2015 College Football Recruits with Best Kick-Return Skills

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst IJune 10, 2014

2015 College Football Recruits with Best Kick-Return Skills

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    Credit: 247Sports

    A big part of the game of football is special teams, especially the return game. Recruits who have the skills and potential to also help a team as punt returners or kick returners only see their value increase.

    Looking around the 2015 class, several prospects appear to have the needed skill sets to excel as returners. Explosiveness, elusiveness, vision, awareness, quickness, agility, creativity and speed are traits a top return man needs to have.

    Whether it's a 4-star running back from Texas looking like a potentially dynamic kickoff returner, or an explosive 4-star athlete from Ohio with excellent punt return skills, the 2015 class features a ton of future returners.

    All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.
    Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

Donte Jackson, ATH

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    While he should be fine returning kickoffs, 4-star athlete Donte Jackson will be even better returning punts. The New Orleans native has excellent quickness to burst upfield with the ball.

    Jackson, who is 5'11" and 175 pounds, doesn't have to decelerate or gather to cut. He weaves through traffic with ease, plus he can shoot through seams after reading his blocks.

    Punt units will certainly have to be disciplined when he is returning against them. Georgia is the favorite to sign him, says 247Sports, with LSU and Oregon also in the hunt. 

JaMycal Hasty, RB

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    At 5'8" and 185 pounds, JaMycal Hasty is not a physically imposing running back. However, he has the skill set to strike fear in the hearts of coverage units as a return man.

    Hasty has fantastic speed, as he has been timed at 4.31 in the 40-yard dash, according to 247Sports. The Texan has a ton of wiggle and creativity with the ball, plus he can dodge would-be tacklers in an impressive manner.

    The Baylor commit should be able to help return both kicks and punts.

George Campbell, WR

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    A player one might not expect to be on a list like this is 5-star receiver George Campbell. At 6'3", the Florida native is a bit tall for a return man.

    However, Campbell has excellent speed, plus his 184-pound frame would work well as a kickoff returner. Campbell may not have the best hands, but he is capable of cradling the ball in his basket and then launching himself toward the end zone.

    He runs with solid awareness after the catch, which should translate to him being able to follow blocks and exploit kick-coverage defenders being out of their lanes. Look for Florida and Clemson to be in the mix until the end.

Eric Glover-Williams, CB/ATH

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    An argument can be made right now on just how good a pure cornerback Eric Glover-Williams is. He needs to continue honing his coverage skills, but he should be fine in the secondary.

    However, the 5'11", 165-pounder is simply dynamic and explosive with the ball in his hands. Glover-Williams, who is from Ohio, has no problems jetting upfield through seams like a rocket.

    He eludes defenders with good quickness and agility, plus his speed allows him to jump on top of defenders who have an angle on him. The 4-star recruit should be fantastic in college at returning punts.

    Glover-Williams is committed to Ohio State. 

Ryan Newsome, WR

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    Ryan Newsome is a small 4-star receiver from Texas with terrific speed and quickness. The 5'8", 175-pounder is awfully slippery with the ball, and he excels at being creative when returning kicks and punts.

    As junior, Newsome tied a national record for punt return touchdowns with seven, according to 247Sports.

    Newsome doesn't allow bigger players to get a clean hit on him, as he uses his light feet to dance around them. He is not afraid to adjust his path on returns when his blocks break down, plus he has a little bit more strength than people realize.

    Schools such as Texas, Baylor, Florida State and Notre Dame are in the mix, says 247Sports.

    Newsome told the following to Josh McCuistion of SoonerScoop.com (subscription required) in November 2013:

    "Punt return, kick return, I want to make an impact like the guys I look up to Tavon Austin, Devin Hester, and Deion Sanders. I pride myself as a return man."

Ray-Ray McCloud III, RB/WR

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    Offensively, Ray-Ray McCloud III will be able to play both running back and receiver in college. Although he is not very big at 5'9" and 175 pounds, the Tampa native is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

    As a return man, McCloud has the potential to specialize in returning punts. His quickness, agility and explosiveness translate well to that specific style of returning. However, he should be fine in college returning kickoffs. 

    The 4-star prospect has Clemson and Florida as his top schools, says 247Sports.

Kendall Sheffield, CB

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    A 5-star cornerback, Kendall Sheffield is one of the nation's top overall athletes. He's been timed at 13.63 in the 110-meter hurdles, 4.48 in the 40-yard dash and 4.09 in the shuttle, says 247Sports

    The 5'11", 180-pounder has a terrific combination of speed and quickness. Sheffield doesn't just blanket receivers during games, he also can help a team by returning kicks and punts.

    He flashes elusiveness, solid vision, awareness and instincts with the ball in his hands. Keep an eye on Texas A&M here.

Taj Griffin, RB

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    From Georgia, Taj Griffin has elected to leave the Peach State to play his college ball at Oregon. The Ducks are getting a triple threat in the speedster, as he can play running back, receiver and returner.

    Griffin, who is 5'11" and 175 pounds, is a sight to see with the ball. He can weave around and dart past defenders, plus he has outstanding stop-and-start ability.

    The 4-star prospect can explode upfield to use his fantastic speed, which puts a lot of pressure on kick-coverage units. Griffin will have Pac-12 special teams coordinators staying up late to game-plan for him.

Jay Bradford, RB

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    Although he is a bit of a straight-line athlete, Jay Bradford has the speed and power to become a great kickoff returner.

    At 5'10.5" and 191 pounds, has been timed at 4.48 in the 40-yard dash and 10.49 in the 100 meters, per 247Sports. Bradford also has a vertical jump of almost 39 inches.

    The manner of which kickoffs are returned—where returners have a chance to get close to full speed by the time the initial wave of kick-coverage defenders arrives—is a perfect avenue for an athlete and runner like Bradford to show off his skill set.

    He is committed to Texas A&M. 

Christian Kirk, WR

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    At 5'11" and 197 pounds, Christian Kirk is a receiver with a running back's body. He has gotten stronger and thicker since his sophomore season, which should help him be even better at returning kicks.

    However, Kirk is dynamite at returning punts.

    His excellent quickness, ability to sharply cut and explosiveness are assets he uses to make plays. Even when coverage units squeeze him from the outside, he has deceptive strength to challenge his opposition inside.

    The Arizona native is a 5-star prospect who should be able to return both kicks and punts in college at a high level.

    Don't be surprised if he signs with Texas A&M. 


    Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.