football Edit

Sooners bringing on Doug Deakin to oversee special teams

When Jay Nunez unexpectedly departed the Oklahoma staff in early February to become Alabama's special teams coordinator, the Sooners suddenly found themselves in need of a crucial assistant.

Nunez had spent two seasons at Oklahoma as the senior special teams analyst, and his departure wasn't exactly met with mourning from the Sooner faithful. Between several muffed punts from Gavin Freeman, inaccurate field goal kicking from Zach Schmit and woeful punting from Josh Plaster, the Sooners' play on special teams was generally less than stellar in 2023. Even so, Brent Venables was satisfied with Nunez's work and reputation, and there was plenty of surprise within the Switzer Center when Nunez left the program.

It didn't take Venables and the Sooners too long to find Nunez's replacement, though, as they're set to add former San Diego State special teams coordinator Doug Deakin to the staff. OUInsider first reported to members on Monday that Deakin was in line to get the job.

Deakin is the antithesis of a nomad, as his entire career as a collegiate player and coach has been spent with the same institution. He played for SDSU from 2007-10 and immediately transitioned into a coaching role with the program, serving as a graduate assistant from 2011-14. He then transitioned to a football operations role from 2015-17 before moving back to the coaching staff in 2018. He spent that season as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach, then dropped his responsibilities with tight ends prior to the 2019 campaign. From 2019-23, he coordinated an Aztec special teams unit that perennially ranked among the nation's strongest.

Under Deakin's tutelage, San Diego State punter Tanner Kuljian led the Mountain West with 45.4 yards per punt in 2020, while Jordan Byrd's 31.9 yards per kick return ranked seventh in the country. Come 2021, SDSU's Matt "Punt God" Araiza earned unanimous All-American honors and won the Ray Guy Award, and the Aztecs blocked three punts as a team. In 2022, kicker Jack Browning earned MWC Special Teams Player of the Year honors, while Byrd was the only player in the nation to return both a kick and a punt for a score. Come 2023, Browning was named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, and SDSU's special teams unit ranked among the national top ten in efficiency for the third straight season.

At the conclusion of the 2023 season, newly appointed head coach Sean Lewis didn't retain Deakin's services, and he effectively became a free agent for the first time in his coaching career. But the Aztecs' loss is Oklahoma's gain, as Deakin will make Norman his home after seventeen consecutive seasons at San Diego State.

He'll be tasked with effecting immediate change within a unit that had particularly conspicuous struggles in the kicking game in 2023. As the Sooners' starting placekicker, Schmit connected on just 15 of his 21 field goal attempts, and was a putrid 2-for-5 from beyond 40 yards. Oklahoma responded by bringing in Florida State transfer Tyler Keltner to challenge Schmit for kicking duties, and true freshman Liam Evans is expected to make a legitimate push for the job as well. The Sooners bring back long snapper Ben Anderson and punter Luke Elzinga, who seized the job from Plaster midseason and averaged an impressive 45.1 yards per punt across 27 boots. Freeman, Jalil Farooq, Peyton Bowen and Brenen Thompson should all factor into the return game, and freshman speed demon Zion Ragins could also get looks.

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