Colorado punter Alex Kinney didn’t get much attention with postseason awards, but the junior wound up having a very good season for the Buffaloes.
Coming off a disappointing 2016 season, he and the Buffs’ coaches said throughout fall camp that Kinney was as good as ever, and he backed up that up during the season.
Kinney, who has been CU’s punter the past three years, had career highs on gross average (43.8 yards per kick) and net average (41.7). He also set a CU record with 28 of his punts landing inside the 20. Overall, Kinney landed 50 percent of his 56 punts inside the 20. Prior to this year, the best percentage in CU history was 41.5 percent, by Darragh O’Neill in 2014.
Kinney’s net average was significantly better from 2015 (38.1) and 2016 (35.4).
“He started out really well in fall camp,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “(Kinney and I) were talking about some of the things we can do to help him scheme-wise, too. The protection was good for him and he felt confident. That’s a big part for a punter. Our snaps were better late in the year, too.”
The Buffs did have two punts blocked, and those were both costly, but aside from that, Kinney had solid protection most of the year.
About the only postseason honor for Kinney was being named to the Phil Steele All-Pac-12 third team.
If he continues his progress, he could be in line for more honors next season, although his competition is tough.
Just one of the 12 primary punters in the Pac-12 this season was a senior (Nick Porebski of Oregon State), and the returners include 2016 Ray Guy Award winner – and 2017 finalist – Mitch Wishnowsky of Utah.
Given the season Kinney had, though, MacIntyre is confident Kinney can compete with the best next year.
“He’s very talented and that’s what I expect out of him,” MacIntyre said. “I expect him to be one of the best punters in the country. I think he is that talented.”
Emphasis on teaching
Offensive line coach Klayton Adams, who was promoted to co-offensive coordinator earlier this month, said that as the Buffs look to improve this offseason, it’s imperative that he and the staff get better at teaching the game to the players.
“We have to be great about instructing our guys and teaching them and them understanding why and how and what and playing great fundamentals and great technique,” Adams said. “No.1 is if we play with the right mentality and play really hard and finish and do all those type of things right, but No. 2, we have to be great teachers.”
A lot of that begins with the chemistry within the staff. Adams and receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini will work as co-coordinators, while running backs coach Darian Hagan and tight ends coach Gary Bernardi are also on board. The Buffs are also in the process of hiring a new quarterbacks coach.
“There has to be great chemistry there,” Adams said. “I think there’s a good chemistry that exists with the entire offensive staff.”
Pac-12 in New Year’s Six
With the bowl season getting to the better games on the slate, the Pac-12 will be on some big stages in the coming days.
Nine Pac-12 teams reached bowl games, including two – No. 8 USC and No. 11 Washington – playing New Year’s Six games.
USC will face No. 5 Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl Classic on Friday, while Washington will face No. 9 Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
While that’s good exposure for the conference, it’s not exactly what the Pac-12 wants.
“I’m glad that we have two teams in the top 12 and we had one just outside of the top 12 (Stanford at No. 13),” CU athletic director Rick George said. “I’d love to have somebody in the College Football Playoff. That’s always a goal of our conference.”
Having nine teams from the Pac-12 in bowls will help with conference distribution money – even though the conference is a disappointing 1-5 in bowls through Thursday.
“I think having nine in the postseason speaks loudly of our conference,” George said. “My only disappointment is that we’re not one of the nine.”
CU will begin spring drills on Feb. 16, with the spring scrimmage set for March 17. CU tied its school record by losing just five fumbles this season – matching the record set in 1956 for fewest in a season. The Buffs had 14 fumbles overall, tied for the second-fewest in CU history. The three lowest totals in program history have all come in MacIntyre’s tenure: 12 in 2014, 14 this year and in 2013.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.