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Many happy returns

10/27/2011

AUSTIN, Texas -- Fozzy Whittaker returned two kicks in high school.

Neither was all that remarkable or memorable -- and that's why what Whittaker has done in the last two games is all the more remarkable and memorable.

Put in the return spot as the primary blocker for D.J. Monroe against Oklahoma, Whittaker -– and Texas, for that matter -– benefited from a gust of wind that sent the ball in his direction and a burst of speed that signaled the winds of change in the Longhorns' return game.

Instead of blocking for Monroe, Whittaker found the ball in his hands, and 10 seconds later he found the end zone.

He was installed as the primary returner the following week against Oklahoma State. He delivered again with another 100-yard kickoff return. No one else in Texas football history had accomplished such a feat in consecutive weeks.

As a result, Whittaker a vaulted from nowhere to being the top kickoff return man in the nation, statistically speaking, with a 46.5 yard average. All this success and undiscovered talent wasn’t uncovered until it was nearly too late. Whittaker is a senior.

"I can't really say I wish I had done it," Whittaker said of returning kicks before now. "I'm happy to be on the team and contribute in any way possible and am thankful for being back there now."

Texas is thankful, too. The Longhorns have scored five touchdowns in the past two games. Whittaker’s kickoff returns accounted for two of those.

That Whittaker even had the chance to return kickoffs was more due to circumstance than anything else.

Malcolm Williams left the team before his senior year. Christian Scott was suspended at the start of the year, then broke his wrist. Marquise Goodwin was competing in track at the start of the year. He came into the football fold during the first few weeks of the season but was out of shape for football.

Monroe was "all over the place," according to Texas coach Mack Brown.

"We really felt like we had not had Fozzy in there in the past because of injuries," Brown said. "Now Malcolm [Brown] is doing better [in the running game]; Fozzy wanted to do it. We just felt he's smart, quick, can catch, we felt he might be as good at this as he is. He's obviously been better than we anticipated, or we would have had him there four years ago."

It is difficult to second-guess such matters. Especially when the timing has been so right for Whittaker so far -- timing, along with some timely blocks that have helped in his 100-yard dashes.

"There are times I'm kind of surprised with the holes that are there," Whittaker said. "Whenever I get surprised, I just hit the acceleration, try to accelerate right through it. I know those guys. They're working hard. That's what we've been working on, hitting those holes that they create."

Creating more sensational returns will be a problem in the coming weeks. Teams most assuredly have grown wary of the potential threat Texas has in Whittaker.

"We anticipate different kind of kicks this weekend," Brown said. "We feel like we'll get some sky kicks and squibs. We really worked hard on different types of kicks this week."