Visions of Central Arkansas' Dillion Winfrey dashing down the Folsom Field turf have danced through the head of Colorado special teams coordinator Toby Neinas too much over the past three weeks.
"Normally you think about punt morning, noon and night," Neinas said. "But in this case here, it's kickoff and it's big."
Two games into the season, there has been very little to complain about with how Colorado (2-0) has played. The kickoff coverage unit, however, has been porous, and that bothers Neinas.
"That's all I think about right now," he said.
In Week 1 against Colorado State, CU gave up 192 yards on five kickoff returns, including an 84-yarder. The Buffs also gave up returns of 38 and 30 yards.
On Sept. 7, Winfrey had an 88-yard return that set up a field goal.
It's no wonder the Buffs rank 123rd nationally in kick return defense, allowing 35.6 yards per return.
CU has not played since that Sept. 7 game and Neinas has worked diligently to correct the problems.
"I don't want to say I didn't have them ready, but I didn't have them understanding the concepts that we needed to understand to execute the coverage game," Neinas said.
CU also gave up a 74-yard punt return for touchdown against CSU, but Neinas is not as worried about that unit. He credits CSU's Joe Hansley for making a great play. Aside from that play, CU has allowed just 38 yards on three punt returns.
"If a guy makes a great play in that much space (on a punt return), it's going to make you look bad," Neinas said. "On the particular big return that we've had against the punt team, I don't know that we would do it any differently if you gave us a chance to do it again.
"Kickoff coverage is a very different story."
It all starts with the kick, of course. Junior Will Oliver has put just one kick out of the back of the end zone -- his first kick of the year. Of his 15 kicks, just four have been touchbacks. Four have been fielded near the goal line. Winfrey's big return was fielded 2 yards deep.
After Winfrey's big return, the Buffs used pooch kicks on the last four attempts against UCA to get the ball near the 20 or 25 and avoid big returns.
Neinas said he's not concerned with Oliver, as long as the Buffs can do a better job of covering the kicks.
"Do you want a touchback? Sure," Neinas said. "But, you know, back when (Martin) Gramatica was at Kansas State, they used to run him if he kicked the ball as a touchback because he had the ability to hang the football and they were so fast that they could cover underneath it and pin. That's the best kick.
"The kick that drops at the 1 with a 4.1-(second) hang, that ball should never make it to the 20. That's the best kick. But, where we are right now, I'd take a touchback every time."
Oliver has been getting the ball near the goal line, but the issue has come after that, Neinas said. Opponents have found big holes.
"The single most disappointing thing if you watch us in Weeks 1 and 2 were the volume of people that we had down the field at reception and the fact that we weren't able to get the ball on the ground," he said. "We had people in the neighborhood, and I didn't get it done on that one.
"What it came down to was execution of the scheme and I did not have it impressed upon them enough to understand exactly what we needed to do to have success there. They were able to basically kind of Red Sea us, so to speak."
Since the Central Arkansas game, CU's kickoff coverage unit has spent a lot of time on fundamentals, such as shedding blocks quickly and getting back into lanes. Neinas has also hammered home the scheme that he wants to execute on game day.
Neinas is eager to see the results of the unit's hard work when they visit Oregon State on Saturday.
"It's very, very important from a psychological standpoint that we see success in that phase on Saturday," he said. "It's very important for our team to feel good about that, because mentally right now we're fragile when it comes to that team.
"I'll really be disappointed (if that unit is not better). We tried to break it all down and rebuild it up, and I really feel that the guys understand.
"Frankly, it's my responsibility, so it better show up on Saturday."