Countdown the days to UCLA’s season-opener against Texas A&M with key stats facing the Bruins this year.
10 receiving touchdowns by Thomas Duarte last year, which led the team
9 returning starters on defense
8th in the Pac-12 in rushing defense last year
7 second-half turnovers for Josh Rosen last year
6 different starting combinations on the offensive line in 2015
5 straight losses to Stanford under head coach Jim Mora
4 DIFFERENT PLAYERS WHO ATTEMPTED A PUNT LAST YEAR
The Austin Kent era of UCLA punting can’t come soon enough for the Bruins. After struggling through two years with Matt Mengel on punting duties, the freshman from North Carolina will try to revitalize UCLA’s punting game.
Mengel was 10th in the Pac-12 in punting last year with a 40.1 yards per punt average. The only punters ranked lower were Oregon’s Ian Wheeler and Washington State freshman Zach Charme. In 2014, Mengel averaged just 40.2 yards per punt.
The situation was so dire in October that the Bruins pulled receiver Kenneth Walker III to the punting position. Mengel was averaging just 38 yards after the Stanford game during which only one of his six kicks went further than 39 yards. His backup, Adam Searl, was arrested for allegations of sexual assault and suspended indefinitely. So Walker, a former high school punter, gave it a try. He attempted three punts on the season, averaged 24.3 yards and had one go zero yards.
Before being suspended in October, Searl, who did not face charges and was reinstated to the team for spring practice, attempted five punts with an average of 39 yards.
Quarterback Josh Rosen also attempted one punt that went 25 yards.
Kent is a top-five punting prospect. When asked of handling the responsibility of the team’s bad punting history, he channeled his inner Bill Belichick. Although Kent is from North Carolina, his dad’s family is from the Massachusetts area, making the Patriots his favorite team.
“I’m honestly just here to help out the defense,” Kent said. “I’m here to just do my job. Like Coach Belichick says for the Patriots, just do your job.”