Colorado Position Previews — Special Teams

Doug Pensinger

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

Players to watch
PK/KOS Will Oliver, P Darragh O'Neill, PR Nelson Spruce, KOR Ryan Severson

Notable injuries/absences
K Justin Castor (Hip-out)

Analysis
After attempting just eight field goals last year, Will Oliver has made 14 on 18 attempts this season, tied for second-most in the conference. He's got leg to spare, having made two of four attempts from beyond 50 yards, and is an absolute dead-eye from short range, having successfully kicked all eight of his attempts from 39 yards or closer. In kickoffs, Oliver has sent 18 of his 40 attempts for touchbacks, which could be the key to them staying in Saturday's game: Colorado's kickoff coverage unit hasn't done him many favors this year, either, having allowed a conference-worst seven returns of 30 yards or more.

Punter Darragh O'Neill averages just a hair under 41 yards per kick this year, down from his 2011 and 2012 averages of 42.6 and 43.5 yards, respectively. Like Oliver, his coverage team has done him no favors, either, allowing an average of 11.33 yards per return, worse than every conference team other than California.

Punt returner Nelson Spruce hasn't betrayed much of his ability this year, as he's only attempted returns on eight punts total, with four of those coming in the season opener against Colorado State. Interestingly, his sole punt return attempt last year came against Washington, and went for a loss of two yards. On the off chance that UW needs Coons to summon his punting abilities on Saturday, it's probably fair to expect each attempt to result in a fair catch.

True Freshman Ryan Severson has made the most of his chances this year, helping Colorado rank third in the conference in returning six kickoffs for 30 yards or more. He did suffer one ill-timed fumble* in the second quarter against UCLA that helped swing the game's momentum toward the Bruins, so it will be interesting to see if his psyche has recovered from that misstep.

*As if there's such thing as a well timed fumble, right?

--

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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