LOS ANGELES – UCLA assistant head football coach Jeff Ulbrich was named the 2013 FootballScoop Special Teams Coordinator of the Year, presented by ProGrass, the website announced Thursday.
Ulbrich has been a special teams coordinator for two seasons, and over that time no team in college football has blocked more kicks or punts than the Bruins' 12.
While the Bruins can outright vandalize yardage by way of the punt or kick block, they also steal yardage through their kickoff units. UCLA ranks fifth nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 25.73 yards on 44 returns this season. The Bruins also cover kicks well, ranking second in the Pac-12 and 19th nationally by allowing only 18.9 yards on opponents' kickoff returns.
With an average of just over seven kickoffs or kick returns per game, the Bruins typically steal a shade under 24 yards of field position per game with Ulbrich's kickoff units. UCLA also ranked sixth nationally by averaging 63.86 yards on 83 kickoffs this season.
"Coach Ulbrich possesses a relentless passion for the game of football which transfers to his players on every special teams down they line up for," said UCLA head coach Jim Mora. "The high level of performance of his units this season has enabled us to win the field position battle game in and game out. He is well deserving of this fine honor."
UCLA joined Stanford, Florida and Florida State as the only FBS teams to finish the regular season among the top 20 nationally in both kickoffs and kickoff returns.
Ulbrich's units also tied for the national lead with 13 kickoff returns of 30 yards or more, and ranked among the top dozen FBS squads with five returns of 40 yards or more and three returns of at least 50 yards. UCLA was also one of 15 teams nationally to not allow a single kickoff return of 40 yards or longer.
The Bruins also placed second in the Pac-12 and 18th nationally in opponent punt returns, permitting a sum of 63 return yards on 15 returns. For the season, UCLA opponents returned Bruins' punts for an average of 1.28 yards on a total of 49 punts.
UCLA's special teams units played an integral role in helping the Bruins a 9-3 record and a No. 17 final BCS ranking. The Bruins also came within six points of playing for a Pac-12 championship for the third consecutive year.
Ulbrich insisted on sharing credit for his award. "This is a great honor but it shouldn’t go to just myself. I had the help of two great assistants in Michael Ghobrial and David Allen," he said. "They play a major role in our special teams. I am excited for them and excited for our players. It is a reflection of the way they played this year.”
A third-round pick out of Hawaii, Ulbrich played for the San Francisco 49ers from 2000-09 before beginning his coaching career as a special teams assistant with the Seattle Seahawks for two seasons before joining Mora's staff at UCLA in 2012. Ulbrich holds the title of assistant head coach and also coaches the Bruins' linebackers.
The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by ProGrass are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Jeff Banks - Texas A&M, Sean Snyder - Kansas State and Ulbrich) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year's winner.
Ulbrich will receive his award and be recognized at an event at the AFCA Convention in January.
Previous winners of the Special Teams Coordinator of the Year award are James Shibest (Ole Miss, 2008), Mike Tolleson (Texas, 2009), Joe Robinson (LSU, 2010), John Baxter (USC, 2011) and D.J. Durkin (Florida, 2012).