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Defensive Line There may not be a player on the entire roster that has improved more than DE Charles Omenihu. For the third straight game, Omenihu dominated the tackle across from him. The junior recorded 3 tackles and a sack, along with playing solid against the run. His sack came on a straight bull rush where he pushed the right tackle so far into the backfield that he found himself directly next to Sam Darnold. Chris Nelson played an excellent game at the other end position, and is quietly having himself a big junior season. Senior Poona Ford collected 4 tackles and continues to hold the point of attack well at the nose tackle position. Malcolm Roach finally had his presence felt, and it could not have come at a better time. Roach demonstrated his ability to play the run when he stood up Ronald Jones II at the goal line. Although the stats are not where many expected them to be, Roach showed why many were so high on him entering his sophomore year. The entire defensive line played with physicality and played with an aggression that I have not seen in years. Roach, Ford and Omenihu all asserted their will and did an excellent job at establishing the line of scrimmage. Grade: B+ Linebackers The linebacker unit thrived off of the opportunities the defensive line was creating for them. Malik Jefferson played his best game of his career and strangely enough has seemed to discover a comfort level at the middle linebacker spot. Jefferson had 11 tackles and 2 tackles for loss, and continually shot through gaps to help stifle the USC rushing attack. Gary Johnson and Anthony Wheeler both had solid games, with Wheeler collecting a team high 12 tackles and Johnson adding 3 tackles. Wheeler still has a tendency to think too much and play hesitant at times, but he recorded a huge 14-yard sack of Sam Darnold in the 4th quarter that took the Trojans out of field goal range. It is no coincidence that an improvement in defending the run has occurred with Gary Johnson seeing the field more. Number 33 constantly flashed around the ball and plays with reckless abandon. Breckyn Hager and Jeffrey McCulloch saw a lot of time on 3rd times. McCulloch recorded a big sack and both players always seem to be around the QB in pass rushing situations. The one knock I saw is when they lost containment on the last play of the first half, when Darnold got outside the pocket and was able to find Ronald Jones, who eventually found the endzone. The difference between the linebacker play from week 1 to week 3 is night and day. Todd Orlando continues to instill confidence in allowing players to thrive in roles that suit their skill sets. Grade: B+ Defensive Backs Against a potential Heisman finalist, the Texas secondary held their own. Sam Darnold threw for close to 400 yards, but was challenged by the Texas defensive backfield for most of the game and never seemed to find a consistent rhythm until the final drive in regulation. There is no doubt that Holton Hill is the best corner on the roster. Hill recorded 2 pass breakups to go along with 7 tackles, including a key 4th down open field tackle. Devante Davis got his first start of the season and performed admirably, but gave way to Kris Boyd about midway through the second quarter. Boyd is lucky that he was not burned several times on pump fakes. John Bonney saw meaningful snaps, but unfortunately the only time you heard his name called was when he was de-cleated by a receiver on Ronald Jones touchdown on the last play of the first half. Speaking of Jones’ touchdown, it is tough to lay blame entirely on the defensive backfield for that play. All 4 receivers ran to one side of the field and allowed Jones the entire left side to navigate once he caught the ball. It did not help that Texas had Collin Johnson back playing safety and had several defenders following receivers into the endzone when the ball was caught. Brandon Jones and Deshon Elliott picked a good time to deliver their best games of the season. Elliott had 2 interceptions, including a pick 6 at the end of the first half, and was flying around the field all night. Texas could not defend the screen the entire game, but Elliott delivered the one bright spot when he blew up a screen 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Jones saw an overall slight decrease in snaps, but looked comfortable for the first time all year. He played the run solidly and was not asked to do too much in the passing game. PJ Locke flashed once on a 4-yard tackle for loss. Overall, the defensive backfield kept Texas in the game most of the night. When the Texas offense was struggling most of the game, the DB’s continued to stand strong and not let USC beat them with the big play. When it really counted though and Texas needed a stop in the 4th quarter with 39 seconds left, the defense allowed Darnold to hit big plays through the air to set up a game tying field goal. Texas will need to continue to get performances like these with quarterbacks that are awaiting them, but the progress being made is undeniable and Todd Orlando has to be pleased with how the unit is progressing. Grade: B- Special Teams The good news: Texas was a 100% on field goals in the game. The bad news: everything else involving special teams was not good. Joshua Rowland converted a 39-yard field goal for his first make of the season, and his kicks look to be getting better height. Michael Dickson had a rough night. The junior averaged a respectable 41.3 yards per punt, but shanked one early in the game. Later in the game, Dickson successfully ran for a first down on a fake punt, only to have the play called back due to a holding penalty by PJ Locke that was completely unnecessary. The coverage and return units still need a lot of work. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps fielded punts at his own 1-yard line, twice. He took the first one back 27 yards to give the Longhorns good field position, but pinned Texas inside their 5-yard line on the next return. The coverage units continue to allow good returns at the most inopportune times. After Texas took a 17-14 lead, the coverage unit allowed a 37-yard return to give USC excellent field position. For the 3rd straight week, I saw Rowland involved in having to try to slow down a return man on a kickoff, and that is not a good sign. Grade: D+
Texas (1-1, 0-0) will travel to Los Angeles on Saturday to take on USC (2-0, 1-0). The Trojans enter the game coming off an impressive win against Stanford, 42-24. Let’s take a look at what USC has on defense and special teams: Defensive Line The USC defense will operate out a 3-4 look. The nose tackle position is held down by former junior college standout Josh Fatu. Fatu has already recorded 2 tackles for loss and a sack in 2017. The end positions are occupied by Rasheem Green and Malik Dorton. Green was an honorable mention All-PAC 12 member in 2016 and had an excellent game last week against Stanford. Right tackles Tristan Nickelson and Denzel Okafor will draw the task of having to try to slow down Green, who possesses the speed and strength to give the offensive line fits. Dorton has a quiet first few games of the year, only totaling 3 tackles and having no sacks or tackles for loss. Stanford had pretty good success running to Dorton’s side of the line, and with Connor Williams matched up against him on Saturday, it may be smart for Texas to replicate that plan. Linebacker Inside linebacker Cameron Smith is widely considered to be the top player on the Trojan defense. Smith was a second team All-Pac 12 member in 2016 and is one of the top run defenders in the entire country. He is the team leader in tackles with 14 to go along with 2.5 tackles for loss. Beside him is fellow inside linebacker John Houston Jr. The sophomore has 9 tackles on the year to go along with a quarterback hurry. If Texas wants to establish the run game, they will have to find a way to get bodies on Smith and Houston, who both shoot gaps well and have high football IQ’s. The two outside linebackers for USC each serve a different purpose for the Trojan defense. Senior Uchenna Nwosu is seen as an athletic linebacker who the Trojans can rely on in pass coverage and to handle athletes out in space. Nwosu has 9 tackles and a tackle for loss on the season, and will play a vital role in defending the screen game that Texas has utilized through the first two games. Porter Gustin would the starter at the other outside linebacker spot, but Gustin is every questionable for Saturday with a toe injury. The 6’5, 255 pound junior was the named honorable mention All-Pac 12 in 2016, when he lead the team in tackles for loss with 13 and also collected 5.5 sacks. Texas would catch an extreme break if Gustin is unable to play, and sophomore Connor Murphy would likely start in his place. Murphy has seen limited playing time this season, recording 6 tackles. Defensive Back In 2016, Adoree’ Jackson took home the Jim Thorpe award for the top defensive back in the country. Despite Jackson’s departure to the NFL, another defensive back on the Trojans was named to the Jim Thorpe award watch list prior to the 2017 season. Junior Iman Marshall is the top cornerback on the roster, and for good reason. Marshall is in his 3rd season as a starter and has 6 career interceptions. Collin Johnson will again draw a tough corner and will most likely be bracketed by a safety for the third straight game. Opposite of Marshall, the other starting corner is sophomore Jack Jones. Jones had a great game against Stanford a week ago, recording 6 tackles. The Trojans boast a solid safety pairing that is led by senior Chris Hawkins. The 2016 honorable mention All-Pac 12 member has 24 career starts. Hawkins brings a lot of versatility to the USC secondary, having started games at both safety positions and at corner. Marvell Tell III is the starter at the other safety spot and has recorded USC’s only interception through 2 games. Converted wide receiver Ajene Harris will play nickel when the Trojans choose to employ an extra DB. Texas will bring in the most talented receiving group that the Trojans have faced so far this season. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck will need to try to create matchup problems against a USC secondary that has length and plays with good discipline. Wide receivers Reggie Hemphill Mapps, Armanti Foreman and Lil’ Jordan Humphrey will need to find way to get open to help alleviate some of the double coverage Collin Johnson will be facing. Special Teams Interestingly, the Trojans have yet to attempt a field goal in 2017. Redshirt freshman Michael Brown and true freshman Chase McGrath competed for the field goal duties throughout fall camp. Brown tore his ACL in last weeks game and will miss the remainder of the season. This leaves McGrath has the only player left at kicker. The walk on is a perfect 13 for 13 on extra points, but it remains to be seen what he will look like when USC is forced to attempt a field goal. Junior Reid Budrovich is in his first year as the starting punter and is averaging close to 50 yards per punt. Budrovich has had 2 punts land inside the 20. Velus Jones Jr. and Jack Jones serve as the primary kick returners.Velus Jones has returned 2 kicks for total of 61 yards, while Jack Jones has 2 returns for 14 yards. Texas has been vulnerable to long kickoff returns so far this year and USC will have the opportunity to exploit a shaky coverage unit. On punts, Ajene Harris handles the returns. Harris has only had 1 returnable attempt, a 15 yard return against Western Michigan. The Longhorns can not afford to give USC points off of special teams if they have any hope of pulling an upset on Saturday.
Part I of the HornSports Recruiting Primer detailed the offensive prospects that Charlie Strong and Shawn Watson are pursuing. Part II examines the blue chippers that Vance Bedford and Charlie Strong are hoping to add to the roster. DEFENSIVE END Projected Numbers: 1-2 On Campus: Shiro Davis (Sr), Naashon Hughes (So), Caleb Bluiett (Jr), Derick Roberson (Rs-Fr), Bryce Cottrell (Jr), Quincy Vasser (Jr) Incoming: Charles Omenihu Committed: None Recruits on the radar: Mark Jackson, Brandon Bowen, McTelvin Agim, Erick Fowler Summary: Texas would like to find an edge rusher or two in this class after loading up on strongside ends in the 2015 class. Erick Fowler is technically a linebacker, but can play on the edge in an aggressive front to get after the quarterback. Bowen and Jackson are high upside guys with great frames, and Agim is a polished player ready to contribute early. Predicted finish: Mark Jackson, Erick Fowler Texas will push for Agim, but it doesnâ€™t appear they will be able to pull him away from the in-state Razorbacks. Fowler is a prototypical edge prospect, while Jackson shows great pass rush ability and has a comfort with the program. DEFENSIVE TACKLE Projected Numbers: 2-3 On Campus: Jake McMillon (Rs-Fr), Paul Boyette (Jr), Alex Norman (Jr), Poona Ford (So), Chris Nelson (Rs-Fr), Hassan Ridgeway (Jr), Desmond Jackson (Sr) Incoming: Duâ€™Vonta Lampkin Committed: None Recruits on the radar: Ed Oliver, Michael Williams, Jordan Elliott, Kendell Jones, Justin Madubuike, Chris Daniels, Darius Anderson Summary: While the Longhorns need bodies for depth at d-tackle, they can still afford to be selective. Oliver is the big fish in the group, while Williams and Elliott are more realistic options. Madubuike has had almost nothing to say in his recruitment to indicate where he is leaning, and Kendell Jones could be destined for the offensive side of the ball. Chris Daniels and Darius Anderson remain prospects who really like Texas but do not hold offers. Predicted finish: Kendell Jones, Michael Williams, Jordan Elliott Kendell Jones is a take, no matter which side of the ball coaches use him. Williams is perfect as a nose with pass rushing ability, while Elliott is developing into a monster three technique. The Longhorns have the numbers already on campus, but really need some high-end talent. LINEBACKER Projected numbers: 2-3 On Campus: Peter Jinkens (Sr), Tim Cole (Jr), Edwin Freeman (Rs-Fr), Malik Jefferson (Fr), Dalton Santos (Sr) Incoming: Cecil Cherry, Anthony Wheeler, Cameron Townsend, Breckyn Hager Committed: Demarco Boyd Recruits on the radar: Jordan Carmouche, Dontavious Jackson, Jeffrey McCulloch Summary: This one seems simple: With Boyd already on board, there are three top in-state linebackers who are all very high on Texas. If there is a position where numbers could be sacrificed it is at linebacker considering the large 2015 class. Dontavious Jackson and Jeffrey McCulloch are two of the highest rated linebackers in the nation, but Jordan Carmouche is the type of versatile player that Charlie Strong loves at the position. If Strong and Bedford can make the numbers work, I believe they will get their targeted guys at â€˜backer. Predicted finish: Jordan Carmouche, Dontavious Jackson, Jeffrey McCulloch, Demarco Boyd A clean sweep at the position â€“ Jackson is the perfect MIKE linebacker to play in the middle, while McCulloch could shine at the FOX. Carmouche offers a great deal of versatility to play on either side, while Boyd could stick in the middle or spin down to defensive end. DEFENSIVE BACK Projected Numbers: 3-4 On Campus: Bryson Echols (JR), Duke Thomas (SR), Antwuan Davis (Soph), Sheroid Evans (SR), Dylan Haines (JR), Jermaine Roberts (RS-FR), John Bonney (RS-FR), Jason Hall (Soph) Incoming: Kris Boyd, DaVante Davis, DeShon Elliott, Holton Hill, PJ Locke Committed: None Recruits on the radar: Parrish Cobb, Christian Wallace, Eric Cuffee, Deontay Anderson, Brandon Jones, Eric Monroe Summary: With tight numbers and a big 2015 class coming to Austin, it appears the Longhorns will have to sacrifice at DB. Even though the 2016 class is loaded at safety, Texas might be able to only take two each at corner and safety. Monroe represents a player with the ability to play at either position, while Wallace and Anderson are high on the Horns. Brandon Jones is the top player overall in the state and certainly would not be turned away. Predicted finish: Eric Cuffee, Christian Wallace, Parrish Cobb, Brandon Jones Cuffee and Cobb are more than enough to hold down the cornerback position. Wallace is rumored to be leaning to Texas at this point, and I think Charlie Strong pulls one out of his hat down the stretch with Brandon Jones. If the Horns donâ€™t land Jones, I think they will be happy to sit at three for this position unless Anderson or Monroe want on board. Predicted Class: 24 QB â€“ Shane Buechele RB â€“ Darius Anderson, Kameron Martin WR â€“ Reggie Hemphill, Collin Johnson, Devin Duvernay TE â€“ Peyton Aucoin, Jack Stoll OL â€“ Tope Imade, Chris Owens, Denzel Okafor DE â€“ Erick Fowler, Mark Jackson DT â€“ Michael Williams, Jordan Elliott, Kendell Jones LB â€“ Jordan Carmouche, Demarco Boyd, Dontavious Jackson, Jeffrey McCulloch DB â€“ Eric Cuffee, Brandon Jones, Parrish Cobb, Christian Wallace Breaking down the numbers: Obviously by predicting a class of 24, Texas would be over the scholarship limit by quite a bit. Texas will have 85 scholarships once Merrick enrolls, and with 14 seniors on the roster, ten players would have to leave the program in order to make a class of 24 possible. The average for attrition is somewhere around five or six. Texas could cut numbers by dropping players from that projection, but the coaching staff showed last season they are willing to juggle numbers. One additional thing to consider is the number of academic casualty rumors for prospects from the 2015 class. There could be as many as four or five players that do not earn academic clearance to enroll if each rumored instance comes to fruition. The only certainty at this point is that there are going to be some tough decisions made if the Longhorns succeed with the majority of the players they are after.
Strong's Stack Defense
chilly52 posted a topic in The Burnt Orange BoardListening to the Roundtable with McPhaul & Feeley last night, I found it interesting when they started talking about Strong's "Stack Defense" (3 man front) and realized that he has not had any time to recruit specifically for those kinds of positions. Poona Ford may be the only signee that fits that mold as a Middle Guard, so far. So, the defense is going to have a lot more opportunities for LBs/DEs that can run and cover ground and some very quick DTs/MGs that can handle the Center block and lots of double teams. It's going to be very interesting to see how Strong and his coaches make their decisions about filling these positions with current players and how they adjust their recruiting for next year. I think this will literally change the shape of the defense...smaller quick lineman and large quick LBs able to fill. Gonna be fun to watch.
Stats of Offenses AGAINST Texas for 2012 Wyoming Points scored â€“ 17 Total Yards â€“ 345 Pass â€“ 276 yards, 2 TDâ€™s, 2 INTâ€™s Rush â€“ 69 yards 3rd down efficiency â€“ 1/11 4th down efficiency â€“ 2/3 Notable Player Performances: WR Robert Herron â€“ 176 yards receiving, 2 TDâ€™s New Mexico Points scored â€“ 0 Total Yards â€“ 241 Pass â€“ 35 Rush â€“ 206 3rd down efficiency â€“ 6/15 4th down efficiency â€“ 0/1 Notable player performances: None. Ole Miss Points scored â€“ 31 Total Yards - 399 Pass â€“ 229, 1 TD Rush â€“ 170, 2 TD 3rd down efficiency â€“ 4/12 4th down efficiency â€“ 1/2 Notable player performances: WR Donte Moncrief â€“ 144 yards receiving, 1 TD RB Jeff Scott â€“ 8 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD Oklahoma State Points scored â€“ 36 Total Yards - 576 Pass â€“ 301 Rush â€“ 275 3rd down efficiency â€“ 6/13 4th down efficiency â€“ 1/1 Notable player performances: RB Joseph Randle â€“ 25 carries, 199 yards, 2 TDâ€™s West Virginia Points scored â€“ 48 Total Yards - 460 Pass â€“ 268 Rush â€“ 192 3rd down efficiency â€“ 3/12 4th down efficiency â€“ 5/5 Notable player performances: RB Andrew Buie â€“ 31 carries, 207 yards, 2 TDâ€™s Oklahoma Points scored â€“ 63 Total Yards - 677 Pass â€“ 334 Rush â€“ 343 3rd down efficiency â€“ 11/18 4th down efficiency â€“ 1/1 Notable player performances: RB Damien Williams â€“ 22 carries, 167 yards, 1 TD Stopping The Opposing Rushers Is Key Over the last 4 games (not including Wyoming & New Mexico) the leading rusher from opposing teams is averaging 167 yards on the ground. Not the team, but the leading rusher. For the entire season, teams are averaging about 210 yards on the ground, per game. Take out Wyomingâ€™s measly 69 yards and that average jumps to 237 rushing yard per game. Unbelievable and unacceptable. In retrospect, a team we all think has some of the best running backs in the NCAA, Texas, is averaging 186 rushing yards per game. Texas is being out rushed... I wanted to focus on the rushing yards, specifically, because the Big 12 is known more as a passing league, and half the offenses that UT has played so far are strong passing teams so those teams will get yards and points through the air. But stopping the run has always been a strength of Texas in the past and is key to slowing down or even shutting down opposing offenses. And that isn't happening. At the end of the day, the Longhorns have continued to let opposing players have big days and have not played up to any standard they should be playing at. Saying the defense still has major problems is an understatement. A big change is a must.
Defense/Special Teams Preview 2012
Wes posted a topic in The Burnt Orange BoardWeâ€™re a day away from seeing the 2012 University of Texas Longhorn football team run through the white smoke as they trot onto the field to kick off the season against Wyoming. Much hype, anticipation, and questions have been placed on the offensive side of the ball, mainly the quarterback position. But one of the more refreshing topics to look forward to this off-season has been not just how the defense will play this fall, but how well they will play and how nasty this unit can be. Iâ€™ll say it now, and Iâ€™m sure many of you will agree, but the Longhorns should have the best defense in the Big 12 this season and one that could fight to be the best in the nation. Itâ€™s a defense that returns 8 starters and has crazy athleticism and above average depth all across the board. Letâ€™s break it down though. Defense Defensive Backs Starters: Just try to throw the ball against this secondary. Seriously, I dare you. Mack and his staff have done it again by assembling arguably the best defensive backfield in the country. Starting corners Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom, and starting safeties Adrian Phillips and Kenny Vaccarro could all be playing on Sunday when they each leave the 40 Acres. Last year all these players played well but I fully expect them to improve their 12 total interceptions from last year to closer to 20 this season. The one guy I really want to watch early in the season in Adrian Phillips. I truly think he has the talent and skills to have a season that could be very similar to Earl Thomas as far as interceptions and big plays. I know, I know Kenny Vaccarro is also a beast roaming the field back there, but Phillips actually has the better coverage skills than Vaccarro. Regardless, every one of these starters have the ability to match up with any receiver in the country and give them trouble. Reserves: Mykell Thompson and Josh Turner lead the reserve unit that also currently includes freshman Duke Thomas and sophomore Sheroid Evans. Other than the freshman Thomas, all of the reserves have seen some game action and add to the strength of the entire defensive backfield. Defensive Ends Starters: The two names that come to mind first are senior Alex Okafor and junior Jackson Jeffcoat. These two combined for 14 sacks and 60 solo tackles last season as both made huge individual improvements from the previous season. But neither have hit their full potential yet and either one could very well end up as the top defensive end in the country. They are both that good. Reserves: Backing up Jeffcoat and Okafor are Reggie Wilson and Cedric Reed. These two athletes are both talented but have very limited game experience. Their lack of game play contributes to the main weakness of the defense, which is inexperience. But Iâ€™ve liked the moves Iâ€™ve seen Wilson make on the field in his limited play and I actually feel pretty good about both these guys as reserves to the two studs on the outside. Defensive Tackles Starters: When I think of defensive tackles from UT I think back to the days of Casey Hampton, Frank Okam, and the other big mammoths from years ago. What was once a strong position for UT has been in a funk recently. I say funk because the position wasnâ€™t necessarily a bad one but was a weird one that seemed to be patched up rather than fixed. There were tackles that ended up leaving the team, tackles who didnâ€™t ever give nearly enough effort, and tackles that simply didnâ€™t pan out. But with the help of Juco Transfer Brandon Moore the defensive tackle position is already in a better place now than where it was late last season. Both Brandon Moore and former running back Chris Whaley (Mack has gotten good at this conversionâ€¦) are locked in as the starters for Saturdays game. Iâ€™m excited to see what type of craziness these two can create in Wyomingâ€™s backfield as both have shown the ability to push opposing linemen around and get into the offensive backfield this off-season. Reserves: For the first time in a long time the Horns actually have good depth at defensive tackle. Both Desmond Jackson and Ashton Dorsey have seen game action. Add those two guys with 5-star freshman Malcolm Brown and that gives UT one of the best defensive tackle reserve units in the country. All three of these guys could be big time starters next year and beyond. Linebackers Starters: Led by junior Jordan Hicks, the LB core has a ton of talent. And itâ€™s time for Hicks to put all of it together and make the next step in his play. He had just 30 solo tackles last season, compared to Emmanuel Achoâ€™s 61 and Keenan Robinsonâ€™s 52. With both of those two guys heading to the NFL Hicks should have more opportunities to show why he was so highly recruited out of high school. But as talented as this LB unit is, it has a lot of inexperience as well. Other than Jordan Hicks no other linebacker has seen any extensive playing time, if any at all. That doesnâ€™t worry me though. The other starters, Steve Edmond and Demarco Cobbs, have been tearing it up in practice all summer long. And on top of that Cobbs was poised to make a difference last season as a sophomore who was supposed to be the fourth linebacker in the rotation on game days before his season ending injury last year. This is a unit who does have to prove itself, but they shouldnâ€™t having any trouble doing so. Reserves: Currently sophomores Kendall Thompson and Tevin Jackson are locked in as the back ups to the three starters, with Thompson as the reserve at MLB and WLB. Once again these are guys with immense talent but lack any game experience. If any of the starters were to go down we may see some growing pains for a few games but I fully expect both of these players to contribute each game as well off the bench. This defense is full of talent all across the board. There are players at each level of the defense who could emerge as the best at their position in the country. But Manny Diaz will have to get these players to create more turnovers and big plays than they did last season if they want to live up to all the pre-season hype. If I was a betting man Iâ€™d go all in with Diaz and this defense, though. Special Teams Kicking/punting: What was once a big question mark and potential weakness after the departure of current starting kicker for the Baltimore Ravens Justin Tucker, Mack Brown was able to work his magic once again and recruit one of the top kickers in the country away from Penn State to play for his Horns this fall. Though he is currently injured and may miss a couple of games, Anthony Fera is undoubtedly a huge get for the Horns, as he alone could end up being the difference in a couple of games this season. In his absence freshman Nick Jordan will handle the kicking duties. But even if Nick does well while Fera is out, expect Fera to be inserted as the starter once he returns. Though Fera is capable of punting as well, I actually donâ€™t expect him to hold any of those responsibilities once healthy, unless there is some special need for him. Duke transfer Alex King is listed as the current starter and I bet he remains there for the entire season if he kicks well. Kick Return/Punt Return: The starting punt returner is Quandre Diggs, and his back up is Jaxon Shipley. Both guys are dangerous and can take it to the house on any kick. The starting kick returners are D.J. Monroe and Mykell Thompson. I personally prefer Marquis Goodwin over both of those guys, but maybe D.J. Monroe will finally make a name for himself this seasonâ€¦ On top of the kicking game and return game Iâ€™m also excited and interested to see if the special teams unit can block some punts and kicks. Having a great special team unit means being great all around. In the return game, kicking game, and blocking punts/kicks. This is exactly what Mack wants to achieve this season. â€œWhat weâ€™re trying to do, weâ€™re trying to have the best special teams weâ€™ve ever had,â€ Brown has said. â€œWeâ€™d like to lead the country, and youâ€™ve got to put your best players out there to do that. And if every time they punt to us weâ€™ve got a chance to block it or return it for a touchdown, that gives us a chance to win a tight ballgame.â€ This quote is very important for this team since they may have some struggles on offense. Both the defense and the special teams have the potential to be the best in the country. Itâ€™s great to see buzz and potential back for the team on defense and special teams. Whatâ€™s sad is that the potential and greatness of the defense and special teams could be hindered and wasted by the lack luster offensive play, specifically of that by the quarterbacks. But hey, if SEC teams can win a national championship with incredible defenses, great special teams, dominant running backs, and average quarterbacks, then UT can as well. Is it Saturday yet?