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When Jay Boulware walked into his first media availability as Texas’ associate head coach for special teams and tight ends coach, he had two notable accessories on. On one ring finger was his T-Ring, on the other was his 1996 Big 12 Championship ring.
Boulware played at Texas from 1991-93 but was forced to retire due to cardiac arrhythmia. Former Longhorns head coach John Mackovic kept Boulware as a student assistant coach for the 1994 and 1995 seasons. Boulware stayed as a graduate assistant in 1996.
His coaching assignment during Texas’ first season as a member of the Big 12 was tight ends. Boulware has enjoyed a long career as a coach in the SEC, Pac 12, and Big 12. The highlight of his coaching career came at his first stop. It provided one of the accessories on his hands.
“The greatest moment would have to be as a GA coach when my tight end caught the ball on Roll Left, Derek Lewis, in the Big 12 Championship game against Nebraska,” Boulware said February 11. “That supersedes everything.”
Boulware didn’t call Roll Left. “I wish I did,” he added. But the playcall didn’t come as a surprise. He said Mackovic worked on the play during the week of practice leading up to the game in San Antonio, and Boulware knew there was a chance one of his guys could make a play.
“If (James Brown) didn’t run, one of my players is going to get the ball,” Boulware said.
The 1996 Big 12 Championship was Boulware’s first. He won five more during his previous stop at Oklahoma. Now, his goal is to add another at Texas.
“I want to help my alma mater get back to the Big 12 Championship and win a Big 12 Championship, and win a natty,” Boulware said. “I’d love to do all that stuff here. All the stuff that I’ve done in my career, I’ve always had the thought of one day I’d like to help Texas do that same thing.”
Boulware has drawn several different coaching assignments during his career. He’s taught offensive linemen, tight ends, and running backs at stops all over the country. But there is a constant. Since his time at Utah in 2005, Boulware has held a special teams title.
The third phase was not a strength of the 2019 Longhorns. D’Shawn Jamison made several highlight plays in the return game and Cameron Dicker had a solid year for a sophomore kicker, but the unit was far from excellent.
Texas had negative punt return yardage for a significant portion of the season, but surged late to finish No. 48. The punting duo of Ryan Bujcevski and Chris Naggar was No. 46 in net punting at 39.1 yards per punt. The Longhorns were barely inside the top 100 for kickoff return defense.
Boulware said he watched every snap of special teams film from 2019. He plans to change the unit for the better this season. He believes special teams are unique because they combine offensive and defensive players. “We-fense,” he called it.
“That’s the third phase of the game where both sides of the team, offensive and defensive players, come together to play as one,” Boulware explained.
Everyone, whether from offense or defense, is starting new on Boulware’s special teams.
“We’ve got a clean slate,” he said. “We’ve got a new year. We’re looking forward to getting out there and being the best that we can at whatever I’m asking those guys to do.”
Of course, Boulware is coaching the same position, tight ends, that helped him to his first conference championship as a young coach. The position hasn’t been consistent in its production during Tom Herman’s time as head coach at Texas. Injuries hamstrung the position in 2017 and 2019. Andrew Beck provided consistent play in 2018 that was rewarded with a first team fullback designation from the Big 12.
Though tight end production was limited in 2019, with one not even on the field at times, Boulware is excited to be able to work with some of the experienced players in his position group in 2020.
“All those guys have played some ball and they look the part,” Boulware said. “(Jared) Wiley looks great. Cade Brewer looks great. Those guys have done a good job.”
Oklahoma, where Boulware worked previously, has a great thing going. It’s a nationally elite program that has made several College Football Playoffs. It’s a program responsible for five of his six Big 12 rings. He recruited highly-touted running backs who were productive in Lincoln Riley’s offense. Why did Boulware leave for Austin?
“This is my heart,” Boulware said. “This is home. I love the city. I love this university.”
Header photo courtesy of UT