Each day, as a countdown to fall camp opening Aug. 2, we are going to provide you with a number that was important in 2011 and let you know why it will be important in 2012.
Quandre Diggs returned kicks, punts and even an interception or two in 2011.
But there are some questions as to whether or not he will return to all of those positions in 2012. The coaching staff felt Diggs might get too worn down during games and throughout the season.
To that end, Diggs might be lifted from the punt return team.
Inside the number
That could be a problem because Diggs lifted the return team’s average quite a bit. The sophomore averaged 20 yards per return in his freshman season.
While that average was bolstered by his 81-yard return against Texas A&M, the only other decent return had was a 34-yard return by Josh Turner. And that came off a punt block against Iowa State so it wasn’t a true return.
Jaxon Shipley was also a punt returner but he was more of a sure-hands guy. Shipley suffered a knee injury midway through the season and that hampered his development as a punt returner. But even when he was healthy, Shipley’s longest return was 20 yards. His average was 5.2.
Where it counts in 2012
For Texas to have either of those players returning punts might be a surprise. Texas has too much speed and skill and not enough places to put those players so it is doubtful it will double up on positions and risk injury where it doesn’t have to. Mike Davis took a turn or two at returning punts in the spring, and Shipley had a 50-yard return in that game, but the new talent had not arrived on campus at that time. Plus the coaching staff was unsure of what Mykkele Thompson could do. Thompson went 99 yards with a kick off return that surely had the coaches reevaluating his role in returns in 2012.
So Texas has options. It knows that it has two sure-handed players in Diggs and Thompson. That’s important after going through 2010 and watching so many mishandled punts.
But the Longhorns also know they have fast and elusive players who need to find a way onto the field joining the team in the fall. Unitl Texas evaluates all of those players against what it already has the punt return position will remain unsettled.