UCLA Position Previews — Special Teams

November 30, 2012; Stanford, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn (15) kicks a point-after-touchdown out of the hold by kicker Jeff Locke (18) during the first quarter of the Pac-12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal. - US PRESSWIRE

Each week, we take a look at the various fronts of Washington's upcoming opponent. Today, we examine the special teams of the UCLA Bruins.

Players to watch
PK/KOS Ka'imi Fairbairn, KOS/P Sean Covington, PR Shaq Evans, KOR Steven Manfro

Notable injuries/absences
None

Analysis
Ka'imi Fairbairn has been a solid placekicker for the Bruins this year, making 12 of 16 attempts and going a perfect eight-for-eight on kicks under 40 yards. Beyond that range, he's a bit shaky, having made just six of 14 attempts in his college career. Fairbairn has essentially split kickoff duties with Sean Covington, and there's no real statistical difference between the two: Both have a touchback rate of 50 percent, and Fairbairn's average kick distance is just over a half-yard longer than Covington's. No matter who is doing the kicking, UCLA's coverage team does a fantastic job in allowing just 18.5 yards per attempt, and has allowed just two returns of 30 yards or more, and none exceeding 40 yards.

One interesting tidbit about UCLA's punting game is that they have punted seven times in three games: their losses against Stanford and Oregon, and their win over Utah. (Which probably should have been a loss, were it not for Travis Wilson's six interceptions.) If Washington's defense can force the Bruins to punt seven times, they will likely put themselves in a position to win. On the other hand, when UCLA's opponents attempt to return punts, they've earned just 36 yards on 12 attempts-with Kasen Williams out for the rest of the year, expect UW to minimize special teams turnover opportunities by calling fair catches in just about any and all punting situations.

Shaq Evans has made a name for himself in special teams, averaging almost 9.4 yards per return on his 22 attempts between this season and last. He had a hot start to this season, rolling up 98 yards on his first four attempts, but has since cooled off, averaging just 2.6 yards on his last nine attempts.

Steven Manfro has carried 18 of UCLA's 30 kickoff return attempts this season, and his 24.8 yards per return ranks second in the conference behind Stanford's Ty Montgomery. Washington was burned for 204 yards on four attempts by Montgomery in this year's Stanford game, and if Manfro has anything resembling the game that Montgomery put together against the Dawgs, the Huskies will find themselves playing out of a hole on the road, which is not a position that they've shown much of an ability to come back from.

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As always, thanks to College Football StatisticsESPN and USA Today's College Football Injury Report for the relevant data that went into this article. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking below.

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