In his first four games this season, UCLA’s Ishmael Adams ran, cut and shimmied his way to 447 special teams yards on 19 touches — including a 100-yarder that marked the Bruins’ first kickoff return touchdown since 2007.
In his last two, the 5-foot-8, 190-pound defensive back has just 64 yards on kickoff and punt returns.
The Bruins’ opponents may have affected him: Armed with the conference’s best punter in Tom Hackett and strong kicker in Andy Phillips, Utah held Adams to one 18-yard kickoff return and a one-yard punt return; Oregon ranks top-40 nationally in return coverage, and held him to 45 yards on three kick returns.
Adams credited teams for picking up his and the rest of the Bruins’ special teams tendencies on film.
“They’re doing a good job keeping the ball away from me,” he said. “Keeping me guessing on where they want to kick to the ball. Recognizing what we do different in our different returns. Having great effort running down the field, wanting to get after me and make a play. It is what it is.”
Cal should offer a similarly stiff challenge this Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Punter Cole Leininger has booted five of his 25 punts for at least 50 yards, and landed eight inside the 20-yard line. The Bears are top-20 nationally in both kick and punt return coverage.