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Opponent Special Teams Preview: Utah

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The Ray Guy winner has moved on, but the kicking game is still excellent

Utah v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Utah has great kickers. What else is new?

After winning the Ray Guy award as the nation’s top punter two years in a row, Tom Hackett has moved on. Enter sophomore Mitch Wishnowsky who is averaging over 48 yards on his 38 punts. Wishnowsky has boomed 16 punts beyond 50 yards and put twenty of them inside the 20-yard line.

Senior Andy Phillips is on the Lou Groza watch list (is any kicker in the country not on that list?) and has made 13 of his 16 FG attempts this season. While 81% is good, it’s actually below his career average entering the season of 85%.

Kickoffs are mostly handled by freshman Hayes Hicken who has had exactly half of his kickoffs end up as touchbacks. Wishnowsky and Phillips have each been used for kickoff duties this season as well.

In the return game, junior Boobie Hobbs has averaged a pedestrian 7.09 yards per return, but the Utes coverage on punts has been stingy allowing just 7.33 yards on each return. Only nine punts have been returnable for Utah opponents in 2015.

Kikckoff returns for Utah had been very poor this season (less than 20 yards per return), but last week against UCLA Cory Butler-Byrd improved that average by doing this on the opening kickoff:

With the exception of a 100-yard runback for a touchdown by USC’s Adoree' Jackson, kickoff coverage has been outstanding for Utah with opponents averaging 21 yards per return.

Depth Chart: