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Opponent Special Teams Preview: Oregon

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Fast returners and good kickers highlight the Ducks’ specialists

NCAA Football: Oregon at Stanford Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When thinking of the Oregon Ducks’ special teams, the crazy formation for PAT’s and the tendency to go for two is the first thing that comes to mind. It kind of seems like they always used to make it, even when the defense was ready for it.

2016 has been a little different. The Ducks are still doing it (going for two-point conversions after almost half of their touchdowns this season), but out of 13 2-point attempts, Oregon has succeeded only four times (0-5 when passing, 4-8 on running attempts). They are a perfect 15-15 when they kick the extra point.

For a quick synopsis of the Oregon special teams as a whole, I reached out to Ken Goe (@KenGoe) of The Oregonian. Says Ken:

The UO place-kickers are excellent, and so is the kickoff coverage. Punt coverage not so much. Charles Nelson is Oregon’s main returner, and he is one of the best in the conference. He returned a kickoff for a TD against the Cougs. Most teams try to kick away from him.

The “excellent” placekickers Goe refers to are Aidan Schneider and Matt Wogen. Schneider has only attempted three field goals so far this season (making all three) after last season nailing 90.9-percent of his attempts; good enough for second in the nation. Wogen handles kickoff duties and averages almost 65 yards per kickoff with nearly 70-percent of his kicks going for touchbacks.

Depth Chart:

Punter Ian Wheeler’s average of 38 yards per punt is not great, but he has put eight punts inside the 20-yard-line and solicited 11 fair catches. Weren’t there times when Oregon didn’t punt 22 times in a season, let alone in the first five games?

Oregon has great speed at the skill positions, and that means dangerous return men. Charles Nelson leads all of FBS in total yards and kickoff return yards. A lot of that is due to the sheer number of returns (19), but his kickoff return average of 30.7 is outstanding. Equally impressive is Nelson’s 20.2 yard average punt return, although he has made a few errors fielding punts and has been replaced at the top of the depth chart by Darren Carrington.

As for coverage, opponents have averaged almost 10 yards per punt return. However, that number is skewed by a 45-yard return surrendered to Nebraska’s De’Mornay Pierson-El. Virginia ran a kickoff back 42-yards into Ducks’ territory, but other than that Oregon has been very good on kickoff coverage, allowing an average of under 16 yards on their opponents other nine returns.