UCLA Football Spring Practice Preview 2018: Special Teams (cont.)
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Adarius Pickett, Jr-R, 5-11, 195 lbs.
The junior DB was the main punt returner for the Bruins last season. Incredibly, he only totaled 10 returns for 72 yards. In fact, the entire punt return team had just 73 total yards last year. The main culprit of the Bruins only returning 14 punts for the season is the fact that their defense didn’t make teams punt very often. When you’re giving up almost 37 points a game, the other team isn’t punting too often and…
But I digress…
Pickett will probably start as the punt returner since he is the only Bruin on the roster who has returned punts in college. Darren Andrews and Mossi Johnson helped to return punts last year but both have moved on from UCLA. Although with Chip Kelly coming in, he may have a completely different person or persons besides Pickett in mind to return punts but Adarius should have first crack at the job.
Darnay Holmes, So, 5-10, 195 lbs.
As a freshman, Holmes took the job of kickoff returner and, well…ran with it. His 715 total return yards was fourth best in the PAC-12. Although he never broke a kickoff for a touchdown (only one PAC-12 player did), he did have his season long return of 54 yards versus Hawaii. With Holmes returning a majority of kickoffs, the Bruins average starting field position was just shy of the 30 yard line (38th in nation). That will be nice for Devon Modster, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or whoever is playing quarterback for the Bruins to start on the 30 yard line after most kickoffs.
Mo Osling III, So, 6-2, 185 lbs.
The former California high school triple jump champion also contributed on kickoff returns for the Bruins last year. On nine returns, Osling averaged 18 yards. Not too bad for a freshman who returned just one kickoff in the first six games of the season. But the next four games he excelled returning eight kickoffs averaging 27.8 yards a return.
I would be happy to see either Holmes or Osling return kickoffs next year. Perhaps have them take turns to give the kickoff coverage a different look. Coach Kelly could also choose use one of the incoming freshmen to return kicks.
Chip Kelly comes into UCLA with some tough choices. Who will start at quarterback? Which running back or backs should I go with? But at least with special teams, Coach Kelly already has a strong base where he can add his own personal touches and (hopefully) make it even more successful.