UTEP Football Position Breakdown: Special Teams
Aug. 10, 2009
This is the final installment in a series of articles previewing the 2009 UTEP football team.
Josh Ferguson played a major role in UTEP's special teams last season. He led the Miners in both punt returns (six) and kickoff returns (24), and averaged a 20.6-yard run every time he touched the ball.
Ferguson has exhausted his eligibility but, even without his services, there's good reason to believe that UTEP will be better on special teams in 2009.
The Miners return Jeff Moturi to the kickoff return mix after he averaged a sparkling 23.8 yards per attempt a year ago. They have a wealth of other lightning-quick options in Donald Buckram, Vernon Frazier and Donavon Kemp.
"Those three guys all run a 4.4 or 4.5 [40-yard dash] and give us a chance to get some big returns," said special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. "Josh was more of a shifty guy. These guys have more straight-line type speed."
Buckram averaged 17.0 yards on 10 kickoff returns last season, and Frazier had one return for 16 yards.
"We're catching punts better than we ever have," Banks said. "We have several guys with the ability to make big returns. Moturi did a great job last season [6.7-yard average], but he gets used so much on everything that we need other guys to make catches and plays.
"One of the things we struggled with last year was fielding punts when Moturi wasn't in the game. So far we haven't dropped any balls in fall camp."
The return teams remain virtually intact from last season. "We have a lot of carryover with the linebackers, safeties, defensive backs and running backs, so we will be experienced at the blocking schemes," Banks said.
"Geoff is one of the best that we have had here," Banks said. "He has great velocity on his snaps. He is a great, physical cover guy who can tackle. He is having a good camp and had a great summer ... I think he ran a 4.7 ."
Kyle Wright returns at holder, a role he has filled for the last few years.
Look for the Miners to tweak their kickoff scheme after losing Jose Martinez, whose booming efforts resulted in 54 touchbacks over the last two years.
"We'll have to be a little more directional," Banks said.
"I think we'll kick off well," Banks said.
Banks pinpointed three keys to UTEP's special teams success this season.
"Number one, we have to protect the punter, and we have to keep people from blocking punts," he said. "Number two, we have to operate well in field goals and PATs, because we have a new kicker and snapper. And number three, we have to make big plays in the return game. We have several weapons to work with, some who are experienced and some who are new. We should be very good in the return game."