Arguably the most unsettled position on the entire depth chart for the Texas Longhorns is place kicker, where senior Josh Rowland and freshman Cameron Dicker are still competing for the starting role.
When head coach Tom Herman released the depth chart on Monday, Dicker and Rowland were listed as co-starters, but the younger player was listed first, which usually indicates a slight advantage.
On Saturday, when Texas travels to FedEx Field to take on Maryland, Herman doesn’t expect to use both players.
“I don’t think you’ll see both,” Herman said on Monday. “I don’t. I think it’s going to come down to really just a couple days here. They’re fairly neck and neck. The guy that makes the most pressure kicks here in the next couple days will be the guy that jogs out against Maryland.”
The bottom line is that the Longhorns need better play from the position after Rowland struggled mightily in his first season on the Forty Acres after earning NJCAA All-American honors at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC in 2016.
Rowland ranked 97th nationally and dead last in the Big 12 after converting just 61.8 percent (11-18) of his field goal attempts. The first five weeks of the season were largely to blame for such a porous effort.
In his debut against Maryland, Rowland missed his first-ever field goal attempt at Texas from 42 yards. Rowland’s second attempt, from 44 yards, was blocked, and he finished his debut 0-of-2. Things didn’t get any better the following week, as he missed his lone attempt from 43 yards against San Jose State.
After going perfect on two attempts against USC and Iowa State from 39 yards and 49 yards, respectively, Rowland slumped once again against Kansas State, splitting his four field goal attempts.
Through five games, Rowland’s right leg netted him just four made field goals in nine tries. The following eight outings paint a different picture, though, and to an extent, provide reason for optimism ahead of his senior season.
Beginning with the Red River Showdown, Rowland split the uprights on 7-of-9 attempts (77.7%) to close the 2017 season, with the misses being a blocked attempt against Baylor and from 47 yards on the road against TCU. That miss glued Rowland to the bench against Kansas, but he bounced back notably, nailing each of his three attempts against Texas Tech and his only look from 41 yards in the Texas Bowl. In the months since, if Rowland’s perfect spring game performance were factored in, as he connected from 29 yards and 50 yards, the senior has sent nine of his last 11 attempts through the uprights, and again, one of those two misses was a block.
By that measure — spring game included — Rowland has nailed 81.8 percent of his attempts since starting 4-of-9.
However, Rowland clearly hasn’t won the competition with only a matter of hours remaining until the season opener.
The No. 4-ranked kicker in his class, Dicker is the highest-ranked kicker to come to the Big 12 since Austin Seibert sided with Oklahoma as the nation’s No. 4 kicker in 2015.
Dicker’s body of work while at Lake Travis justifies his ranking as well.
Throughout the past three seasons, Dicker connected on 98.3 percent of his 236 extra point tries, and 34 of his 43 field goal attempts found their mark — good for 79 percent, which is a success rate higher than any Texas kicker has enjoyed since Anthony Fera nailed 90.9 percent of his attempts in 2013.
It’s not as if his connections were all chip shots either. Of Dicker’s 34 made field goals at Lake Travis, seven came from a distance of at least 44 yards, including a career-best boot from 53 yards last season against Los Fresnos, which set a school record. If there’s one area in which Dicker may have a leg up on Rowland entering his first season on the Forty Acres and Rowland’s final, it’s leg strength.
And that may ultimately be what separates the two players.