For a school that's packed with athlete depth like Texas, it can also give a window into the future.
"Usually, with guys like Dalton Santos, Tevin Jackson, and Kendall Thompson, they're just looking for a great opportunity to show that they belong," said Oscar Giles, who coaches the kickoff coverage team. "Those guys understand their role. And they've done a great job —Santos, Kendall, Tevin, and even guys like Peter Jinkens, who's a freshman, has really excelled.
"Those guys have done a tremendous job with covering kickoffs and helping Major [Applewhite] out on the punt team, and probably training with Coach [Duane] Akina," Giles said. "I think everybody has bought in, and it started at the top with Coach Brown putting more emphasis on it. It really has shown that it can be part of that phase that helps us win a ballgame."
In the case of linebacker Dalton Santos, it has turned into somewhat of a highlight reel. He made three solo tackles against New Mexico, including a giant decleater on a kickoff. Santos said his big-hit mentality stems all the way back from pee-wee football.
"My dad was always like that," Santos said. "It was just that mentality of being the nastiest dude you can be out there. The mentality of being, "I'm going to be the best player. But not only am I going to be the best player, but I'm going to be the nastiest guy out there." And you want people to know that. You want to have that presence with you. So when you step out on the field – is this guy about to come hit me? That's the presence you want to carry out there."
"He fires up the group," said fellow linebacker Kendall Thompson of Santos. "He is 260-265 and can run the way he does. It helps a lot and fires us up. He is from East Texas, and I am from East Texas, too. I almost played him in high school my senior year, so I have known about him for awhile."
Santos's performance led both Texas coach Mack Brown and Longhorn defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to add that the linebacker was making a push for more playing time. But right now, that would be a bonus, because in a kickoff coverage group that has been nicknamed the "Wild Bunch," Santos might be the wildest one of all.
"I knew he was going to be part of the 'Wild Bunch' as soon as he stepped foot," Tevin Jackson said. "I knew that for a fact, because that has him written all over it. His presence and just [the way he] goes down there and [tackles.] He feeds off that."
And that's something Santos said he takes "tremendous pride" in.
"Those are the guys that want to run downhill and just hit people and make big plays and get everybody excited," Santos said. "Because we set the tone. Most of the time we're either on the field first, or on the field the next series. But we set the tone. We come down there and lock somebody up, and Kenny Vaccaro is going to go crazy. 'AO' [Alex Okafor] is going to go crazy. Those guys are going to feed off of that. The fans go crazy. And when the fans go crazy, we feed off of it. So just that alone is really neat. We take tremendous pride in it.
"Just coming in, every freshman has to play his role," Santos said. "It takes time to get to where you want to be. And to come to make the linebacker spot mine, everything takes time. That all comes with taking your time in the film room. Taking your reps on special teams. Everything comes in time. And my time will come, sooner or later. But right now, with my job, I'm going to play my role. The role of special teams, or whatever they want me to do. If they want me to go kick the ball, that will be my role. I will go kick the ball, and hit somebody. If that's what I've got to do."