Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Special teams unit has kept Texas standing in Ewers’ absence

Lorianne Willett

Since the beginning of the season, head coach Steve Sarkisian has praised his team’s ability to be versatile. The special teams unit is no exception to this. 

Special teams has been key for Texas to keep winning games with sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers’ injury. Since the beginning of the season, head coach Steve Sarkisian has praised all aspects of the Texas special teams unit. 

The kick and punt return unit has seen vast improvements from the start of the season. Junior wide receiver Xavier Worthy struggled with muffing punts early in the season, but has been perfect since, and even returned a punt for a touchdown against BYU. Worthy’s return game has given Texas a significant field position advantage. 

“I think Xavier in the punt return game is really showing up again,” Sarkisian said. “His ability to flip the field for us is just another added weapon.”

While Worthy wasn’t and still isn’t the biggest fan of returning punts, he understands the importance his role brings to the team. His speed and ability to make quick moves allows him to regularly juke his defenders, but he didn’t start returning punts until he got to college.

“This is all I know, I was scared (to return punts),” Worthy said. “Some things you can’t run through full speed because I’ve run too fast (before) and (then I) can’t cut. I tried to control my speed while running fast and get down the field.”

On the other side of the punt game, graduate student punter Ryan Sanborn has an elite leg paired with an elite team of gunners to pin opposing teams deep in their own territories. On 24 punts, he averages over 47 yards on each one and has placed nine punts inside the opponents 20-yard line. 

Sanborn joined the Longhorns as a graduate transfer from Stanford, and was just one of many new players to have an immediate impact. 

“You add a couple transfers, all of a sudden Ryan Sanborn shows up,” Sarkisian said. Then you see him punt and you’re like, alright, we have a real punter.” 

Against Houston, a team with one of the country’s most dangerous kick returners, the gunners and Sanborn didn’t allow him any room to run. The return defense has been one of the most dangerous assets Texas has, and while it sometimes makes errors, it hasn’t given up a return touchdown all season.

“From a coverage unit standpoint, we’ve been so good all year at our ability to cover kickoffs and punts,” Sarkisian said. “There were some that we did really, really well well we’re knocking the returner down inside the 15-yard line a couple times.” 

Sophomore kicker Bert Auburn has also stepped up his game since the beginning of the season. Auburn missed two field goals against Kansas, but hasn’t missed one since, and his four field goals made against Kansas State gave Texas the win.

Auburn has made all of his attempted extra points this season and matched his career-long field goal of 49 yards. 

While the offense is still not at 100% in Ewers’ absence, the special teams unit has stepped up and created crucial plays to win games. When Ewers returns, the special teams will be another added feature that Texas can use to defeat teams. 

The special teams unit has given the defense an advantage, allowing it to pin opposing offenses deep in their own territories. As a second defensive weapon, the special teams has been key to giving the offense the ball back with good field position.

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About the Contributor
Lorianne Willett, Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.