Which 'Horn Will Get His Kicks?

Suppose at least one more Texas game comes down to a last-minute field goal. Who's the kicker? Senior incumbent Greg Johnson? Freshman blue-chipper Hunter Lawrence? Or walk-on Ryan Bailey, the Big 12's Special Teams Player of the Week following his game-winning boot at Nebraska?

It depends.

"It depends on if Greg is well," head coach Mack Brown said Monday.

Greg Johnson had been handling all facets of the kicking game until he complained of soreness following the Oklahoma game. Johnson reported that he experienced stiffness after missing two FGs and a PAT in Saturday's narrow escape in Lincoln.

"Greg has done a good job for us," Brown added. "We'll just have to see where Greg goes with the injury report at the end of the week."

Bailey was projected to handle FGs against Baylor and worked with the First Team following the OU game.

"We walked out on the field during the pre-game against Baylor and Mac McWhorter and Tolle (Mike Tolleson) charted both of them to see which one we would kick," Brown said. "Greg was fine, but Ryan hadn't missed one. Luckily for us, he was prepared to kick the week before (Nebraska)."

Johnson informed coaches during the third quarter Saturday that kicking duties needed to be deferred to another player.

"Greg took himself out," Brown noted. "It wasn't a decision to know whether we should or not."

Texas usually brings four kickers on road games, and Saturday's contest was just Bailey's second career road trip with the Horns. He was as cool as a cucumber -- make that an ice-old cucumber -- as he executed the game-winning kick in the face a stiff north wind and sub-freezing temperatures. Yet, Bailey may become just a trivia question following his 22-yarder with 23 ticks remaining. Or, he may figure more prominently in the kicking game.

Again, it depends.

Hunter Lawrence lost his redshirt against Baylor, even though the original plan was to launch his career in 2007 after Johnson completed his eligibility. For now, it means that Lawrence has not had some of the situational practice reps as did his counterparts.

"Ryan and Justin Moore had been kicking every day with timing," Brown said, "and Hunter had not because we had decided that they were going to play and Hunter would redshirt. Now, Hunter will start working on extra points and field goals. But we thought it was too much (Saturday) to throw him in there when he had not worked with (DS) Tully Janszen and (holder) Jordan (Shipley) nearly as much as Ryan. If he had missed it, this would be a different conversation. But, again, Ryan hasn't missed any."

In fact, Brown reports that "most of our kickers" are accurate from 40-to-50 yards out with the wind. Otherwise, Brown would be hesitant to call for a FG from outside the 25-yard line if the Horns were facing any type of stiff breeze. There was a steady North wind of 20+ mph at Lincoln Saturday, resulting in a swirling effect inside bowl-like Memorial Stadium.

"The Nebraska kicker also had trouble kicking off with the wind," Brown said. "The flags up high were really blowing hard, but it swirls in that stadium. Greg missed one by a foot. The first one that was blocked was low. The one he missed before the half, I'm not sure the wind didn't grab it because it looked like he kicked it right at it. I'm not sure either kicker was secure in that stadium with the wind blowing and then the snow."

The wind was also responsible for sending Lawrence's second-half kickoff out of bounds.

"That was a good kick that blew out of bounds," Brown said. "The ball just stopped and started turning into the wind."

If Johnson is well enough to play at Texas Tech, he'll likely handle only punting duties while Lawrence will still be responsible to kickoffs. For now, the FG kicker remains up in the air. Brown's most reliable forecast, however, is that we can count on crummy weather in the weeks to come.

"You figure that, this weekend, at Kansas State, and at the Big 12 Championship game -- if we're good enough to get there -- wind and weather may be an issue."

True. Just as long as the effectiveness of the FG kicker is not.

Horns Digest Top Stories