Texas Tech went to work this week trying to improve its special teams — an area that was a strength through five games, but sprang all sorts of leaks Saturday. Tech’s 42-35 win over Iowa State was made unnecessarily closer, largely because of special teams breakdowns. The Red Raiders allowed a kickoff-return touchdown, a turnover when a punt hit a return-team member, missed a field goal and had trouble fielding punts.
Sadale Foster said Tuesday he’s being replaced as the primary punt-return man. Foster, who has 12 of the team’s 20 punt returns this season, let a punt glance off his shoulder pad Saturday that the Red Raiders recovered.
“It’s disappointing,” Foster said, “but I understand that you’ve got to get the ball caught. I didn’t do my job getting it caught. I let two on the ground in the last two weeks, so when you don’t produce they have to find the next best man. But I feel like whoever gets the job done, it’s OK with me and I’ll make plays in other areas for us.”
Special teams coach Trey Haverty looked at other punt-return options Monday and Tuesday.
Iowa State’s Kirby Van Der Kamp punted 11 times for a 47.5-yard average Saturday. Nearly all of that flowed down to the Cyclones’ net-punting results, too, since Foster and freshman Carlos Thompson managed four returns for a total of 2 yards.
“We’ve got to find somebody back there that’ll catch a punt,” Haverty said. “We don’t care who it is, how they look, what they can do. The main thing is you’ve got to get the ball to our offense. Saturday we didn’t do a great job of that.”
Haverty noted that he and several other Tech coaches were spoiled during their playing days. They were contemporaries of ace punt-return man Wes Welker, who not only fielded punts with ease but spotted lanes for big returns.
Inside receiver Austin Zouzalik returned punts for the last four years, but his eligibility ran out in 2012.
“There’s definitely some auditioning going on,” Haverty said, “but it ultimately falls on me, and Saturday wasn’t acceptable. I know that, and we’ve got to get it fixed.”
Haverty said there’ll also be changes to the kickoff-coverage unit that allowed a 95-yard return by Jarvis West.
“Quite a bit (of changes),” Haverty said. “I would probably say more than half. Not necessarily guys (replaced), but guys moving positions, and then we’ve got a couple of guys back that weren’t there Saturday.
“There’s definitely some changes done. We can’t just let the status quo be a kickoff return (touchdown), so we’ve got to do our part to get it fixed.”
Back to work
Quarterback Baker Mayfield was back at practice Tuesday, 10 days after he suffered a knee injury in Texas Tech’s 54-16 victory at Kansas. Mayfield was in full pads with the rest of the quarterbacks when media were allowed in to do post-practice interviews.
There was no indication of how much he participated or whether he can play in this week’s game at West Virginia.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was not made available to the media Tuesday and he doesn’t permit freshmen to do interviews. Kingsbury said last week Mayfield suffered no structural damage to the knee when a pass rusher rolled into his lower legs.
Mayfield started the first five games, but his replacement, Davis Webb, was named Big 12 Conference offensive player of the week after throwing for 415 yards and three touchdowns Saturday against Iowa State.
Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro was named to midseason all-America teams released Tuesday by USA Today and Yahoosports.com. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound junior from San Antonio MacArthur has 47 catches for 606 yards and a touchdown.
He’s tied for seventh in the nation — first among tight ends — in receptions per game.
Compiled by Don Williams