Fall camp: Cal football’s special teams unit eager to kick into higher gear

Sam Albillo/Staff

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In most engineering practices, it’s understood that power generation and distribution are efficiently maximized when using three-phase electric power instead of an AC power supply with only two conductors.

This same dynamic applies to Cal football’s three phases. When the offense, defense and special teams are firing on all cylinders, maximum productivity soon follows.

Despite stellar individual talent at special teams coordinator Charlie Ragle’s disposal, the all-important special teams unit still has a way to go before it can execute its part of the whole.

“Everything’s up for grabs: the kickers, the snappers, the punters, the whole nine. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs (as coaches) if we just settled for the job that (the players) do,” Ragle said.

“Our job is to go out and recruit better players so we can continue the cycle, to get better and be better. So (the players) either have to elevate their game, or someone’s going to come in here and replace them.”

After multiple field goals were blocked in the midst of an array of special teams-focused drills Friday, Ragle wants to see more consistency out of his place-kickers. Ragle singled out redshirt senior place-kicker Greg Thomas, whom Ragle believes can offer a lot more.

“Greg’s working hard, but I’d like to see him do a little better, to be honest, and I’ve told him that,” Ragle said. “We expect (the special teams) to be harder-working and expect them all to play faster. (Thomas) falls into that category. He’s a senior and a leader in that specialists room, and he’s got to come out and perform.”

Thomas and redshirt freshman phenom Slater Zellers, his long-snapper, have been working to get in sync and minimize the errors that riddled their first week of camp. Each player has the rest of the month to hone their singular craft before UC Davis comes to town.

“The first day (of camp), obviously, we struggled a little bit with timing issues, but we will fix that really quick,” Zellers said. “It’s starting to come along. Give it a couple more weeks, we should be in midseason form, hopefully.”

Redshirt senior punter and Steven Coutts enters the most important season of his football career, having adopted a leadership role among his special team colleagues.

“Coutts is great. He is the father figure of our group, so any questions we have, we look towards him and he guides us in the right direction. Without him we are kind of lost,” Zellers said.

Coutts’ performances will weigh heavily on the overall success of this season’s special teams unit. Ragle preached the same sentiment that Zellers did in regard to Coutts’ leadership, while emphasizing his attention to detail during camp so far.

“The one thing about Steven is that he’s a professional. He continuously works, time and time again,” Ragle said. “He’s continually working on his craft, whether it’s his drop or his footwork. That’s what he does in the offseason, and we expect big things out of him.”

Spencer Golanka is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @sgolanka.