Texas Longhorns special teams position battles

Stacy Revere

Which positions are open on special teams entering Charlie Strong's first spring as head coach?

Texas Longhorns players are on spring break this week and will start spring practice next week upon their return, starting the month of work leading up to the spring game on April 19.

Here's a look at the open positions on special teams and the players battling to fill them.

Placekicker

The contenders -- junior Nick Jordan, junior Nick Rose, senior Will Russ, junior Ben Pruitt, sophomore Michael Davidson

The departed -- Anthony Fera

The take -- A shaky junior season derailed before it even began by a groin injury gave way to one of the best seasons in recent history for a Texas kicker for Anthony Fear, who ended his career in burnt orange as a consensus All-American and Lou Groza Award finalist.

So the challenge is significant for the group of kickers trying to replace Fera, who went 20-for-22 on field goal attempts in 2013.

The first in line for the job may be former US Army All-American Nick Jordan, who was hardly automatic during his true freshman season when he was thrust into the role because of Fera's injury, as he missed one extra point and went just 9-of-15 on his field goal attempts.

Russ hasn't managed to contribute during his four seasons on campus and was hampered by a back injury last spring, while Pruitt was also a US Army All-American, but got passed by Jordan pretty quickly and may be behind Rose as well in line for the job at this point.

The pure numbers at the position suggest that Texas should find someone who is at least serviceable and Jordan may end up being that player, but needs to produce at a higher level than he did as a true freshman.

Punter

The contenders -- Russ, Jordan, Rose, redshirt freshman Mitchell Becker

The departed -- Fera

The take -- Russ had two kickoffs in 2011 and hasn't seen the field since then, so Texas won't have a player on the roster run 2014 who has attempted a punt in college yet and Jordan and Rose are both better known as kickers than punters. Becker is a walk on who averaged less than 40 per kick in high school, so expecting him to seriously compete for the job is probably unfair.

Holder

The contenders -- A back-up quarterback?

The departed -- Cade McCrary

The take -- Garrett Gilbert's former target at Lake Travis turned into an extremely reliable holder at Texas, playing in 51 games for the Horns at the position. Typically, back-up quarterbacks or wide receivers have the job, so perhaps Miles Onyegbule has a shot at the job or another walk-on wide receiver. Texas has seven players at that position who are walk ons from last year and will probably add several more this season, creating a pretty wide pool of candidates.

*****

For the third year since the departure of Justin Tucker, the Longhorns are looking to find a new place kicker and need to find a punter for the second year in a row. Ideally, Texas will have players step up at these two positions who can hold them down and produce at an average level, at least, to provide some stability on special teams.

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