Bye Week Look: Special Teams

The Longhorns' special teams woes can be largely summed up by taking a look at what might be the conference's worst return group.

Just how bad have the Longhorns' return teams been? Texas ranks third in punt returns with 9.8 yards per return, but 11th in kick returns with 19.1 yards per return. But neither tells the whole story. That punt return group has lost three fumbles to the opposing team (two by Aaron Williams, one by Curtis Brown), while the kick return unit also lost a fumble (D.J. Monroe).

To put that in perspective, Texas's four turnovers by the two return groups are the same amount as the entire Oklahoma team. Baylor (five turnovers) and Kansas State (six turnovers) are both close as well.

As for the lowly kickoff return average, consider that Kansas State, the Big 12's top kickoff return team, averages 28.2 yards per return. The Longhorns, who average 19.1 yards per return, have only taken one of their 17 returns longer than 27 yards.

The Longhorns obviously have the athletes to excel on both units, so the problems have largely been a matter of execution.

But the Longhorns' struggles haven't been limited to returns. Texas ranks 10th in yards per punt, ninth in net punting and seventh in kickoff coverage. Against UCLA, when Texas cut the Bruin lead to two touchdowns in the third quarter, the Longhorns allowed a 45-yard kickoff return that helped the Bruins to another touchdown, largely sealing the game.

If the special teams have had one positive, it's been the play of Justin Tucker as placekicker. After hitting just two of four field goals in the season opener — though the ones he missed at 44 and 54 yards were hardly gimmes — Tucker has nailed his last seven attempts. He is a perfect 7-7 on kicks inside 40 yards as well. Tucker has made all 13 of his extra points and is currently Texas's leading scorer by 22 points over Cody Johnson and Tré Newton.

Overall Grade: D

Only Tucker and Ryan Roberson, Texas's fake punt guru, kept this from being an F. With the Longhorns struggling offensively, winning the field position battle becomes extra important. Unfortunately for Texas, that's a battle that the Longhorns have often lost. Texas has struggled to generate game-changing plays on special teams, while giving away too many to the opposition. That's a trend that must change if Texas is to resume its winning ways.

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