Lockett settling in to punt-return role

Thursday, September 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State coach Bill Snyder insists that David Allen will go back to returning punts when he recovers from his ankle injury. But Aaron Lockett isn't making Snyder's decision an easy one.

The junior wide receiver has picked up where Allen left off when he injured his ankle in a 27-7 win over Iowa on Aug. 26.

Lockett has scored touchdowns on two of his five punt returns for 188 yards and has twice been named Big 12 special-teams player-of-the-week.

He returned his first for 69 yards against Louisiana Tech, then dazzled Wildcats fans with an acrobatic, 83-yard score in Kansas State's 76-0 win over Ball State.

Until this season, Lockett hadn't returned punts since playing at Washington High in Tulsa, Okla. When told that Snyder said Tuesday at a press conference that Allen would probably return to the position, Lockett said he wasn't ready to give it up just yet.

``Oh, I'm going to fight for it,'' he said. ``But, I try not to think about that. That's coach's decision. I'm just going to try to keep getting better.''

With his score against Ball State, Lockett became just the third player in NCAA history to return a punt for a touchdown in consecutive games.

Only Allen, who did it 1998 and in 1999 en route to tying Oklahoma's Jack Mitchell and Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers with seven career punt return touchdowns, and Syracuse's Quinton Spotwood, who returned touchdowns in back-to-back games in 1997, previously accomplished that feat.

Lockett averages 36.7 yards per punt return, which leads the nation by 11 yards over Virginia Tech's Andre Davis.

``He's gaining confidence with every punt return,'' Snyder said. ``It takes a fearless runner and tremendous focus to be good at punt returns. But it takes 11 guys to make it work. David and Aaron are great talents. There's other guys on that unit that take a lot of pride and hard work to be successful.''

In just three games as a punt returner, Lockett hasn't wasted any time in making opponents fear him. Ball State chose to punt the ball out of bounds twice to avoid the 5-foot-7 flanker.

``I've seen teams do that to David for years,'' Lockett said. ``That they even consider to punt it out of bounds is a big confidence booster.''

Lockett said he still has improvements to make, but isn't dismissing the chance to break the punt return for a touchdown record.

``I'm not quite there yet,'' he said. ``If it happens, it happens. I made some good plays, but I still have to keep learning. Practice means everything. David has been very helpful in giving me pointers.''

Nevertheless, Snyder may have a tough choice when Allen returns. Lockett said Snyder might think about using two punt returners.

``He may put both of us back there,'' Lockett said. ``It's hard to say what coach will do. We'll just take it one step at a time.''