As they attempt to avoid another stumble on special teams, the Longhorns will turn to coaching and consistency.
On Monday, Texas coach Tom Herman did not indicate that he would bench either freshman Jake Smith or senior Brandon Jones from punt returning duties. Both muffed returns during UT’s 36-30 win over Oklahoma State on Sept. 21. Oklahoma State turned both of those turnovers into touchdown drives.
In his post-game press conference, Herman said that “the punt return game was embarrassing. We have got to do a better job of coaching those situations.” On Monday, just nine days later, Herman referred to those mistakes as “unique instances.”
Smith’s muff was blamed on fundamentals. “He let it get through his hands and his elbows got separated,” Herman noted. The key to fixing that? Building consistency with a correct technique, Herman prescribed.
Much like he did after the Oklahoma State game, Herman shouldered the blame for Jones’ botched return. On the late-game play, Jones made an ill-advised and aggressive charge at a short punt. UT coaches have consistently instructed Jones to field every punt and not let balls roll, but Herman conceded that he should have reminded him to stray from that kind of kick.
“He was doing what he thought he was being coached to do, which was, you know, save that field position,” Herman said. “At that moment in the game, we should have done a better job of alerting him of the situation.”
This season, Smith has returned five punts and netted three yards. Jones is usually used as the returner for UT’s punt safe team.
In addition to Smith and Jones, Texas also has sophomore D’Shawn Jamison listed as a punt returner. Last season, he scored on a 90-yard return at Kansas State.
NCAA reaction: Early Monday, California governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will allow that state’s college athletes to profit off their names and likenesses. According to ESPN, the bill will not allow for California athletes being punished for the sale of the rights to their names, images and likeness. For example, those athlete could soon make money off autographs or get paid to appear in advertisements. They also can also hire licensed agents to represent them.
In a statement, the NCAA said that “As a membership organization, the NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process. Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California.”
When asked about the impact of the bill’s passage, Herman said it was premature to comment since he did not know about the specifics. He added that “I have been on record as saying I do believe that we need to find a way to get student-athletes more for their name and image and likeness.”
Texcetera: Sophomore defensive back B.J. Foster (hamstring) has returned to practice. Receiver Collin Johnson (hamstring) and defensive back DeMarvion Overshown (back) will attempt to practice on Tuesday. Running back Jordan Whittington (sports hernia) hasn’t been ruled out for the West Virginia game, but Herman stated that “we’re certainly not expecting him to be cleared for this one.” … While discussing developmental players who have stood out over the past few weeks, Herman mentioned linebacker David Gbenda, defensive lineman Myron Warren, offensive linemen Tyler Johnson and receiver Kennedy Lewis. … Saturday’s Texas-West Virginia game will be televised on ABC.