Eberhardt: I hate to do this because I like him. He’s become the social media face of the program. I don’t want to be antagonistic. Let’s assume that his duties being spread between outside linebackers and special teams did him no favors, but the special teams were the Achilles heel of this team in multiple games. I think you could say that this team would be 6-6 if it hadn’t been for special teams.
Hanna: I think that the Arizona State game could have certainly flipped on special teams as well as the Oregon game.
Eberhardt: Those two, yes, and beyond that, you could steal one more. I’m going to give him a low grade because I don’t think you can do anything else, but that I acknowledge and certainly hope that we can rightfully say that there were mitigating factors. I would still put it at a D.
Hanna: I can’t disagree with that. It’s sad to say just because I like Manning personally. I think that he is a very gregarious personality and I actually think that we’re yet to see the best of him as a coach. But the coverage units for UCLA were abysmal this year. You can make excuses by saying that this is where depth really hits the team because coverage is done by backups, and your backups for this team were basically walk-ons. So you’re taking a huge hit in comparative athleticism and talent level and preparedness for Pac 12 football.
Also very, very basic things like not false starting on field goals that are over 50 yards already that you are making impossible for your kicker or not having twelve men on the field on a crucial punt or not false starting on a punt that backs up your punter to the one-inch line of the back of the end zone and he’s only able to get off a 25-yard punt that Stanford is able to knock into the end zone on the subsequent offensive drive in two plays. It was just such a litany of errors that were inexcusable because it was stuff like lining up or not having the right amount of players on the field that somebody has to take the heat for that. Unfortunately, the scapegoat here has to be Roy Manning because its his unit.
So a D is about right. It was bad. It’s not an F because JJ Molson was individually very good as a kicker. Stefan Flintoft started the season very roughly but got a lot better; he was actually a very reliable punter, maybe the best we’ve had since the one year of Sean Covington or even before him, Jeff Long. He was able to flip the field for us a few times. But the coverage units not involving the specialists were bad. They were really bad. So he’s safe from an F, but it’s not higher than a D or a D+ at the absolute maximum.