AN EARLY DEPTH CHART - SPECIAL TEAMSPunter: Andrew Larson (Senior)/Bryan Anger (Freshman)
He's not quite Nick Harris yet, but Larson is a terrific punter who was a major part of Cal's success this year. His hang time and directional kicking were the major reasons the punt cover unit was much improved and did not yield big returns. Anger is rated the #2 punter in the nation by some recruiting services; we actually trust their ratings when it comes to this position. Cal is very solid here. No idea how the punt or kick cover units will measure up.
Placekicker: Tom Schneider (Senior)/Jordan Kay (Junior)
12-13 inside 50; perfect on PATs; the 55-yarder in the Big Game. Yeah, we'd say that Schneider has been a pleasant surprise. Makes those long Tedford FG attempts a little more palatable.
Punt Returns: DeSean Jackson (Junior)/Brandon Hampton (Senior)
We've got the suspicion that heralded return guys tend not to have repeat performances the following season. We're too lazy to look at all the All-America teams, but we looked up the FWAA teams out of curiosity. 11 underclassmen have made All-America as kick returners, but only two have repeated (Tim Dwight and Rocket Ismail, if you're interested). Hopefully DeSean becomes the third. He'll need to if he hopes to contend for the Heisman (more on that later in the off-season).
Kick Returns: Tracy Slocum (RS Freshman)/Jahvid Best (Freshman)
Hughes is gone, and as the feature back Forsett isn't going to be used here. So auditions will begin in the spring for our new kick returners. Here's a wild guess that the unit winds up being Jahvid Best (assuming he signs) and Tracy Slocum. Slocum is fast and shifty; Best might wind up being the fastest man on the team unless he bulks up. They are probably the best athletes for this role, but will JT put two frosh on kick return?
Summary - This looks like another strength for the Golden Bears. Only one of the four kicking game units is unsettled, and Cal should be able to field great young talent in kick return. We return our long snapper (Nick Sundberg) but must get a new holder (Reed, Riley?). Anyone who thinks this is trivial hasn't been watching the past few weeks of the NFL. Lastly, what's it going to take for Cal to block a punt or a field goal sometime soon? I know we rarely get after it with DeSean back deep, but why not a FG once in a while?
Overall, special teams is another team strength. 2004-5 seems like a distant memory.