Last year’s historic Cincinnati Bearcats team had very few flaws, but a glaring one was the kicking unit.
After losing senior kicker Cole Smith to graduation this year, the kicking team is looking to turn over a new leaf for this season. Kerry Coombs will be tasked with revamping the special teams for the 2022 season, where he’ll have some familiar faces and new contributors looking to make a name for themselves.
Delaware transfer Ryan Coe is the clear favorite so far to take over the kicking mantle for the Bearcats. Coe was named to the preseason Lou Groza Award Watch List, which is awarded to the nation’s best kicker. At Delaware in 2021, Coe was named Third Team All-Conference as he connected on 14 of 17 field goals with a long of 51 yards. Reports from camp so far have shown Coe having some accuracy issues, but the power is certainly there for the junior.
Sophomore Mason Fletcher will once again be tasked with the punting duties for the Bearcats. In all 14 games last season, Fletcher averaged 42.9 yards per punt, which ranked 69th in the nation. Fletcher also had 17 punts inside the 20, which ranked him below average in the FBS among all other punters. While he didn’t quite perform as well as Bearcat fans were used to with former punter James Smith, his performance in the Cotton Bowl gave fans a glimpse of his upside as he averaged 45.2 yards per punt and had a long of 54 yards, which he followed with the billionaire strut to celebrate.
The return game for both punts and kickoffs will once again be dangerous. Senior running back Ryan Montgomery will return punts for the fourth straight year for the Bearcats. Montgomery was named to the Paul Hornung Award Watch List, which is awarded to the most versatile player in college football. Montgomery was named to Pro Football Focus’ All-AAC Third Team last year as a punt returner after returning 18 punts for an average of 11.1 yards per return. Experience from Montgomery should help the Bearcats to have another great year in the punt return game.
Speaking of return game, the lightning quick duo of Tre Tucker and Tyler Scott, who were both recently named to Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List, will be handed the reigns again for returning kicks. Tucker was the lead returner for the Bearcats as he returned 22 kicks for 557 yards and one touchdown. Scott’s numbers were down from Tucker’s, but he still had 5 returns for 102 yards. No matter who teams kick it to, getting the ball in either player’s hands in open space will be hard to stop.
Coombs will have his work cut out for him trying to right the ship of last year’s kicking game, but the other units for his special teams will definitely be a strength for the new-look 2022 Bearcats.