Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Texas’ notable number: The Longhorns' lackluster kick returns in 2021 — and the number 38

Each week this season, we’re looking at a specific number tied to Texas football.

This week’s notable number is 38 — the jersey that Texas has assigned to defensive back Tremayne Prudhomme, who originally joined the team as a walk-on quarterback. Thirty-eight Football Bowl Subdivision-level programs are allowing fewer tackles for a loss each game than Texas, which is averaging five. While recording 38 receptions in 1979-82, Herkie Walls averaged a school-record 25.8 yards per catch. Thirty-eight also represents the yardage covered on UT's longest kickoff return this season.

D'Shawn Jamison actually had two 38-yard returns in a 32-27 win over TCU earlier this month. Those were two of the 13 kickoffs Texas has returned this season.

Over those 13 returns, Texas has averaged 19.2 yards. That average is 84th nationally.

Texas defensive back D'Shawn Jamison is one of only three players in school history to return two kickoffs for a touchdown; he had a 98-yarder against Rice as a freshman in 2019 and a 100-yarder against Oklahoma State last year.

Despite its paltry statistics, Texas does have a dynamic kick returner in Jamison, a senior who's one of three players in school history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns. He scored on a 98-yard return against Rice in 2019. Last year, he went from end zone to end zone in a win at Oklahoma State.

Jamison also scored on a 90-yard punt return as a freshman. So when Jeff Banks was hired to be special teams coach, he told Jamison that his ticket to the NFL might not be as a 5-foot-10 cornerback. 

"I said, 'Hey, look, you're not a 6-5, 6-3 corner. You're a great player; obviously you have great instincts on defense,'" Banks said in August. "But you're going to need this part of the game to have an opportunity, not only to make our team better, which you've done in the past, but also have a chance at the NFL."

More:Moving past loss to OU, Texas players lean on things learned from past disappointments

Last week against Oklahoma, Texas lost 55-48 despite building an 18-point lead with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left in the third quarter. As the Sooners mounted their comeback, two UT kick returns went awry.

After a field goal pulled Oklahoma within 41-33 with 11:44 remaining, Roschon Johnson took a kickoff from just inside UT's end zone. He was stopped at the 18 — well short of the 25-yard line, where a touchback would have placed the Longhorns. Texas went three-and-out, and the Sooners had decent field position after a punt.

On the drive after that punt, Oklahoma scored to tie the game 41-41. The Sooners then again avoided Jamison on the kickoff. This time, Xavier Worthy drifted about 5 yards into his end zone before he fielded the kickoff and decided to sprint out. The freshman standout was stripped of the ball at the Texas 18. Oklahoma scored one play later and took its first lead.

"That was just a little mental error," Worthy said.

On Monday, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian praised the efforts of the Red River Showdown's two kickers — UT's Cameron Dicker and Oklahoma's Gabe Brkic — as well as the special teams coaches who kept their opponents off-balance with deep kickoffs and cross kicks. He added that the fumble had less to do with Worthy's decision to return it and more with blocking and Worthy cradling the football with the wrong arm.

Still, the decision to return a football that was fielded in the middle of his end zone was ill-advised. Sarkisian said he doesn't want Texas' returns to be set up much deeper than Johnson was on his a few minutes earlier.

"Ideally, two yards deep, never go back," Sarkisian said. "If you go back, keep it in (the end zone)."

Across the nation, 24 kicks have been returned for touchdowns this season. Texas has not claimed any of those.

That has left an oddity as the most notable aspect of UT's kick returns. Since defensive lineman Ovie Oghoufo and tight end Jared Wiley both wear No. 18 and both are used as blockers on the return team, Oghoufo has been forced to squeeze into a No. 23 jersey before kickoffs, and an official has had to announce each wardrobe change.

Sarkisian, though, said, "We felt like we were close and that we'd have something there" in the Oklahoma game. Jamison is averaging 24.3 yards over this season's seven returns. (Kansas State's Malik Knowles leads the country with his 39.3-yard average.) Worthy has compiled 33 yards on his two returns. Johnson also has that 18-yarder to his credit.

"I feel like we're all really explosive, so they don't really want to kick it to us," Worthy said. "I feel like any of us can take it to the house."