Why is it that Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong is having so many issues getting the special teams right?
Following another road loss to a beatable team in the California Golden Bears, the inconsistent play on special teams looms as a continuing problem for the ‘Horns.
Some of the issues aren’t particularly surprising, especially the biggest one — everyone knew that Texas would miss Nick Rose on kickoffs after the much-maligned kicker finished first in touchback percentage in 2014 and then third in 2015.
Rose’s replacement, Mitchell Becker, simply doesn’t have the leg to consistently get the ball into the end zone, resulting in a No. 94 national ranking in touchback percentage through three games at 21.7 percent
As a result, the kickoff coverage unit once again has been a disappointment in allowing 21.7 yards per return after giving up six returns for 167 yards against Cal. On the game-winning drive for the Golden Bears, the ‘Horns allowed a 28-yard kickoff return that shortened the field for quarterback Davis Webb and his offense. Cal scored seven plays later.
Kickoff returns haven’t been much better — Texas is once again struggling to block effectively and make good decisions about when to bring the ball out of the end zone in ranking No. 107 nationally with only 17.5 yards per return.
With the ball going out to the 25-yard line on touchbacks and the ‘Horns incapable of averaging 20 yards per return, why are players bringing the ball out of the end zone? Why is Kris Boyd making ridiculous backwards lateral cuts instead of staying downhill to pick up maximum yardage?
Graduate transfer place kicker Trent Domingue has been the player everyone expected him to be. From shorter distances, he’s been consistent in making from 35 yards and 38 yards against Cal, but missed from 49 yards and 53 yards on two critical possessions just before and just after halftime.
Other than punter Michael Dickson, who has been much more consistent in his second season, the only real positive has been safety Brandon Jones, who caused a safety against Cal with his second block in as many games. He set up a short field against UTEP with his first block just after
The nation’s No. 1 safety in the 2015 class became the first Longhorns player to block two punts in a season since Mykkelle Thompson in 2012. Former standout Aaron Williams is one of the players who holds the single-season school record with four in 2008, which could be achievable for Jones if opponents don’t find a way to better account for him.
The simple fact is that Texas has too many athletes and too many players who supposedly want to get in on the special teams units to give up back-breaking returns on kickoffs and fail so completely on kickoff returns.
Making it even more frustrating is the fact that this has been an ongoing issue.