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New coaching staff, new approach put emphasis on the kicking game as an area where Oregon can improve.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon kicker Camden Lewis (49) attempts a field goal against Fresno State on Sept. 4, 2021 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

This story is the sixth of six in a summer series breaking down Oregon football by position group leading up to the first official practices before the season.

Oregon and its fans were delivered a stunning example of how special teams play can impact a football game last Nov. 20 in the then No. 3-ranked Ducks' deflating loss at Utah. Utah's Britain Covey took a punt 78 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half to give the Utes a 28-0 halftime lead.

The play was the knockout blow in a game that eliminated the Ducks from College Football Playoff consideration. It was a glaring example of a phase of the game that wasn't Oregon's strength during Mario Cristobal's tenure. By most metrics, the Ducks have ranked outside the top 100 teams for special teams efficiency for several seasons.

New special teams coordinator Joe Lorig, who spent the previous three seasons coordinating special teams at Penn State, is tasked with changing that.

RELATED STORY: Check out the other five parts of our Oregon football summer breakdown

In the spring, Lorig said he emphasizes two things: own the ball (no turnovers) and no penalties. He noted that the Ducks hurt themselves last season with four special teams turnovers and 16 penalties. By contrast, Penn State special teams lost one turnover in Lorig's three seasons there and committed only nine penalties last season.

Junior Camden Lewis won back the placekicking job last season after losing it as a sophomore to Henry Katleman. An all-Pac-12 second-team pick last season (and this preseason), Lewis made 13 of 16 field goals with a long of 49. He made his first 10 field goals, but struggled in Oregon's two losses to Utah. Lewis also served as the primary kickoff guy for the Ducks last season, producing 35 touchbacks on 79 kickoffs.

Katleman transferred to Colorado State, but two juniors transferred to Oregon: Alex Bales was Cincinnati's primary kickoff specialist last season, and Camas, Washington, native Andrew Boyle saw limited action as a kickoff specialist at Washington State.

After three seasons as the Ducks' punter, Tom Snee has stepped away from the team to focus on his mental health.

Over three seasons, Snee punted 91 times and averaged 41.4 yards per attempt. The new punter will be a transfer, either senior Adam Barry or sophomore Ross James. At Temple last season, Barry averaged 41.9 yards a punt and had 13 kicks longer than 50 yards last season. James averaged 40.5 yards a punt at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi.

In the return game, both of last season's primary kick returners — Mykael Wright (kickoffs) and Mycah Pittman (punts) have departed. Receiver Kris Hutson has the most experience as a kickoff returner and Seven McGee took over handling punt returns at the end of last season after Pittman left the team. Figure other candidates will emerge to provide depth and competition for the return jobs.

RELATED STORY: Dan Lanning sounds like a seasoned pro at first Pac 12 media day

One spot where the Ducks are solid is at long snapper.

Senior Karsten Battles has been the snapper on field goals and extra points since arriving in 2018 as a freshman from San Antonio, Texas. He added punts to his snapping duties as a sophomore.

The other long snapper on the preseason roster is redshirt freshman Luke Basso out of Lakeridge High, who did not see action as a true freshman last season.

Lorig said in the spring that every starter on offense and defense other than linemen and the quarterback is expected to play on at least one special teams unit.


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