One thing I love about the Ducks is how they approach special teams. While most teams populate their kicking and return units with backups and inexperienced underclassmen, Oregon utilizes stars such as Josh Huff, Colt Lyerla and De’Anthony Thomas; this has a massive impact on this oft-overlooked facet of the game. Playmakers such as Avery Patterson, Brian Jackson, Bralon Addison and Ayele Ford, are also consistent contributors. It’s clear they have a collective goal to break every return for a touchdown, and when DAT’s your returner, that’s always a possibility. (Just ask Colorado).
As you can see in the above photos (and in this return vs. USC), the Ducks’ return units work very hard to set downfield edge-blocks and lead-blocks for the returner. Instead of entrusting this valuable task to players well down on the depth chart, Oregon employs starters such as Keanon Lowe and other athletic skill players.
Thomas lines up occasionally on the edge to block field goals and PAT’s, and star receiver Josh Huff blocked a punt vs. Virginia. These plays not only affect field position, they are tremendous momentum boosters in the heat of competition. I expect to see the Ducks continue placing heavy emphasis on special teams, and won’t be surprised when it helps us win a big game (like in the Fiesta Bowl).