Post-Spring Outlook: Special Teams

Ask most fans or media members which position the Longhorns should worry the most about, and they would probably point to the quarterback position.

But ask any Texas coach, and you'd probably get a different answer. That's because problems on the special teams side of the ball aren't typically counted like those on offense or defense. But as any football coach will tell you, special teams are a phase that you neglect at your own risk.

And so, as Ben Pruitt and William Russ pushed field goal attempts outside of the crossbars at practices this spring, the Texas coaches apparently felt worried enough about the position that Texas coach Mack Brown announced that both kicker and punter were open competitions heading into the fall.

Punter was a bit more of a surprise, if only because Russ had a strong spring game, averaging 47.5 yards per punt. He has a booming leg, but must improve his accuracy.

And now, Russ will likely be doing that from the bench, with the addition of Duke punter Alex King. King was a second-team All-ACC selection last year, putting together a better season than the one Texas received from departed kicker/punter Justin Tucker.

But replacing Tucker's production at placekicker is a different matter entirely. Reading between the lines of the open competition, it appears as though true freshman Nicholas Jordan of Coppell will be given every chance to win the job. Jordan was considered a clutch kicker at Coppell, and he has a nice leg. But it's likely asking too much for him to match what Tucker, now with the Ravens, was able to accomplish.

Texas is also at an interesting spot in the return game. Punt returner is probably set between some combination of Jaxon Shipley and Quandre Diggs, both of whom have both soft hands and the ability to break a big return. But Texas is still looking for a kickoff returner to replace Fozzy Whittaker, who took two back for scores and averaged 42 yards per return last year.

Mykkele Thompson ran a kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown in the spring game, providing the Horns' first score. And he's one of several players who could get a chance. D.J. Monroe has experience there, as does Marquise Goodwin. And Mike Davis had a return in the spring game. Of course, freshmen like Kendall Sanders, Daje Johnson and Johnathan Gray could also get chances as the main kickoff returner in the fall. In short, it's wide open.

The coverage teams also remain to be seen. Texas typically employs a ton of freshmen on those teams to get experience, and that probably won't change this year, although some sophomore special teams holdovers, guys like Kendall Thompson, Chet Moss and Tevin Jackson, have an excellent chance to make that unit strong this year.

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