LUBBOCK,TX- Texas Tech’s third side of the ball saved the day not once but twice last year as kicker Trey Wolff sent two field goals through the goal posts in two separate overtimes. Tech sent the Oklahoma Sooners into the SEC with a loss being the last time the two Big-12 opponents will meet in the same conference, and the other of the two teams that the Red Raiders took down in OT was none other than the Texas Longhorns.
While these exciting wins reflected the special teams, Wolff moved on to the NFL where he’s now working his was on to the Tennessee Titans roster, so the job is up for grabs. Redshirt senior Gino Garcia was just barely came in second to that starting spot last year, so the transfer from Houston is once again in the running to be the kicker.
“I have all the faith in Gino as well,” Special Teams coach Kenny Perry. “We got to find somebody else as well, but it’s good that we know what Mac can do punting, but unfortunately in this conference you have to be able to kick the ball off in the endzone as well.”
Coach McGuire said himself the kicking room is always better when there’s some competition, and in fact that’s what made Trey Wolff better last year – having Garcia around to push him. Although punter Austin McNamara, who has shined for four consecutive seasons at Texas Tech and now the best punter in program history, might just be in the running too. McNamara has decided to stay for a fifth year before he hopes to declare for the NFL, and it’s on his agenda as well to kick some this year.
“We’re going to let Mac kick, ya know that’s one thing he wanted to add to his repertoire is being able to kickoff and he’s been working on that a lot since the off-season,” Perry said. “Been proud of Gino ya know since last year – like Trey – got in here and got beat out just like the year before. But I’m kind of one of those guys that like hey ‘we are going to give you every shot in the world to win this thing’.”
Now to take a look on the opposite side of the special teams unit: the kick off and punt returns. While most the time the Red Raiders look to Myles Price for punt returns, after tweaks and injuries here and there, Adrian Frye also returned it a few times.
“The biggest thing we wanted to improve on was our punt return coverage,” wide receiver Myles Price said. “Punt return is going really well I’m super excited about that because I’m ready to return some. So I definitely want to lead the country in that.”
“I think I’m going to be able to do some things with him being healthy in the return game,” Perry said. “Drae McCray did it some at Austin Peay, he’s a fast kid.”
While Price is setting the bar high for himself one last season in Lubbock, the kickoff return is going to be full of some of the fastest players on the team of course: transfer Drae McCray and Jordan Brown. Currently both are all getting reps in at practices, but all eyes are on Brown as he’s expected to bring the heat with his speed.
“On kick return a lot of times you’ll see JB catching the ball going backwards,” Price said, “but this year we are having a lot of emphasis on catching that ball going forward so we can gain speed and gain momentum. So yeah I think JB is going to be great at that.”