When the Texas Longhorns gather to watch film on Sunday's,
they know they will see some big hits from their kickoff coverage team.
Lead by Dalton Santos, Kendall Thompson and Tevin Jackson,
Texas has limited opponents to 12.6 yards per kick return, third among FBS
"They love watching Santos, he just knocks people out
of the way," UT head coach Mack Brown said.
It takes a unique player to excel on kickoff coverage.
There's a chance for a jarring collision on every kick.
"It means you can run fast and that you really don’t
care about your body, you just lay your body out," Thompson said.
Santos, Thompson and Jackson lead the kickoff coverage team
in tackles. The Longhorns dubbed the
unit the "Wild Bunch."
"Those are the guys that want to run down hill and just
hit people and make big plays and get everybody excited," Santos said. "We
set the tone. And when the fans go crazy, we feed off of it. So just that alone
is really neat. We take tremendous pride in it."
Where did the name "Wild Bunch" come from?
"We run down there like a bunch of wild men just ready
to tackle the ball carrier," Jackson said.
But the kickoff coverage team wouldn't be as efficient
without kicker Nick Rose. The freshman averages 62.1 yards per kickoff and has
five touchbacks in 13 attempts.
"He has a strong leg and he keeps it up there for us to
get down there and make good coverage," Jackson said. "We have fast
guys on the 'Wild Bunch,' but I really appreciate that leg."
Texas has not allowed a kick return for more than 15 yards
in two games this season. When Rose kicks, the starting field position for
opponents is their 16-yard line.
"The game is won with field position and momentum
so it definitely helps us," said senior safety Kenny Vaccaro, who spent
two years on the kickoff team. "It's going to be a great unit all year, I
By Austin Laymance/Special to Star-Telegram