As ESPN reported early Thursday, Penn State kicker and punter Anthony Fera is now a Texas Longhorn. Fera joins Silas Redd, Khairi Fortt, Kevin Haplea and Rob Bolden as part of a group of notable Nittany Lions to leave the Penn State program. For Penn State, this is a serious blow to their special teams play and a strike against the defense from a field-position standpoint.
However, for the Longhorns, the addition of Fera is something that is a true gift. A season ago, the 'Horns relied on Justin Tucker for the place kicking, kickoffs and punting. Now the senior is gone and the folks in burnt orange are looking to a combination of Ben Pruitt, Nick Jordan, Nick Rose and William Russ to handle the duties. Pruitt and Jordan will be working the kicking, while Rose and Russ will be getting the punting sorted out.
Special teams are huge, even though they are the often forgotten facet of the game. For a team like Texas in 2012, one looking to rebuild and push to the double-digit win mark, the special teams are going to be a large factor in making that push. Texas, in 2012, is a ball club that will be rooted in defense and running the football.
Now they can add special teams to that list.
Fera is going to be a touchback machine, given the new rule change in college football. He also has the ability to put the ball high, if the Texas staff is looking to make sky kicks instead of surrendering the 25-yard line. Fera will also likely handle the punting duties for the Longhorns. His 42-yard average of a season ago is a bit better than the 37-yard average of Tucker.
With a solid, experienced college kicker in their fold, the Longhorns are better positioned for 2012. Now punting is no problem. Expect this defense-first team to be safe on third downs, work the field position game on the leg of Fera and give their offense a short field.
Oh, and Fera will score points as well. This is a Texas team that, until they can find a mix of run and pass, will have to score any way they can; and that includes field goals. Fera's a reliable place kicker. He hit 82 percent a pop a season ago and he's money from inside 40 yards. He has a little range—he's made a 46-yard field goal—but for the Longhorns, there is no need to stretch his distance. Just let Fera handle the punting, pin the opposition inside the 10 and the defense will do the rest to make it a shorter field next possession.
Great addition by Mack Brown. Anthony Fera is capitalizing on an opportunity to leave a situation where the football program is clearly crippled. At Texas, he's got a chance to contend for a Big 12 title in both year one and two of his career on campus.