Heading into a highly-anticipated Fiesta Bowl showdown against a well-rounded Kansas State team, the Oregon Ducks continue to shift a good amount of focus in practice to their shaky special team unit.
Set to square off against two of the most dynamic speedsters in the country in punt returner Tramaine Thompson and kickoff specialist Tyler Lockett, Oregon special teams coordinator Tom Osborne knows that his unit cannot afford to suffer any lapses in their biggest game of the year. Osborne spoke glowingly of both Thompson and Lockett to Rob Moseley of The Register-Guard, but also indicated that every single member of Kansas State's special teams unit has been remarkable this season.
"They’re very sound, their technique’s good," Osborne said. "They make people miss, they’re courageous, they have great speed. And, though those guys are really good, those other 10 guys block their tails off."
Though Thompson did not finish with enough punt returns to qualify to rank among the national leaders at his position, his 23.7 yards per punt return average would soar above the 16.4 mark set by NCAA leader Giovani Bernard of North Carolina. In a game where points may very well come in bunches for both sides, Thompson and Lockett could very easily be the two biggest keys to the game on special teams. The Ducks have plenty of speed to replicate K-State's two returners in practice, but only time will tell if Osborne's unit can step up on a marquee stage.