(image courtesy of Post and Courier)
When talking football, you mainly hear about offense and defense. Special teams is usually an after thought when talking about the phases of a football game. I believe not offense, not defense, but special teams (mostly kickoff coverage) will decide the outcome of this Saturday’s game in Columbia, South Carolina. If you watched UK’s game last Saturday, you most likely noticed EKU was getting great field position as they were breaking loose on kickoffs. It will be even more scary this week as we play possibly one of the best returners in the country, Deebo Samuel.
While South Carolina has won both of their first two games, they were outgained in yardage in both matchups. Deebo Samuel and the South Carolina special teams unit have already taken two kickoff returns to the house and it could be dangerous for the Cats if they don’t get their kickoff return coverage cleaned up. The mismatch in yardage hasn’t mattered because the Gamecocks’ special teams has gotten great position or Deebo would just go ahead and get a touchdown. While Deebo Samuel has only returned two kickoff returns, he averaged 97 yards per return with two touchdowns. It will be crucial that the Cats contain him or just kick it out of bounds.
On the other hand for Kentucky, our kickoff returns have been moderate for the most part. Sihiem King had a couple of possible returns but then somebody would catch up and get just before it looked like it would turn into something. Lynn Bowden also had a potential get loose moment on the first play of the EKU game but got lead out of bounds. For our special teams, I’m more worried about how kickoff return coverage more than our actual kickoff returns. If I’m Stoops and company, I’m kicking the ball out of times every time.
In conclusion, if you contain Deebo Samuel and the kickoff team, you have a good shot to win. If Kentucky wins the field position battle, I believe our defense can contain South Carolina’s offense. Meanwhile Kentucky needs to get better field position to help our struggling offense. Don’t forget to follow @ukfansallday for the latest in UK sports news! Go Cats!