Fall Camp Roster Review – Special Teams

Previously Posted …

The Roster … 

bold = returning starter … italicized = walk-on

— Kickers (1):

  • Seniors … Matt Lynch (holder)
  • Juniors … none
  • Sophomores … Evan Price 
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Mac Willis
  • True freshmen … none
  • 2021 Signees … Cole Becker

— Punters (1)

  • Seniors … none
  • Juniors … Josh Watts
  • Sophomores … none
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Derek Bedell (LS)
  • True freshmen … none
  • 2021 Signees … none

The Stats … 

Evan Price took over the place-kicking duties for the medically retired James Stefanou early in the 2020 campaign, and made five of his six field goal attempts. Price was good from 45, 36, 36, 41 and 19, and had a 44-yard attempt blocked. Price also had ten kickoffs, with four touchbacks. Mac Willis had 14 kickoffs, with six going for touchbacks.

In his first year as CU’s punter, Josh Watts had 27 punts, while opposing kickers had 28. Watts averaged 40.89 yards per punt, while the opposition averaged 44.46.

Kickoff returns were spread over five players, with Maurice Bell having the most opportunities (5 for 115 yards), followed by La’Vontae Shenault (2 for 55 yards) and Brenden Rice (2 for 37 yards).

Dimitri Stanley handled almost all of CU’s punt returns, with nine returns for 75 yards. His total yardage was eclipsed, however, by the one memorable punt return posted by Brenden Rice, who had an 81-yarder for a touchdown against Utah.

CU Nationally … 

  • Kickoff return defense … 22.81 yards/return … 89th nationally
  • Kickoff returns … 19.57 yards/return … 74th nationally
  • Punt return defense … 8.58 yards/return … 84th nationally
  • Punt returns … 14.6 yards/return … 11th nationally (take away Rice’s TD return, and CU would be ranked 52nd)
  • Net punting … 37.26 yards/punt … 89th nationally

What Others Say About CU’s Special Teams … 

Preseason Media All-Pac-12 All-Conference team … None

Athlon … Second-team All-Pac-12: Dimitri Stanley, punt returner … Walk-on Evan Price returns after going 6-for-8 on field goals a year ago. A part-timer early in the season, he’s 15-for-18 as a Buff, with two misses coming on blocks. He’ll still have to hold off scholarship freshman Cole Becker for the job. Punter Josh Watts, from Australia, played his first year of football in 2020 and got better as the season went along.

Phil Steele’s … Fourth-team All-Pac-12: Dimitri Stanley, punt returner … Colorado moved up from No. 98 in my special teams rankings to No. 68, and, with everyone back, they could climb into the Top 50 of our Special-teams rankings this year.

Comments … From the Daily Camera …  Watts, an Australian native, got better as the 2020 season went along and expects to be better in his second season of American football. At place kicker, Price and Becker are both ready to compete. Price has been a reliable kicker for the Buffs, but has never displayed long-range ability. Becker was one of the nation’s top 2021 recruits and has a big leg. Willis will hope to handle kickoff duties again. Townsend and Bedell will battle for snapper duties.

Final word … In a shortened season, with a new coaching staff, no spring practices, and an abbreviated Fall Camp, it is certainly understandable that special teams in 2020 were underwhelming. There were many other priorities on both sides of the ball than special teams, and CU did not have a designated special teams coach.

Cumulatively, Colorado lost almost 150 yards of field position – or 30 yards per game during the regular season – to the opposition. Perhaps that is why the CU coaching staff felt it necessary to use a (precious) scholarship this recruiting cycle on a kicker (Cole Becker), with punter recruit Ashton Logan enrolling in January, 2022.

Punter Josh Watts might be secure in his job, but the placekickers are not. There should be plenty of competition this fall. Dorrell, in fact, said in spring he was happy with the daily battles between incumbent starter Evan Price and Mac Willis, last year’s kickoff specialist.

“That’s been very competitive every day because we kick field goals at the end of practice every day,” Dorrell said. “I think Evan Price has had a good spring. He’s been our most consistent kicker. Another one of those guys he is taking advantage of the opportunity he gets. It’s competition really across the board everywhere. I know that right now we’re not settling on who’s going to be the starter in the fall.”

“It was good to know that I was going out there and being the starter for a year, but even when James was ahead of me, I’m just kind of ready at all times,” Price said, “just because you never know what’s gonna happen.”

First fall scrimmageCole Becker took advantage of his opportunities, hitting both his field goal tries, including one from nearly 50 yards … 

As to the returners, Maurice Bell has already been lost for the season with an Achilles injury. Dimitri Stanley and Brenden Rice came out of the spring atop the list of returners.

First fall scrimmageBrenden Rice had what was reported to be a “long kick return”

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