Leading up to the start of August training camp, the Statesman will examine each position on the Texas roster.
At times, it appears this area has been cursed under Strong. See a long, critical punt return by UCLA, a missed extra point against California, a bobbled snap against Oklahoma State, for example.
Texas still had not found a kicker to replace Nick Rose as of mid-July. Then, as fate would have it, LSU’s Trent Domingue announced he was coming to Austin after coach Les Miles refused to renew him scholarship in Baton Rouge. Burnt orange miracles do exist, apparently.
The Australian-born Michael Dickson returns for his sophomore season as UT’s punter. Dickson didn’t really get the notoriety he deserved last season after averaging 41.3 yards per punt and booted 17 balls more than 50 yards.
Whenever Strong gets nervous, he gives punt returners an order — “Just catch it; that’s it.” It’s still unclear who UT’s top return choices will be.
Strong deserves credit for recognizing that former quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson needed to go. He basically fired a friend, someone who helped build up Louisville. Without Watson, Strong may not have even gotten the Texas job.
Strong has turned the offense over to Sterlin Gilbert, a San Angelo native who learned the intricacies of the spread offense under former Baylor coach Art Briles. Gilbert brought his close friend, Matt Mattox, to be the offensive line coach as well.
Former UT running back Anthony Johnson (2001-05) was hired to coach his old position. Charlie Williams, a 30-year coaching lifer with a wide array of NFL and college experience, leads the receivers.
The defensive staff features Strong’s closest allies — defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary. Clay Jennings joins the staff as defensive backs coach.
By all accounts, this is the most cohesive staff Strong has assembled in his three seasons. Going into a make-or-break year, Strong needs everyone to be all in.
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