Thomas McGaughey Jr. Touches on all Things 49ers Special Teams

For an update on all things regarding the San Francisco 49ers special teams, we went straight to the man who is an expert on the topic, coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr.

The 49ers special teams guru joined the San Francisco coaching staff after spending the 2013 season with the New York Jets under the same title. The three seasons before that, McGaughey ran the special teams group at LSU.

Let's dive into the 49ers special teams notes, broken down by position.

Kick Return Job

McGaughey said that it's an open competition. Wide receiver DeAndrew White, running back Jarryd Hayne and running back Reggie Bush have been the most common names, but not the only names to get reps during practice. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington will likely join that mix once healthy.

"We're trying to see who's going to step up and take the job," McGaughey said. "We won't know until someone takes the first hit. It's one of those deals where we put the scheme in and everyone understands the scheme. Now it's about executing that scheme."

White impressed throughout the offseason program as a wideout, but the undrafted receiver also showed plenty of burst in the kick return game as well. White's vision in the open field combined with his top-end speed brought back shades of his high school track days.

You can color McGaughey impressed by White's performance thus far.

"He's very, very fast. He was a Texas state-champion in the 200 meters in high school," McGaughey said. "I coached against him when he was at Alabama and I was at LSU. I know everything about the kid. If you can make it five years at Alabama and they can't out-recruit you, you're pretty good.

"He's not afraid of anything. He ain't afraid of competition. He goes out there everyday and works his tail off. You can't ask for much more from a rookie free agent. I think he's on his way."

Punt Return Job

This position has been a bit more focused. Throughout the offseason program, Hayne and Bush have accounted for nearly 100% of the reps at punt returner.

Let's start with Hayne, the 49ers Australian import who signed with the team during the offseason after dominating in the National Rugby League for years.

"Jarryd Hayne is a really good fielder of the ball with his Australian rugby league background. Tracking the ball is real natural to him," McGaughey said.

Hayne mentioned himself that he's already feeling more comfortable both as a running back as well as returning punts. McGaughey echoed those sentiments.

"From day one to right now, absolutely," the coach said. "He's one of those guys that has natural ability. As with anyone, there's a maturation process just like any other young player in the league. Without ever playing the game, there's a learning curve there. It's going to be another learning curve when he gets hit in the mouth. That's a whole different deal."

You can also add McGaughey to the list of players and coaches who have raved about Bush this offseason.

"Reggie is one of those guys who you have to pull back. He's still got it; you just have to make sure to keep him healthy," McGaughey said. "Reggie is the first guy in the building and one of the last to leave." 

When the 49ers special teams coach first started, he would get in at 6:00 a.m. to workout. As McGaughey got done with the gym, Bush would already be in the cold tub getting ready for the day's workouts.

"He still has the hunger and the desire to be the best. He doesn't talk about it, he just shows you," McGaughey said. "He's an unbelievable worker. I can't wait to sit back and watch him catch punts in the regular season."

View the best images of Reggie Bush returning punts and carrying the ball out of the backfield during OTAs.

Bush has returned 109 punts (playoffs included) in his career for 916 yards and five touchdowns. Most of those numbers, however, came during his five seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Bush hasn't returned a punt since 2011, when he returned just six with the Miami Dolphins that season.

Figuring to be a major part of the 49ers running back by committee with Pierre Garçon and Kendall Hunter, Bush is ready to show the football world that he still has the explosion that made him the second overall pick in 2006.

"I think that's one of the reasons he wants to return punts, to let everyone know, 'Look, I'm still Reggie Bush. The only reason I wasn't returning punts was because I chose not to.' Now he wants to put that back in his game to show he has the ability to still be a big playmaker," McGaughey said.

Similarly to the kick return job, Ellington will likely join the punt return mix as well when he's healthy.

Kicking Game

Following the Andy Lee trade, 2015 fourth-round pick Bradley Pinion now assumes the 49ers punting duties. What is yet to be determined is who will handle kickoffs between Pinion and Phil Dawson.

McGaughey said Pinion has a "high upside" and kickoff duties will be open for competition in training camp. The special team's coach also indicated that it could be a situational thing during games with both specialists sharing the job.

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