Special back in special teams

Ex­pect Her­man to im­prove one of Horns’ most glar­ing weak­nesses from last sea­son.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - Kirk Bohls Com­men­tary

If I could al­most guar­an­tee that Tom Her­man will fix one area of the Texas foot­ball team, it will be the special teams.

He un­der­stands the im­por­tance, as did Dar­rell Royal and Fred Akers long be­fore him.

“This is one-third of the game,” Her­man said em­phat­i­cally of special teams af­ter Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice.

When the head coach was asked how he would feel if his team had five kicks blocked in a sea­son — Texas had three blocked in one game against Ok­la­homa State — Her­man an­swered bluntly, “Un­ac­cept­able.”

To avoid a re­peat, Texas brought in grad trans­fer deep snap­per Kaleb Smith from Ok­la­homa State, of all places, to help with pro­tec­tion. Her­man likes the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Smith. “He’s got more girth” than last year’s holder, 5-11, 210-pound Jak Hol­brook, who likely will han­dle deep snaps on punts this sea­son.

Her­man could re­call only one Hous­ton punt tipped while he was there — by Tem­ple, in last year’s Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence ti­tle game — and one blocked field goal, in his first sea­son there. Her­man said he changed kick­ers in Week 3 of 2015 and the re­place­ment, Ty Cum­mings, went 8 of 8. Cum­mings made 16 of his 20 ca­reer field goal at­tempts, and 6-7 Aus­tralian punter Dane Roy, now a sopho­more, av­er­aged 40.6 yards last sea­son.

At Hous­ton, Her­man also had a stud kick re­turner in Bran­don Wil­son, who ran back two kick­offs for touch­downs in 2015, and a strong punter re­turner in Demar­cus Ay­ers, who scored on one run­back from 73 yards.

So it’s ob­vi­ous how much Her­man stresses that part of the game.

Her­man gave his new kicker Josh Row­land high marks Wed­nes­day when he said, “I like him more than most kick­ers be­cause he’s half­way nor­mal.

“He’s got a tough­ness to him,” said Her­man, who was once a special-teams co­or­di­na­tor at Sam Hous­ton State.

Row­land made a high-pres­sure field goal kick in the low 40-yard range in prac­tice on Wed­nes­day af­ter Her­man or­dered a bob­bled snap from the holder to sim­u­late some special-teams chaos. “If he keeps mak­ing those kicks, he’s go­ing to stay in fairly good graces.”

Michael Dick­son re­turns as a first-team All-Amer­i­can af­ter av­er­ag­ing 47.4 yards a punt, and Texas is au­di­tion­ing a ton of can­di­dates at punt re­turner like re­ceivers Jer­rod Heard, Ar­manti Fore­man and Reggie Hem­phill-Mapps and cor­ner­back Holton Hill.

Look for big, big im­prove­ment in the special teams.

Asked if he could imag­ine such un­fath­omable dis­as­ter in special teams as what be­fell Texas last year, Her­man said cryp­ti­cally, “A lot of dis­as­ters are un­fath­omable un­til they be­come fath­omable.”

Fathom this: Texas will not have five kicks blocked this sea­son.


Kicker Josh Row­land al­ready has earned praise from Texas coach Tom Her­man, who likes Row­land’s tough­ness.

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