When new Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian assembled his first coaching staff on the Forty Acres, one of the biggest hits was attracting special teams coordinator / tight ends coach Jeff Banks of Crimson tide in Alabama, where he had spent the previous three seasons.
“His roots in recruiting are really here in the great state of Texas, but he is also in my opinion the country’s first task force coordinator,” Sarkisian said in January. “So we have a fantastic coach there, we have a fantastic recruiter with ties to the state.”
After the Alabama special teams took a big jump from No.89 in SP + in 2019 to No.13 in 2020, Banks takes over a decidedly average special teams unit from Jay Boulware who finished No.50 in national level and has enough talent and depth to make the same kind of improvement that Crimson Tide made last year.
“I feel good in our special teams,” Sarkisian said after Saturday’s second scrum. “I think we’ve got depth, we’ve got really good feedback, I think our kicking game is really solid, that aspect is good.”
When asked about special teams during his first media availability since taking the job in Texas, Banks first mentioned senior kicker Cameron Dicker, who is currently the starter in all three phases of the kicking game.
“I have been very impressed with Cameron Dicker this offseason,” Banks said. “In the spring he had some really, really good outings in those 15 workouts and he’s kind of followed, isn’t he? Spring is one thing, entering fall camp is another.
Dicker is now three years away from his star-studded tour against Oklahoma as a rookie with three total winning kicks to his name. He has also been stable, moving up to sixth place overall in school history and fourth place among kickers.
After missing two kicks from within 30 yards in his first two seasons, Dicker was more consistent at close range as a junior while lacking accuracy between 30 and 49 yards, missing two from under 39 yards and three others between 40 and 49 meters.
At No.6 in school history for field goal accuracy, Dicker is talented enough to take the final step in his development as a spot kicker by knocking out a few of those duds unless 50 meters. Beyond 50 yards, Dicker has enough leg to strike 58 yards in the Orange-White game after completing a 57-yard game against Rice in 2019, tied for the seventh longest in the history of the school.
With 98.1% accuracy on extra points, there’s no worry that Dicker will miss a key attempt late in a close game – he’s not quite Hunter Lawrence, who didn’t. than an attempt at an extra point in his career, but he is close.
On kickoffs, Dicker arguably was even better with his 73 kickoffs, placing Texas No. 1 nationally in middle distance and No. 5 in touchback percentage.
When kicker Ryan Bujcevski suffered an ACL tear against West Virginia in early November, Dicker returned to punt duties, averaging 43.6 yards per punt before moving to 46.8 yards per punt. punt on six punts in the late spring scrum. With just 27 qualified bettors averaging more yards per punt than Dicker in his limited sample last season, Dicker’s lineup as a punter relative to his peers nationally appears to be good for the elite.
Banks ‘biggest concern is not to exhaust Dicker’s leg, as he handles all of the Longhorns’ kicks.
“We’re not worried about how many teams he’s on or how many things he does, but we’re definitely going to limit the number of reps day in and day out,” Banks said. “We’re going to try to have a four-day-a-week schedule with him because he’s punting and kicking and kicking. We don’t wear them out and then all of a sudden we come to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth game and he doesn’t hit the ball that deep and his leg starts to tire a bit.
Mental constitution is still essential for the kicker, but Banks put more emphasis on the technical side of handling multiple phases and not letting the direct aspects of the kick in place affect the directional kick. required as a bettor.
If Dicker tires or falters as a punter, rookie Isaac Pearson could be ready to contribute at some point this season or Bucjevski could regain his full health. Banks called Pearson a pleasant surprise after averaging 49.5 yards per attempt in the Orange-White game. In open practice last Wednesday, Pearson didn’t look consistent enough to really threaten Dicker at the moment, but he also didn’t have the bad rods that characterized Bujcevski and his predecessor Michael Dickson as they were adjusting to living in American football.
Freshman Bert Auburn, a Flower Mound Marcus product nationally ranked No.12 by Kohl’s Kicking Camps, who also had some special FIU offers, Oregon State, and Texan technology, also garnered praise from Banks with his emergence as a save kicker.
As the deep snapper, Banks inherited two veterans from multi-year starter Justin Mader, now senior, and junior substitute Zach Edwards, a transfer from Oklahoma who appeared in three games last season, including two as as holder.
Banks prefers to use a quarterback or bettor as a starting, junior quarterback Casey Thompson, first-year quarterback Hudson Card, Bujcevski and Pearson in that role during preseason camp.
“They’ve all been really good, and luckily we didn’t have any issues that way, but to be honest a big part of it was because Mader and Edwards did it right,” Banks said.
In the second leg, senior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison netted three touchdowns in the second leg, including a 100-yard kickoff return to give Oklahoma State’s surprise momentum of the year. last, placing him to a touchdown behind Jordan Shipley for the school record.
As good as Jamison is, after breaking down the movie, Banks found a few areas for him to fundamentally improve on, such as not letting punters past him against Oklahoma or catching the ball outside of his body frame. Then they started working on the JUGS machine to make Jamison a more technically sound turner.
Banks advanced the need for improvement to Jamison as helping his potential future in the NFL as he is an undersized cornerback listed at 5’10 – to make a roster to the next level he will need to stand out as a man back.
The other aspect, beyond improving the fundamentals, is to familiarize Jamison with the schematic changes Banks made in the second leg.
“I think he’s starting to get a feel for the play appeal and when we want to go on the field, when we want to hit inside, all of that stuff,” Banks said.
At the start of preseason camp, Banks said he tackled Jamison in a few practices and Jamison responded to tough training.
“I think DJ is going to have a great season because I think he does the job and I think he has it now, like it’s not just about being back and catching the ball, that’s how I catch the ball and that’s where the return goes and that’s how to set these things up, ”Banks said.
Some additions to returning units have increased depth, including junior wide receiver Joshua Moore, first-year wide receiver Xavier Worthy and running back Keilan Robinson, as well as the availability of running back Bijan Robinson for those roles. Super senior safety Brenden Schooler has done work as a returning man as well, but will likely remain a Special Teams base player who contributes in other ways.
“I kind of like where we’re at with the second leg – we’ve got a lot of body types, a lot of different speeds, and I think we have guys who have a certain home run speed,” Banks said. .
Banks called Moore a natural who catches the ball well and can put his foot in the ground and move up the field. For Worthy, his footballing intelligence and assertiveness helped him make solid decisions about when to play football.
When selecting players for special team units, Banks began with assessment drills and coverage during spring practice, assessing which players have the effort, technique, and athletic ability to contribute. After building all three depths, the coaches made a few adjustments – moving a guard to tackle the kick return or rocking a front player to the back when covering the kickoff.
Coaches are also aware of the number of shots played by a starter. Someone like senior linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, for example, might only play on one or two special teams units as a result. Since these snaps are so precious, Banks tries to get these players into the most impactful positions, like using them as a turner, on a breakout block, or on top of cover units.
So there is still a need for freshmen to step up and contribute to special teams, with Banks targeting cornerback Ishmael Ibraheem and linebacker Morice Blackwell as the first standings of preseason camp.
These young players could complement some special team units with base players like Schooler, second in safety Jerrin Thompson, second cornerback Kitan Crawford, senior cornerback Josh Thompson and second in safety Tyler Owens.
With enough talent and depth across the board, it’s now up to Banks to put together the right pieces and make the right schematic changes to maximize his talent – as much as Banks is known as an ace recruiter, he makes $ 1 million. this year to be a difference maker as a special teams coach.