When the new Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian assembled his first coaching staff on the 40 acres, one of the most important coups was to lure special teams coordinator / narrow-point coach Jeff Banks of the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he had spent the previous three seasons.
“His roots in recruiting are really here in the great state of Texas, but he’s also, in my opinion, the country’s top special teams coordinator,” Sarkisian said in January. “So we have a fantastic coach, we get a fantastic recruiter with ties to the state.”
After Alabama’s special teams went from No. 89 in SP + in 2019 to No. 13 in 2020, Banks takes over a decidedly average special teams unit from Jay Boulware that finished No. 50 nationally and has enough talent and depth to make the same kind of improvement as the Crimson Tide last year.
“I feel good with our special teams,” Sarkisian said after Saturday’s second bout. “I think we have depth, we get really good performances, I think our kicking game is really good, that aspect is good.”
Asked by special teams during his first media availability since taking up 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 was very impressed with Cameron Dicker this offseason,” Banks said. “In the spring, I had very, very good starts in these 15 practices and I’m following up, right? It’s one thing to be in the spring, it’s another to get into the fall camp.”
Dicker is now three years away from his star turn against Oklahoma as a freshman with three game-winning kicks to his credit. He has also been consistent, moving up to sixth place in the overall points achieved in school history and fourth among kickers.
After missing two 30-yard kicks during his first two seasons, Dicker was more consistent at short range as a junior while lacking an accuracy of 30 to 49 yards, missing two under-39 yards and three more yards. ‘between 40 and 49 yards.
At number 6 in the school’s history in field goal shooting, Dicker is talented enough to be able to take that last step in his development as a field kicker, eliminating some of those fouls of less than 50 yards. From more than 50 yards, Dicker has enough leg to hit from 58 yards during the Orange-White game after making a 57-yarder against Rice in 2019 that tied the seventh-longest in school history.
With an accuracy of 98.1 percent in extra points, there is no concern that Dicker will not miss a key attempt at the end of a closed game: it is not entirely Hunter Lawrence, who only missed one point attempt. extra in his career, but he’s close.
In the pitches, Dicker has certainly been better even with his 73 pitches, placing Texas at No. 1 in the middle distance and No. 5 in rebounding percentage.
When pointer Ryan Bujcevski suffered a torn ACL against West Virginia in early November, Dicker took on punting duties, averaging 43.6 yards per point before improving to 46.8 yards per point on six points during the late spring fight. With only 27 qualifiers averaging more yards per point than Dicker in his limited sample size last season, Dicker’s rank as a scorer compared to his teammates nationally seems to be good for the ‘elite.
The biggest concern for Banks is not to wear out Dicker’s leg, as he handles all of the Longhorns’ kicks.
“We don’t care about the number of teams he does or the things he does, but we’re sure we’ll limit the amount of repetitions day in and day out,” Banks said. “We will try to be with him like a schedule four days a week with him as he is aiming, kicking and kicking. We don’t wear them out and suddenly we get to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth game and he’s not throwing the ball so deep and the leg starts to get a little tired ”.
Mental makeup is always key for kickers, but banks place more emphasis on the technical aspect of handling multiple phases and not letting the direct aspects of the kick point affect the directional kick required as a pointer.
If Dicker gets tired or wipes out as a scorer, freshman Isaac Pearson could be ready to contribute at some point this season or Bucjevski could return to his health. Banks said Pearson was a pleasant surprise after averaging 49.5 yards per attempt in the orange-white game. During last Wednesday’s open practice, Pearson didn’t seem consistent enough to seriously threaten Dicker at the time, but he also didn’t have the bad reeds that characterized Bujcevski and his predecessor Michael Dickson as they set out to kick live in American football. .
Bert Auburn, a Marcus Flower Mound Marc product, ranked No. 12 nationally by Kohl’s Kicking Camps, which also offered preferred deals from FIU, Oregon State and Texas Tech, also received praise from Banks for its appearance as site kicker backup.
In the paragliding position, Banks inherited two veterans in multi-year starter Justin Mader, now senior and high schooler Zach Edwards, a transfer from Oklahoma that appeared in three games last season, including two as a starter.
Banks prefer to use a quarterback or pointer as a starter, young quarterback Casey Thompson working, quarterback Hudson Card, Bujcevski and Pearson, a freshman, in that role during preseason camp.
“They’ve all been really good and luckily we haven’t had any problems that way, but many, to be honest, it’s because Mader and Edwards got it right,” Banks said.
In the return game, senior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison has three touchdowns in the return game, including an initial 100-yard return to propel the swing in Oklahoma State’s upset last year, which it meant a touchdown behind Jordan Shipley to get the school record.
As good as Jamison has been, after breaking the film, Banks found some areas to improve him fundamentally, such as not letting the points hit him in front of him against Oklahoma or catching the ball outside the frame of his body. Then they started putting the work on the JUGS machine to make Jamison a more solid technical return.
Banks raised the need to improve Jamison to help his future potential in the NFL, as he is a small-sized corner listed at 5’10; to make a list at the next level, you will have to stand out as a returning man.
The other aspect beyond improving the basics is familiarizing Jamison with the schematic changes Banks has made in the return game.
“I think he’s starting to get an idea of the call-up for the play and when we want to go on the field, when we want to hit it inside, all that stuff,” Banks said.
Early in preseason camp, Banks said he chased Jamison during a pair of workouts and that Jamison responded to hard training.
“I think the DJ will have a great season because I think he works and I think he gets it now, as if it’s not just about going there and catching the ball, it’s like I catch the ball and it’s where the return goes and it’s how to set these things up, ”Banks said.
Some additions to the return units have increased depth, including junior general receiver Joshua Moore, freshman Xavier Worthy and sophomore Keilan Robinson, along with sophomore Bijan Robinson’s availability for those roles. Brenden Schooler, a super senior security player, has also done some work as a returning man, but will likely continue to be a basic special equipment player who contributes in other ways.
“I like how we come up with the game back: we have a lot of body types, a lot of different speeds, and I think we have some guys that have a certain speed at home,” Banks said.
The benches called Moore a natural who grabs the ball well and can put his foot on the ground and stand up. For Worthy, his footballing intelligence and assertiveness have helped him make strong decisions about when to play football.
In selecting players for special teams units, banks began with assessment and coverage exercises in spring practice, assessing which players have the effort, technique, and athletic ability to contribute. After building the three depths, the coaches made some adjustments: move a guard to attack on the return of the ball or change a player from the front to the back when covering the throw.
Coaches are also aware of how many snapshots a headline plays. Someone like main defender DeMarvion Overshown, for example, could only play in one or two special team units as a result. Because these snapshots are so valuable, Banks tries to place these players in the most impactful positions, such as using them as a returner, in a block of spikes, or at the apex of the coverage units.
Therefore, there is always a need for freshmen to step up and collaborate on special teams, with Banks distinguishing cornerback Ishmael Ibraheem and defender Morice Blackwell as standouts in the preseason.
These young players could complete some special team units with basic players like Schooler, safety second Jerrin Thompson, second cornerback Kitan Crawford, senior cornerback Josh Thompson and junior safety Tyler Owens.
With enough talent and depth, it is now up to Banks to put together the right pieces and make the right schematic changes to maximize their talent. As much as Banks is known as an ace recruiter, this year he will earn $ 1 million. a difference maker as a special teams coach.