Texas Football: Five Questions for Spring (Defense and Special Teams)

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Oct 11, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Alex Ross (28) returns a first quarter kickoff for a touchdown against Texas Longhorns kicker Nick Rose (23) during the Red River showdown at the Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

5. Will Jeff Traylor be able to fix the special teams?

Special teams is probably the most underrated group of players on the field, and unfortunately for Texas, they fielded one of the worst units in all of college football last year.

To help fix things, Jeff Traylor was hired as the team’s new tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. While there is a coach in charge of every facet of special teams, Traylor will oversee the group as a whole and he has a lot of work to do.

Texas fans have long been spoiled when it comes to the kicking game, but that hasn’t been the case the last two seasons.

Last season, Nick Rose beat out Nick Jordan was the team’s No. 1 placekicker and kick-off specialist. He was outstanding at kick-offs, recording 44 touchbacks in 61 attempts and opponents were only able to return 15 of them, which was the fewest in the nation.

When it came to field goals, however, Rose didn’t fare as well. He connected on just 14 of his 21 attempts on the season, for an unspectacular 66%.

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Nick Jordan, who didn’t record any attempts last season after red-shirting the year before, was the team’s No. 1 placekicker in 2012, connecting on just nine of 15 attempts.

Both are expected to compete for field goal duties this season, but the Longhorns need better from both of them.

While the punting game was the one bright spot (Texas ranked 3rd in punting average, but frighteningly had the most attempts in the country), Texas lost Michael Davidson and William Russ to graduation. In his press conference yesterday, Strong told the media that Rose and redshirt sophomore Mitchell Becker are expected to compete for the position.

The Horns didn’t field much of a return game either, ranking 89th in return yards on kick-offs and 61st in punt returns; neither had a return for a touchdown.

With Quandre Diggs and Jaxon Shipley both gone, one would think Daje Johnson and Armanti Foreman would take over the roles, and this year, the coaches need to gamble a little more rather than playing it safe.

They need to make something happen, and they have the guys to do just that.

In terms of overall special teams efficiency, which measures the special teams contribution to scoring margin, the Horns ranked an abysmal 112.

Yes, 112. Unacceptable.

Hopefully, Traylor will come in and get things turned around.