For the first time since the 2017 season with the Lake Travis Cavaliers, Texas Longhorns junior kicker Cameron Dicker will also handle punting duties against the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence on Saturday and for the remainder of the season.
Dicker will serve in all three kicking phases of special teams after junior punter Ryan Bujcevski suffered a season-ending knee injury against West Virginia. Bujcevski tore his ACL in a non-contact situation when he planted awkwardly while trying to cover what ended up as his final punt of 2020.
Texas was able to get out of the West Virginia game without needing Dicker to attempt the first punt of his collegiate career, affording him the bye week to get more comfortable with replacing Bujcevski.
On Monday, Texas head coach Tom Herman said that Dicker has exceeded expectations through the bye week during practice, pointing to Dicker’s ability to get punts off quickly and with excellent hang time.
At Lake Travis, Dicker averaged 38.9 yard per punt as a senior on 33 attempts, with seven of those punts landing inside the 20-yard line. Herman doesn’t believe that Dicker is likely to consistently punt the ball 60 yards — something that Bujcevski hasn’t done that often in his career, to be fair — but the coaching staff is happy with a 42-yard punt with the hang time to allow the coverage unit to get in position for a tackle or to force a fair catch.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Dicker is to translate the success in practice to success on the field, especially when an opponent dials up a punt block. The 2020 season has already featured two punts blocked by Texas opponents, after all.
After making changes to make the protection calls more simple, Herman feels confident in that area, although the injury to senior tight end Cade Brewer that could keep him out against Kansas is a complication — Brewer serves as one of the two personal protectors directly in front of the punter.
“We’ve rushed the everliving you know what out of him in practice and tried to make him nervous, tried to get bodies around him, tried to make him uncomfortable back there,” Herman said. “But much like he is lining up for the game winner as a true freshmen against Oklahoma, that’s kind of out of the way he is back there — he’s unflappable. You can’t faze him and he has done surprisingly well.”
The other question surrounding Bujcevski’s injury is who will replace the Australian as the holder on field goals. Last season, Brewer filled in for Bujcevski after he broke his collarbone on a fake punt, but now Brewer is dealing with a chest contusion suffered in practice. In 2019, backup kicker Chris Naggar replaced Brewer before leaving for SMU as a graduate transfer in the offseason.
On the West Virginia depth chart, backup deep snapper Zach Edwards is listed as the backup holder. However, Herman said the team is still holding tryouts in practice and expects to announce a starter at the position this week, likely on Tuesday, when the school typically releases the depth chart for the upcoming game.