Helped by Ka’imi Fairbairn, UCLA excels in kickoff coverage

Ka’imi Fairbairn has quietly become a very effective kickoff specialist. The UCLA senior has landed 23 of 29 of his kicks into the end zone this year — way up from 62.5 percent in 2014, and 50 percent the year before.

Still, the rest of the Bruins’ kickoff coverage team might want him to ease back now and then.

“I think if you ask those 10 guys that are running down there,” said head coach Jim Mora, “they’d like him every once in a while to not kick it through the end zone, so they could take a shot rather than just run a 60-yard dash.”

UCLA is one of the stingiest teams in the FBS when it comes to kickoff returns, helped in part by Fairbairn’s efficiency in forcing opponents to start drives on their own 25-yard line. The Bruins currently rank No. 3 in the FBS, allowing 12.83 yards per return, and was also top-20 in 2013.

“I think it’s scheme,” Mora said. “It’s attention to detail. More than anything, it’s just attitude. Those guys, it’s an honor to be on that team, the kickoff team.”