ensure story commenting provides positive value to our readers.

      We indeed have seen times when there are good comments and reasonable discussions of issues in the comment sections — intended to be a sort of virtual town square of reasoned, rational, calm debate. Yes, commenters also have graciously pointed out errors that we’ve then corrected. And some have given us additional story angles and ideas to pursue, which enabled us to better serve you, our readers.

      We’d hoped the commenting community would be self-policing to provide everyone a safe place to be heard.

      But that hasn’t happened.

      The vast majority of the time, the comments are dominated by a small group of people, most posting anonymously, and who, frankly, tend to simply shout down or ridicule any opposing view. Commonly, our comments sections are filled with vitriol, personal attacks, profanity, and angry and hateful speech — and worse, unfortunately.

      That is not acceptable.

      You, our readers, local leaders, officials and everyday citizens speaking to us as sources for a variety of issues deserve better.

      So we are turning off the comments.

      1. Well okay then. 1+1 =2?

        That was some wicked stuff on the Daily camera articles. Really wicked.

        Buff Zone not so much.

        Anyway thanks for the answer.

        VKB and beyond

        1. I still will maintain that it was the easy way out for the DC. VK, don’t you remember when they announced this that they sort of hinted they might reconsider? They never were going to go back to the good old days as it was all a ploy to keep the indignation to a manageable murmur. Censorship personified.

          What is so disappointing for me is that after all the years of following the Buffs and living through probably the worst decade of the modern era we never got to luxuriate in 2016. Heck, don’t you just know that if they had allowed us to post comments in 2017 that all the brilliant ideas offered on that old site most likely would have caused the Buffs to have a least one, maybe two more wins, and experienced another Bowl Game?

          Thanks Stu for at least giving us a site to show how smart we are when it comes to the Buffs.

          1. You AZ, I do remember. On the Buff Zone there were some heated discussions, arguments the whole deal. And you could rank the posters. Turn em red I believe. Make em big time negative. That was fun. Ya had to have the skill, knowledge, determination and attitude to turn em red.

            Now on the Camera, that was a frigging joke. That caused the shutdown and at the end, it was no fun to go there.

            What was that guys name who reminds me of Earache? Claimed he was from Detroit. He got banned at least 5 times but kept coming back with variation

            And those holers. Man they were the kornkobkids.

            Anyway Hope you are doing well and that the walker and depends don’t hurt your golf game.


  1. Me too. Minimal concerns about ST when it comes to totally screwing up a game like we have seen in the pas. The ST coach has a linebackers mentality (He coaches them) and the athletes are getting better.

    Now when it comes to stats, those 3 non con games can have a heck of an impact on those babies. Mostly positive, although this year and the next couple may be different.

    In punting it drops from 3 to 4th. Not much change in distance. Nationally to 53. Pretty close in punting. Gotta say it looks good here from all angles. C+

    Kickoff returns middle of the pac12 pac Conference or otherwise. Pretty typical of the mac era except 2016 Opponent punt returns 7th in conference play. There is work to be done here.

    Punt returns looking pretty good except for drops.

    Opponent punt returns also looking good.

    So ya gonna give the new ST coach (part time ye) lots of kudos.

    So they say the biggest jumps players make is from their first to second year.

    Expect it.

    It is also true for coaches at their new school (Mac2 was an exception) so the dc, lb coach backend coach are expected to make the jump

    Man I really want to give em a C+. That being because of the coach.


  2. For once I am very unconcerned about the special teams. This is after many years of concern and trepidation. A very nice progression!

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