Texas looking for right return candidate

AUSTIN, Texas -- The numbers don’t add up for Texas.

Not now, anyway.

Not after the departure of Fozzy Whittaker.

The senior was the one who carried the Texas return game despite only having 10 returns. Still, Whittaker accounted for 424 kickoff return yards -- a 42.4-yard average -- and two touchdowns. The effort from the returners not named Whittaker was less than stellar -- 852 yards on 43 returns or an average of 19.8 yards per return. That average put Texas into a tie with Northern Illinois for 100th in FBS in 2011.

“We weren't returning them well until Fozzy started,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “He returns two for touchdowns and then we don't return them well. So obviously that guy back there is probably more important than the other 10 guys blocking for him because he made that a viable scoring opportunity and field position for us.”

The other guys that were back there are back again this season -- Quandre Diggs, D.J. Monroe and Marquise Goodwin. It was Goodwin who put up the best numbers among the trio, averaging 22.4 yards per return and having along of 40.

But Monroe might have proved to be the most explosive. He had a 100-yard kickoff return called back because of a penalty that did not directly affect the play.

Diggs saw the most action with 19 returns but had a lowly 19.5 return average, and while he proved to be explosive on punt returns, he never broke the 30-yard barrier on kickoff returns.

So suffice it to say, there is no heir apparent to Whittaker.

“What we thought is that it would be really important for us to look at everybody, because we know what Quandre can do,” Brown said. “We know what D.J. can do. We know what Marquise can do.

“So let's look at everybody. Let's take Sheroid [Evans]. Let's take Mykkele [Thompson]. Let's go out of the box a little bit. Let's work guys that haven't worked there a lot.”

That means Texas will be working freshmen into that spot as well. Right now, only Duke Thomas is the only freshman candidate on campus. But in the fall, Texas may take a hard look at Daje Johnson, Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and possibly even Johnathan Gray at the return spot.

“You have to have depth,” Brown said.

It’s also a position where Texas has to have a solid decision maker. The rules will change in 2012. Instead of the 30-yard line, the kicks have been moved up to the 35.

That means there is a greater likelihood that the returner will catch the ball in the end zone with a decision to make. In the case of Whittaker, both his touchdown returns were 100 yards, so clearly he made the right decision.

Plus, the more beneficial starting point could lead to teams electing to do something other than the traditional kick.

Texas will have to prepare its returners on what do when receiving the kick five yards deep in the endzone, and also instruct them on what to do in those different situations.

“So there's a lot of different scenarios of what will happen.” Brown said. “Will more people squib instead of trying to kick it out to try to keep you inside the 25? Deep sky kicks? What will change?”

While there are still plenty of questions, it is clear that Texas must still find yardage and impactful returns.