Season Preview: Special Teams

2010 in Review: The Longhorns offense shouldered much of the blame for last year’s debacle, but they weren’t the only facet of Texas’ game that laid an egg. UT’s special teams was anything but special. From 2002-2009, UT had the second-most blocked kicks (46) in the country. Last season? I can’t name one that truly impacted a game. But maybe that’s just me having a bad memory. The Horns did a good job on punt and kickoff coverage, but never had that game-changing play. Good news was that the Horns only allowed one kick all season to be returned for a touchdown, however they did not have one themselves. Just about the only bright spot was kicker/punter Justin Tucker.

Justin Tucker

Senior placekicker Justin Tucker is the most consistent returning special teams player from an abysmal 2010 season. - Austin American-Statesman Photo

Not only was he accurate placekicking – connecting on 85% of his field goal attempts and not missing a PAT all season – but he also pinned opponents deep with his rugby-style punts. Of his 35 punts on the season, 17 of them were downed inside the opponents 20-yard line.

Key Returner: The aforementioned Tucker remains the most consistent performer returning from last year’s squad. The senior will have to do much the same while grooming his successor in redshirt freshman William Russ – the all-district, all-city, all-state performer from Evangel Christian High School in Louisiana.

Player to Watch: It is uncertain who will be returning punts and kickoffs for the Horns this year – there were 11 different players that returned a kick last season – but D.J. Monroe has the most big play potential among those returning from a season ago. He returned a majority of kickoffs last year and sported a 20.5 yard average per return. Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams, both gone now to the NFL, returned all but two punts last year so expect to see a new face there. Monroe or playmakers like Carrington Byndom or Mike Davis could fill in at that spot. Don’t be surprised to see the younger Shipley brother get a chance as well. Jaxon’s older brother Jordan was a special teams stud for the Horns. Like anyone forgot?

For the Special Teams to be successful, they need to … stop dropping kicks. The Longhorns shot themselves in the foot several times in 2010 because of dropped kickoff returns. Having new faces all over the program may be a good thing for Texas special teams. A greater emphasis on special teams performance with the new staff would mean good things for 2011.

5 Comments

  1. petevincent says:

    Keep an eye out for true freshman QB David Ash, who was an all-state punter in high school. The coaches have gone on record about him possibly sharing punting duties with Tucker, but only if he is in the mix to play QB as well (which he will be). This will definitely give the Texas offense an added element of surprise that Harsin covets.

    Also, true freshman Jaxon Shipley will be in the mix to return punts this year. Here’s one of his returns from high school.

    Jaxon Shipley

  2. jeffspeck says:

    Sounds like he would be a great candidate for “pooch punting” like Colt used to do…

  3. allboutkos says:

    schmittyspecial… looking forward to the posts this season. Now all I need is to find an obnoxious photo icon and I can be an experienced blogger and contribute to the forum.

  4. allboutkos says:

    Cant find out how to change that icon, i guess its annoying enough. holler

  5. JRock says:

    Kos – you have to go to gravatar.com – That is the service that manages your blog icon. It looks like you were able to change it though… Yes, Schmitty, you rock.

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