Originally Published: Sep 22, 2009 7:14 PM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer
NORMAN, Oklahoma – Just three games into the regular season, the OU Sooners seem to have fixed their greatest weakness from last season: special teams.
OU’s kick return coverage was particularly bad last season, andthe problems startedin the second game of the season. Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard broke multiple long returns, including a 97-yarder for a touchdown. He gained a total of 246 yards on five returns.
The Sooners’ struggles continued for the rest of the season. They gave up a total of six kick returns of more than 75 yards, four of which went for touchdowns. They finished the regular season allowing a total of 2,209 yards and an average of 25 yards per kick return.
So far this season, the Sooners are allowing an average of 18 yards and the longest return they have given up is 41 yards, which came Saturday to Tulsa’s Freeman Kelly.
Head coach Bob Stoops said he has been pleased with the performance with all of OU’s special teams units, but that things have not been perfect.
“There’s still some thing we can improve on,” Stoops said.
Freshmen Marcus Trice and Demontre Hurst and senior Keenan Clayton have made an impression on Stoops thanks to their special teams play. Trice blocked a punt against Idaho State, while Hurst and Clayton have consistently gotten downfield to make plays on kicks and punts.
Stoops added that kickoff specialist Matt Moreland and punter Tress Way have helped the special teams improve. Moreland has consistently shown power and accuracy, which has made it easier for the coverage team to make tackles. Way has also shown impressive accuracy, pinning half of his 14 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Stoops said the key to the special teams’ improvement is simply experience.
“All our punters and kickers are a year older and more experienced,” Stoops said. “I think even some of the other guys in their execution, through practice and repetition are just older, have looked at it longer and handle it better.”
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