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Found 687 results

  1. Coaching a team as a 17-point underdog is never easy. You must have — and instill in your team — a healthy fear of your opponent. But you also have to convince your players that they belong on the same field, and that they can win. You do this by telling them no one’s giving them a chance, telling them they’re going to shock the world, telling them they’re going to punch the opponent in the face and keep punching until the referees stop the fight. That was the attitude Texas took into the game. The defense executed it, but not the offense (or special teams). It’s not enough to tell your players that this is your plan — you have to demonstrate it through your actions. This is why I understand and appreciate decisions like going for it on 4th & 2 on the first offensive series (even when you don’t convert), and throwing deep on 1st down from your own 1-yard line (even when it’s intercepted). It’s why I would have gone for two in overtime. Seventeen-point underdogs don’t secure upsets by playing for field goals and field position. Moving on… The Defense I haven’t had a chance to do a full rewatch yet, but it sure seems like this unit is figuring things out. I do think that schematically, Todd Orlando’s defense matches up well with what USC tries to do — maybe we’ll get into that during the bye week. There are also still problems in the back end: every offense so far has targeted Kris Boyd and Brandon Jones; two of them had success doing so, and one was a couple of misconnections away from it. But let’s start with positives. Just wow. On 4th & Goal, USC tries to punch it in with inside zone. They get two double teams on Chris Nelson and Poona Ford, which you’d expect to be enough for Roland Jones to gain a few inches and six points. Instead, Nelson goes nowhere, and Ford splits his double team. The real key, though, was Malcolm Roach. He’s lined up on the inside shoulder of the tight end, who’s drawn the near-impossible task of cutting him off. You can see how that goes. Note that Texas has two defenders on the far right in position to stop the zone read. I think this makes Charles Omenihu the team’s sack leader. It’s been cool to watch him grow into the player Charlie Strong thought he could be. This was USC’s second offensive series of the second half. They were up 14-10 and had just connected on a long pass to get out from their own 13-yard line. At this point in the game, the Texas defense’s performance felt unsustainable. Then Omenihu came through. He leaned into USC’s right tackle, apparently got his inside hand under the tackle’s pec and eased him right out of the play. Daniel could tell you more about what went wrong with the tackle’s technique. It’s scary how effortless Omenihu made this look. USC’s first two touchdowns were flukey. On the first score, they were trying to exploit Boyd’s tendency to jump underneath routes. The No. 1 receiver sets up for a flash screen, and the tight end fakes like he’s blocking then runs the fade. The Texas defense is doing something you’ll see a lot of in this post: playing Quarters coverage with a solo call on the single-receiver side. This allows them to bring the free safety over to cover the No. 3 receiver if he runs a deep route. But the weakside corner wasn’t completely on his own: the defense was also dropping the B-backer to take away the quick game to that side. Boyd blew me away with his discipline on this play (little victories). Sam Darnold has to improvise. No. 3 has run a deep route, so the free safety, DeShon Elliott, is on him. I can’t even get mad at this play — that’s an almost impossible throw and catch. I would have been far more upset if Darnold had run this in, which he might have been able to do since the pass rush had been washed out. The second touchdown, however, involved a lapse worth getting upset about. First, let’s admire Breckyn Hager. I don’t know that anyone on the team approaches every play with the unbridled rage and tenacity that he does. Now, to the ugly stuff. The pass rush and deep coverage forces Darnold to check it down, which is exactly what the defense wants. At this point in the play, USC has, hypothetically, four blockers (one is behind the defense and can’t help) to take on seven defenders. The only thing the defense has to do is funnel the ball into a smaller and smaller area until Roland can either be tackled or shoved out of bounds. Somehow, Holton Hill still doesn’t understand leverage (and he’s far from the only one guilty of this — just look at their kick coverage). This is JV stuff, and it’s infuriating. This was one of the turning points of the game. The potential game-saving sack was dangled in front of us, then The Darnold did his thing. I think it was around this point in the broadcast that Joel Klatt was saying Texas couldn’t sit back and had to keep attacking. On the previous play — the first of the series — they’d played zone and allowed an easy completion over the middle. This time, they went Cover 2 Man and tried to overwhelm the left side of USC’s offensive line. Darnold and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin did a great job targeting the weakest link in the coverage: Anthony Wheeler on a running back up the seam. Wheeler seems to anticipate a route to the flat and overruns it, letting the back cut inside, but he did an impressive job of recovering for a big man. That doesn’t make it any less painful. Here’s the same coverage against trips that I said you’d see again. USC releases the back to the trips side, actually giving them a 4×1 look — and 4-on-4 matchup to that side, since the Rover is blitzing and the B-backer is dropping underneath the No. 1 weak. Roach is beating the right tackle up like Omenihu did on his sack, but the solo receiver is able to get separation (way too much) on Boyd on the slant route in time for Darnold to find him. The rest is just luck. Watching Elliott return this pick, though, makes me wonder why anyone ever thought this guy would be a linebacker. I’m not entirely sure what Texas was going for on this one; someone definitely screwed up, but I’m not sure whether it’s Hager or Jefferson. What likely confused them was the late motion by USC, which changes the look to the field side from deuces to trips. Neither Hager nor Jefferson seemed to notice. My guess would be that initially Hager was supposed to drop to account for the back while Jefferson would spy Darnold and rush if he saw a lane. I would then guess that their responsibilities should have flipped once the back flipped. Either way, someone needs to carry that tight end up the seam. Darnold handed Texas a gift with this play. This one gave me flashbacks to Notre Dame scoring on the first play of overtime last year. It’s trips again from USC, and the same coverage adjustment from Texas. Boyd’s receiver gives a jab step to the corner before cutting to the post, and that’s all it takes to get separation — but Boyd should have inside help from Jones. Instead, Jones is jumping the deep route by the No. 3 receiver, who is already covered low by Wheeler and high by Elliott. If you need something to cheer you up a little, watch Jefferson maul Roland. The Offense There’s something we’re not being told about the running backs. I’m sure of it. There is no way that these coaches made it this far into their careers if they were so bad at evaluating that they legitimately think there’s no difference in the abilities of Chris Warren and Kyle Porter to carry the football. Herman said in Monday’s press conference that Warren was averaging only 3.8 yards per carry. He got only four carries. This is what we call a small sample size. But if that’s the company line, let’s compare Warren’s 3.8 ypc to Porter’s 1.8. There’s a big difference between 2nd & 6 and 2nd & 8, and an even bigger difference between 3rd & 2 and 3rd & 6. This is always true, but especially when your offense is struggling. It doesn’t have to be about generating explosive plays. This is as simple as helping out your freshman quarterback. (By the way, it’s 10 yards for a first down. 3.8 x 3 = 11.4. 11.4 > 10.) Porter is a better blocker. I get it. That’s a good reason to use him as a blocker; it’s not a good reason to give him Warren’s carries. Use 20 personnel. Do something. Don’t make him the lead blocker for your quarterback when you’ve only got 1 ½ healthy quarterbacks and pretend that it was a good idea. This is up there with 2014, when Shawn Watson gave Johnathan Gray so many carries over D’Onta Foreman. Maybe Warren isn’t practicing as hard as the coaches would like; Herman noted, after all, that a lack of work ethic in practice had been costing Armanti Foreman snaps. That’s fine. (Well, it’s not, but you know. They’re trying to change the culture or whatever.) But don’t pretend that the two are equals. Warren or the freshmen need to get more touches. That’s step one to fixing the run game. I’m afraid that we’ll continue to see them rely on Sam Ehlinger until he’s knocked out of a game, at which point he’ll be replaced by the unimaginative package with Jerrod Heard back there. [/rant] I’m starting this one with the fun stuff only because Ehlinger had an opportunity to make a similar throw to the one Darnold made for the touchdown in OT. Before the snap, it looks like USC is going to bring the house, but they actually rush only four, drop two underneath defenders to spy Ehlinger and pick up any crossers, and play what looks to me like off man behind it. Ehlinger, of course, does a nice job extending the play and finding Foreman, but he missed the fact that Lorenzo Joe’s route was going to run off the safety, leaving Lil’Jordan Humphrey open on the exact same route that beat Boyd. It’s still a great play; I’m just illustrating that there’s plenty of room for growth. You have to like the way Foreman keeps working to find an opening and give Ehlinger somewhere to go with the ball. As I said above, I love this play-call because actions speak louder than words. If you want to communicate to your team that you’re coming for the Trojans’ throats, a QB sneak isn’t the way to do it, but max protect three verticals is. USC doubles Collin Johnson at the top, and they’ll get a de facto double team on Humphrey in the slot, but Devin Duvernay is matched up one-on-one. Tim Beck likes this more than he should — recall that Shane Buechele threw a pick to Duvernay on this same concept against Maryland. The throw is late, and I wonder if this is the max of Ehlinger’s range, but that’s not really the issue. With the off coverage, this should be converted to a deep comeback, in my opinion. Make that determination pre-snap based on the coverage if you have to, but take the 15-yard gain and first down. It doesn’t matter how much faster Duvernay is than the other guy if (1) the quarterback doesn’t get the ball out in time to lead him, or (2) the corner is so far off that Duvernay can’t overtake him. This should have been a flag. I know the hand was at Ehlinger’s neck, but something — maybe the defender’s hand, or maybe his glove — caught Ehlinger by something, probably the chin strap. By rule, grabbing and pulling the chin strap is the same as grabbing and pulling the facemask. Even worse, by rule, it’s a flag if there’s any doubt. You’re a blanking idiot if you don’t have doubts as to whether it was a facemask. But beyond that, this is the sort of play that was lacking in the first half. A good rule of thumb is that when you hear the announcers gushing about how fast a defense is, the offense should be serving up a healthy dose of misdirection, screens and draws. Texas doesn’t seem to have a slow screen in the whole damn playbook (and I’ve been lamenting this fact for years), but at least they made an effort to slow USC down later in the game with misdirection (reverses, throwback, etc.). Window dressing aside, this was a major play in Herman’s playbook — a concept I highlighted in my breakdown of his offense during the offseason. I wish we had the all-22, because I’d bet Johnson was open on the deep crossing route. The jet motion removed the curl/flat player to the playside, the corner doesn’t have leverage on the in-breaking route, and at less than five yards’ depth, none of the underneath defenders should be a threat. What keeps this from being a short gain, though, is that tight end Cade Brewer got hung up on the blitzing outside linebacker. That disrupts the timing, lets USC’s defense recover from the misdirection and gives that defender time to GRAB EHLINGER BY THE FACE WHAT THE HELL ARE THE REFS DOING? As annoyed as I was at the personnel decisions and absence of misdirection in the offense, this was a terrific play-call. Another play that Beck and Herman love is the snag or spot concept. It was all over the place in the Maryland game, for instance. (Apologies — I should have started that clip with a trigger warning.) If I know that, USC certainly does. The defense overreacts to the sprint action, and no one accounts for Brewer coming back across the formation. Let’s overreact. Hook ’em.
  2. Quarterback Texas walked into the Coliseum with a true freshman QB making his 2nd career start. I never thought the moment seemed too big for Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger finished the night with 21 completions on 40 attempts for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also tossed 2 interceptions, with one pick coming after a no-call facemask penalty that by the rulebook, should have been called. Despite the offensive struggles and playing behind a suspect offensive line, the freshman still led the Longhorns on a 91-yard drive late in the 4th quarter that gave Texas the lead. There is no doubt that Ehlinger brings intangibles to the quarterback position that many Longhorn fans have not seen in a long time. Unfortunately, Ehlinger also had the ball stripped inside the 5-yard line in double OT that ultimately led to USC kicking the game winning field goal. There were a couple deep balls that were overthrown, but overall Ehlinger gave Texas a chance to win the game, and that’s about all the fans and coaches could have asked for. Jerrod Heard saw some action out of the wildcat package, but it is just too predictable that it is going to be an off tackle run when he enters the game. Tim Beck needs to add a counter play or something that can keep the defense honest. Grade: B- Running Back The game plan seemed to play out similar to week 1 against Maryland. Tom Herman and Tim Beck chose to abandon the run game early. Chris Warren and Kyle Porter combined for 9 carries with 24 yards. It’s hard to blame the running backs for their performance with the offensive line play and play calling. After Connor Williams exited with a knee injury, Texas had zero success running the ball outside of reverses and jet sweeps. Kyle Porter continues to struggle to break tackles and get into the second level. A lot of fans voiced their displeasure for the lack of carries at RB, specifically for Warren, but Texas faced a lot of 7 and 8 man boxes. USC wanted to force Sam Ehlinger to beat them with his arm. Texas has to find a way to establish a running game between the tackles because outside of 60 minutes against San Jose State, the running game has been non-existent. Both running backs did a solid job in pass protection. Once Connor Williams exited the game, the running backs were forced to help block edge rushers. Kyle Porter is the superior blocker and is not afraid to take on a dude 75 pounds heavier than him. He threw a huge block on Sam Ehlinger’s 4th and 1 run late in the 4th quarter. Chris Warren also contributed a few good blocks and had a key 11-yard reception. One last note that I was thinking as I was reviewing the game. I would like to see Toneil Carter get meaningful snaps. I understand the reluctance from the coaching staff to throw him into the fire – especially in pass protection – but the running game needs to get going and I think Carter could provide a spark. Grade: C- Wide Receivers Texas fans better enjoy Collin Johnson for the next 2 years because the sophomore has played like an NFL receiver the first 3 games of the season, including last night. Johnson hauled in 7 passes for 191 yards and was a focal point for the Texas offense in the second half. On Texas’ final drive of the 4th quarter Ehlinger targeted Johnson several times, including a huge catch down the Texas sideline that set up a touchdown pass to Armanti Foreman. Foreman also had a huge game. The senior hauled in a key 4th down pass to go along with his touchdown catch, finishing the day with 5 catches for 38 yards. Out of the slot, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps had 2 catches for 13 yards, and also added 14 yards rushing. Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and Lorenzo Joe combined for 4 catches for 39 yards. The passing game was bogged down for most of the first half, but when Texas needed them the most the receiving group stepped up and delivered. Grade: B+ Tight End Texas played with a lot of 11 personnel packages again. Kendall Moore played the majority of the game and had an alright game blocking wise. When Texas brought in Cade Brewer, there was a noticeable drop off in blocking, but the freshman hauled in his first career touchdown in the first overtime on a beautifully designed play that Brewer sold perfectly. Tom Herman will continue to trot out a tight end regardless of the talent at the position, but they may be asked to block more than ever with how the offensive line is performing. Overall, the tight ends are what they are. There is nobody at the position opposing defenses will worry about, but Texas will continue to try to gain an advantage in the running game by using Kendall Moore and Cade Brewer as an extra blocker. Grade: C+ Offensive Line As soon as Connor Williams left the game, I knew the offense could be in big trouble. Tristan Nickelson was forced to slide over to left tackle and Denzel Okafor was inserted at right tackle. Tim Beck discovered quickly that running off tackle was not going to work. Running between the tackles was not much better. Jake McMillon and Patrick Vahe were slightly better than the tackles, but not by much. Zach Shackelford spent much of the first half trying to figure out how to hit the quarterback in the chest with the snap, and twice snapped the ball when Ehlinger was not ready. Offensive line coach Derek Warehime has to be frustrated about the number of penalties from an experienced and veteran unit. The entire offensive line as a whole struggled mightily in pass protection, including a sequence late in the first half where sacks took Texas out of field goal range. In the second half there was some improvement in pass protection, but it is obvious that Ehlinger is having to scramble around more than he would like. It is a very real possibility that Texas will be without Connor Williams for the remainder of the season, and depth is already razor thin on the offensive line. The offensive coaching staff will need to start finding ways to cover up what is becoming a glaring weakness. Run Blocking Grade: F Pass Blocking Grade: D+
  3. Texas-USC. The mere mention recalls arguably the greatest national championship ever. It makes us think of the magic that was Vince Young walking into the end zone, the electricity of Reggie Bush, and the build-up that lasted an entire year – that definitely lived up to the expectations. It was a game where both teams laid it all out on the line, and the 6th iteration of this rivalry was no different. The rematch didn’t start with the fireworks we expected, but rather a defensive battle. The Texas defense started the night by stopping the potent USC offense led by sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold on 2 fourth downs, one of which was a goal line stand. Tom Herman and Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando brought the pressure the entire game, but the USC offense didn’t help themselves by dropping passes, and combined with plenty of negative plays and penalties made the Trojans offense resort to attempting multiple fourth down conversions to start out the game. Freshman QB Sam Ehlinger, in his second career start, didn’t get off to a hot start, as he followed up the Longhorns’ goal line stand with an interception and later a fumble, having 2 turnovers going into halftime. But the Texas offensive line didn’t do Ehlinger any favors. He was sacked 4 times going into the locker room and the Longhorns had 68 rushing yards on the day. The worst take away from the game for Texas was the loss of team captain and junior LT Connor Williams. He was helped to the locker room shortly after the second quarter began and did not return to the game. But rushing 35 times for 68 yard and a 1.9 rush average is unacceptable by every account. That and the insistence to run in between the tackles became increasingly puzzling. USC’s offense finally came alive when they scored a touchdown with 2:40 left in the first half. Texas followed up the Trojans scoring drive with a punt, giving USC plenty of time to get one more score before going into the locker room. But Sam Darnold’s pass was intercepted by DeShon Elliot and retuned 38 yards to the house to tie the game 7-7 with 19 seconds remaining before the half. The Longhorns defense came out swinging, as the Longhorns front 7 brought a lot of pressure to the Trojans offensive line, causing USC QB noticeable stress and forcing the sophomore to make some dangerous and at times costly throws. Sam Darnold would get the next laugh though, as a miraculous play by Ronald Jones II was taken 56 yards to the house with no time on the clock. But this play was more of an indictment on the Longhorns defense than anything. Surprisingly enough, the Texas defense, which surrendered 51 points to the Maryland Terrapins 2 weeks ago, was playing far better than anyone could have expected. It wasn’t until this wonky coverage that USC got the upper hand at 14-7 going into the locker room. Texas started out the half on the right foot. The Longhorns went on a 12-play, 10-minute drive, but were forced to kick a 39-yard field goal by Joshua Rowland, his first successful field goal of the season. This reduced the Trojans’ lead to 3 at 14-10 USC. Texas and USC would trade punts the rest of the third quarter, but the momentum appeared to swing in the Longhorns favor when Michael Dickson faked a punt and converted the first down. But it was all negated when Team Captain P.J. Locke III was called for a holding penalty, causing the Longhorns to punt. A pass by Sam Darnold on 3rd and 10 on USC’s 30 was overthrown, and DeShon Elliot got his second interception of the night and returned it 24 yards to the USC 25. On the ensuing Texas possession, Sam Ehlinger escaped pressure in the pocket and believed he was face-masked, but threw the ball to a contested receiver and was intercepted. Fortunately for the Longhorns, Southern California would punt the ball after the 3rdturnover for the Texas freshman QB. The Longhorns could not afford to punt the ball again, and the Texas offense felt that urgency. Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns went on a 14-play, 4-and-a-half-minute drive that ended with a beautiful corner of the end zone, 17-yard touchdown catch for Armanti Foreman, the first touchdown for Sam Ehlinger on the night, which gave the Longhorns a 17-14 lead. With 45 seconds left, and starting at their own 35, Sam Darnold and the Trojans marched down the field and tied the game as regulation expired at 17 all. Texas won the coin toss and elected to start on defense. It didn’t go too well for the Longhorns, as the Trojans scored on the first play of overtime. USC leads, 24-17. Sam Ehlinger responded swiftly, thanks to Collin Johnson having a monster game. The freshman QB tricked everyone, by taking the defense one direction then turning the other way to a wide-open freshman Cade Brewer. Texas hit the extra point and tied the game at 24, leading the way for a second overtime. Texas started out the second overtime with the football, and was on the verge of getting a first down and even potentially scoring, but the ball was ripped out of Sam Ehlinger’s hands and was recovered by the Trojans. Sam Ehlinger had 4 turnovers on the night; a pair of interceptions and fumbles each. All USC had to do now was score and they would win the football game. The Texas Defense, which laid an egg opening weekend, played valiantly, causing the Trojans to face a three-and-out, but since the Trojans just needed to score, USC freshman walk-on Chase McGrath had to make the biggest kick of his young collegiate career from 43 yards. He nailed it through the middle of the uprights, winning the game for Southern California in double overtime, 27-24. The game proved to be the classic no one expected, and the Longhorns shouldn’t hang their head in disappointment. Yes, they may have lost, but it was also to the #4 team in the country, riding an 11-game winning streak. The Texas defense played gallantly, arguably on par with Sam Darnold and his squad if not the best unit of the night. The Trojans won their revenge match 27-24 against the Longhorns, and added to the sensation that is the USC-Texas rivalry. This journalist personally cannot wait for the next game, but it’s a damn shame that game had to end.
  4. Texas-USC. Two storied football powerhouses. Both schools are in the top-10 of all NCAA football programs in win percentage, with UT (.706) and USC (.702). Both have a top-10 all-time record, 30+ conference championships, and 53 bowl game appearances. Texas has 58 consensus All-Americans while the Trojans have 81, both in the top-10. Texas has had 45 first-round draft picks, while USC has almost double that at 80, which is 8th and 1st all-time, respectively. Both have spent 700+ weeks in the Associated Press Poll, and UT has spent 45 weeks atop the AP Poll while USC has more than doubled that with 91 weeks spent on top of AP ranking world, ranking 1st all-time. Lastly the Longhorns are 2nd all-time in wins, at 891, while the USC Trojans aren’t too far behind with 825 wins (10th all-time). But you get the point. The USC Trojans and Texas Longhorns are 2 storied football blue-bloods, and football is a religion to these schools. These two teams have only met 5 times before, with only one match-up in the current millennia, and before that it was 1955, 1956, 1966, and 1967. For the 6th time ever, the USC Trojans are playing the Texas Longhorns. And the only thing that comes to mind is the penultimate 2006 national championship, when the 2 teams were ranked 1st and 2nd all season heading into the game, and the anticipation became reality. The two teams played in what was arguably the greatest national championship ever, with Texas winning 41-38 thanks to the magic of quarterback Vince Young, claiming the last championship between these 2 teams. USC hasn’t played for another title since, but Texas would return to the Rose Bowl in 2009 only to fall short to Alabama. But a lot has changed since these 2 teams last met, with former Trojans head coach Pete Carroll leaving before severe NCAA sanctions hit and Texas falling off the map once Colt McCoy got injured. To capture this best – Texas has a record of 47-45 in the 92 games since Colt went down in the national championship, while before that, during one of UT’s highest eras of success – they went 79-11 in the 90 games before he got injured. USC also went through some tough years, including ugly breakups with Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron and Steve Sarkisisian, and now settling on current head coach Clay Helton. Coach Helton took last year’s Trojan squad to the Rose Bowl with up-and-coming quarterback Sam Darnold in what was a one for the ages, as the Trojans beat the Penn State Nittany Lions. But enough about the past, let’s look forward to the game on Saturday! While there isn’t even close to the same amount of anticipation that went into the last matchup between the 2 squads, the game between the Trojans and Longhorns will be aired on FOX at 7:30 P.M. The Trojans come into the matchup with all the momentum (2-0) after defeating Western Michigan in the opener 49-31, and then crushing their bay-area rival Stanford in the L.A. Coliseum 42-24. That and the fact that the 6th meeting between these 2 teams will be at home for the Trojans, gives USC a leg up on Texas already. The Longhorns did not start as hot, losing the season opener to the visiting Maryland Terrapins 51-41 in a game the Longhorns were favored by as much as 18 points. The loss spoiled new head coach Tom Herman’s debut in Austin, but he would get his first win as Longhorns coach last weekend, as Texas roughed around and shutout the visiting San Jose State Spartans, 56-0. So what does this mean for the matchup this weekend? The Trojans are the #4 team in the nation, and they have not lost a football game in almost a year, when they lost to the Utah Utes on September 23, 2016. The Trojans will be riding their 11-game win streak and the fact that they will have played 2 home games in the last 2 weeks compared to Texas – who must travel to the west coast – is a big boost in the rest department. The Longhorns are not favored well in this game, with the Trojans are favored by more than 2 touchdowns at this time. Can the Longhorns pull off another upset of USC? Only time will tell, but if Texas freshman QB Sam Ehlinger gets the start, it might be a tough go for the Longhorns. The Trojans looked dominant last week and will be riding serious momentum heading into this matchup. And while the hype may not be nearly as close to what it was over 10 years ago, it may be foolish to count the Longhorns out. If the defense can stop Sam Darnold and keep him off the field, Texas might keep it close. Unfortunately I wouldn’t hold your breath, for I predict the Longhorns will fall short by at least 1 TD. The 6th matchup between these 2 storied programs should be fun since we can always count on these two teams giving it their all when playing each other. The anticipated bout, in what could be a revenge match for the Trojans, is on Saturday on FOX at 7:30 P.M.
  5. Texas (1-1, 0-0) will travel to Los Angeles on Saturday to take on USC (2-0, 1-0). The Trojans enter the game coming off an impressive win against Stanford, 42-24. Let’s take a look at what USC has on offense: Quarterback The first player mentioned when talking about USC is quarterback Sam Darnold. The redshirt sophomore took over at quarterback 4 games into the season in 2016, and led the Trojans to 8 straight victories. Darnold entered 2017 as one of the Heisman frontrunners and a possible #1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Darnold possesses an outstanding arm and can drop balls into tight spots pretty much anywhere on the field. His pocket presence is excellent and he can extend plays with his legs. So far in 2017, Darnold has completed 74% of his passes for 605 yards and 4 touchdowns. While he has also tossed 4 interceptions, he was at his best last week against Stanford when he threw for 4 touchdowns and 316 yards. It’s hard to envision Darnold struggling against a Texas defense that has been vulnerable against the pass. Texas needs to hope that they are able to get the Trojans into 3rd and long situations, where the Longhorns can drop 7 men into coverage. Texas must do a better much communicating in the secondary if they want any shot at slowing down a potential Heisman finalist. Running Back Against a Stanford defense that prides itself in stopping the run, the Trojans ran for 307 yards. The backfield is led by Texas native Ronald Jones II. The junior has racked up 275 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2017, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Jones possesses track speed and is widely considered as one of the top running backs in the country. Freshman Stephen Carr is even more explosive than Jones. The former 5-star recruit has averaged over 10 yards per carry in 2017 and has found the endzone twice. Redshirt freshman Vavae Malepeai has also performed well in limited action, turning 8 carries into 63 yards. On top of trying to stop Darnold, Texas will also need to find a way to slow down Jones and Carr. The linebackers and safeties have to take proper angles to the ball and try to diagnose plays early. The key for Texas will be linebacker Anthony Wheeler, who played well against San Jose State and needs to be solid in run support at the middle linebacker spot. Gary Johnson should also see an increase in playing time. Johnson is one of the few linebackers in the entire country who can run step for step with running backs like Jones and Carr. Wide Receivers/ Tight End The USC receivers unit is led by two veterans, Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell Jr. Both receivers are averaging over 16 yards a catch and have 2 touchdowns each. Outside of Burnett and Mitchell, the Trojans have not had many other contributions from the receiver position, but that could change soon. Sophomore Michael Pittman has missed the first two games due to an ankle injury, but head coach Clay Helton has stated that Pittman is close to returning. Junior Jalen Green is the only other receiver to have more than 1 reception on the season, hauling in 3 passes for 33 yards. Darnold will rely heavily on Burnett and Mitchell, especially with the big play ability that both posses. Kris Boyd and Holton Hill will have to a good job of staying on the two wideouts and not peeking in the backfield, or else Darnold may make them pay. For the second week in a row, Texas will have to deal with a quality tight end. Junior Tyler Pitete has 59 receiving yards on 6 catches, but has also made a huge impact in the run game. Piete will be relied on heavily after fellow tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe was recently sidelined with a leg injury. Offensive Line The Trojans had to replace 3 starters along the offensive line for the 2017 season, but the group has responded nicely. While they may not boast the All-Conference and All-American talent that many would expect, they have only allowed 3 sacks in 2 games and have paved big holes for the running backs. Juniors Chuma Edoga and Toa Lobendahn man the two tackle positions and have a combined 29 starts of experience between them. RG Viane Talamaivao has the most experience out of any lineman, having 34 career starts under his belt. Center Nico Falah started 12 games a season ago and LG Chris Brown is the least experienced of the group with 4 career starts. The defensive line for Texas has actually performed quite nicely through the two games. The offensive line the Trojans have and the ability for Sam Darnold to move around in the pocket may make it difficult for Texas to get to the quarterback. Malcolm Roach has been quiet through 2 games, and this would be good game will for him to cause havoc on the right side of the line and not allow Darnold to get in a rhythm.
  6. Winning is fun. Yay! But that was a really bad football team. Eight losses last season, including a 34-pointer to Iowa State – a team that even Texas beat by three scores. Their offense had several chances to put up points through the air, as you’ll see, but their defense was just trash. Let’s do this quickly and then turn our focus to USC. Technically a Shutout, but… San Jose State’s first near-scoring opportunity came on the first play of their second possession. (click to play) Kris Boyd is a great athlete but still not a great football player. This is the second week he’s been picked on. On this play, Texas was in Cover 3, with Boyd responsible for a deep third of the field. Alternatively, he could bite on a pump fake and get smoked by a former low 3-star wide receiver (who, to be fair, was clocked at 4.49 in high school). Watch the quarterback’s non-throwing hand – it doesn’t come off the ball. That’s typically what defensive backs are taught to look for before they break on a throw. Boyd is a boom-or-bust player. He hasn’t had many booms yet this season, but he will. (click to play) Brandon Jones is another guy who has been and will continue to be targeted by opposing offenses. Texas is in its “2-4-5” even front that we saw in the spring game, and is running a fire zone blitz. In simple terms, Jones is responsible for the second receiver from the sideline after the receivers have completed their release. That last part matters. At the snap, the second receiver from the sideline (or No. 2) is the slot receiver, but then he and the tight end (No. 3) cross each other. The tight end becomes the No. 2, and the slot the No. 3. The No. 3 receiver is the responsibility of the hook defender, in this case Gary Johnson. But Jones chases the slot inside, which – if the tight end had caught the ball – would have forced Boyd to attempt an open-field tackle on a player who is four inches taller and 53 pounds heavier than him. Five will get you 10 that he misses that tackle. (click to play) This is the very next play. Texas again brings pressure from the field but this time with man coverage behind it. When the running back releases on a route, Anthony Wheeler has to peel off his blitz and run with him. That is his job. It is NOT Malik Jefferson’s job. Malik should be bouncing in the middle, watching the quarterback and in prime position to recognize the wave of offensive linemen setting up a screen in front of him. An engagement there likely forces the receiver to bend his path back toward Naashon Hughes, but instead he has space to split the difference between Hughes and Malcolm Roach. Had the runner not slipped, I have confidence in DeShon Elliott to make this tackle and prevent the score, but it should still have been 1st & Goal. (click to play) The whatever-San-Jose-State’s-mascot-ises split two receivers to the left and put a tight end and wing on the right. The Longhorns bring Holton Hill from the boundary and run Cover 2 behind it, with Elliott assuming Hill’s flat responsibilities (which, schematically, is pretty cool). The tight end runs a curl route and the wing runs a fade. Elliott will trail the fade with the expectation that the deep safety, Jones, is patrolling the half of the field behind him. Jones, however, was jumping the curl route from literally 12 yards away. That route isn’t Jones’ problem until the ball’s thrown. He left Elliott hanging, and they’re fortunate that Mr. 4.49 didn’t bring his hands to Austin. Otherwise, it very well could have been tied at 21 at the half. Your Leading Scorer Who had Hill as the team’s leader scorer after week two? (click to play) Texas rushes three, has Johnson spy the quarterback and runs Quarter-Quarter-Half on the back end. Hill, on the “Half” (Cover 2) side of the coverage, trails the No. 1 receiver, with Jones over the top. The quarterback tries to fit the ball into what I hope was a tight window (I can’t see Jones) but the ball flutters and dies. Hill and his blockers do the rest. Power-O The scoring plays were efficient and pretty boring, but I at least got some pleasure out of seeing power and other gap-scheme runs. They were sorely missed against Maryland. (click to play) There’s so much going on in this play that I couldn’t diagram everything. The playside of the offensive line blocks down and washes the defense inside, leaving just a few stragglers for the H-back, running back and backside guard to clean up. There’s some confusion in the defense about who should fit where – or San Jose State’s 193-pound safety wanted no part of 305-pound Jake McMillon. A couple of things that wouldn’t fit in the diagram: right tackle Denzel Okafor needs to chip the edge rusher who nearly makes the stop in the backfield. Watch Connor Williams on the next play to see what it should look like. And I like what Corby Meekins has tight end Kendall Moore doing – he locks up one linebacker for a one-count before releasing and engaging the next defender – but he should probably focus on sticking with one guy per play, or at least hold the block for a two-count. Moore impressed me when I noticed him. Don’t get used to this, though; the line won’t dominate many other teams this easily. Even…even Garrett Gray stuffed his defender. (click to play) And even Kyle Porter found the end zone! (It’s time for Daniel Young and Toneil Carter to get more reps.) He ran better later in the game, but this was a weak opponent and Texas needs production in all four quarters. He’s running like he’s waiting to go down. But back to the play – SJSU overplays the jet sweep action and leaves a poor linebacker and the backside cornerback alone against Patrick Vahe and Porter. The linebacker just stands there, becoming an organic blocking sled for Vahe to slam into. Really bad defense. (click to play) Jerrod Heard scored on power too. It doesn’t get much easier. I’m not sure which play SJSU was worried about but it wasn’t the right one. The defenders are slow to react and overpursue when they do. I’d like to see Heard NOT run into the back of his damn blocker; it’s not like he didn’t have time to see how the block was unfolding and adjust. Notice Moore helping to wall off the defense again (it didn’t look hard). In the Zone The zone run plays that were ineffective last week were productive this week, especially later in the game when SJSU was worn out. (click to play) Texas’ first score came on Q outside zone. This is another clip that illustrates how bad SJSU was. The backside of the play gets cut off, including a nose tackle who was reached by the backside guard. SJSU caps it off with a pitiful effort from the backside defensive end. There’s not much else to say or learn about this one. (click to play) SJSU has loaded the box, and the safety isn’t falling for that jet sweep crap again. They were going to have two guys (a linebacker and the safety) unblocked anyway because of numbers and the front, but Patrick Hudson loses his footing and leaves a second linebacker unblocked. This play should have gone nowhere, but they lost track of Warren. I like the linebacker who gives up and just starts spanking Moore the best. Spartans to Trojans That’s enough of that. I’ve read exactly nothing about USC and watched only their opener against Western Michigan, so all I can tell you is what the video said. Their defense should be familiar to the offense, since they’ve practiced against the 2-4-5 look. Outside linebacker #45* was the first guy who jumped out. He’s like a bigger Breckyn Hager with better football instincts. Their insider linebacker play got way better in the second half, which I soon figured out was because #35 returned from suspension. The only defensive lineman who consistently caught my eye was #94, so that makes me feel a little bit better about Texas’ chances of at least sustaining plays for more than three seconds. Their secondary looks like it’s in fast-forward; everyone looked good, but they weren’t challenged very often (only 23 total pass attempts). I didn’t have time to watch the whole game on offense, but you all know Roland Jones. He’s terrifying and angry, so that should be fun. Repeat for Sam Darnold. I’m hoping to find a weak spot in their offensive line when I watch the Stanford game. The only positives I’ve got are that this Texas squad has had a habit the past two years of hanging with highly ranked teams (2-2 straight up, 3-1 against the spread as double-digit underdogs), and Tom Herman has the same reputation, but better. Now, how many comments can we go before we start talking about the quarterbacks? * @ShotgunSpr tweeted that #45 (Porter Gustin) will have an MRI on his shoulder Sunday night.
  7. After a disappointing upset loss in the season opener against Maryland last week, the Texas Longhorns had everything to prove this week when they took the field against San Jose State on Saturday. The Longhorns bounced back by relying on a solid rushing attack that used an array of players to deliver a 56-0 shutout loss to the Spartans. Junior running back Chris Warren led the effort with 166 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. Kyle Porter added 72 yards on 16 carries, including one touchdown. When the day was done the Longhorns amassed a total of 406 yards rushing. Compare that against the 98 total rushing yards last week against the Terrapins and it is easy to see why Tom Herman, who won his first game as head coach at Texas, was pleased with team’s ability to produce results on the ground. Texas (1-1, 0-0) started true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger in place of Shane Buechele, who is nursing a shoulder injury sustained in the loss to Maryland. Ehlinger took command of the offense and operated efficiently, finishing with 222 yards passing and one touchdown. Ehlinger also contributed 48 yards to the rushing effort, showing his ability to move in and out of the pocket when necessary. The Texas offensive line did not allow a sack in the game, highlighting the progress made from last week’s subpar performance in which Buechele was pressured incessantly and forced to scramble more times than not. The Longhorns struck first on backup quarterback Jerrod Heard’s 9 yard run out of the Wildcat formation, giving Texas a 7-0 lead at the 4:12 mark in the first quarter. Chris Warren added to the score in the second quarter, rumbling 41 yards for a touchdown and delivering punishing blows to San Jose State defenders in the process. Jerrod Heard rushed for his second touchdown on the day at the 2:17 mark, scampering into the left side of the end zone once again out of the Wildcat. The Longhorns led 21-0 at the half. San Jose began the second half on offense and was forced to punt after the Longhorns held the Spartans to 3 and out. The Longhorns would begin a scoring drive at the 13:23 mark, which included a heavy dose of Chris Warren and Kyle Porter. The drive ended with Porter finding the end zone from 3 yards out to give Texas a 28-0 lead and Porter’s first touchdown as a Longhorn. Texas added to its lead in the 3rd quarter with Holton Hill intercepting San Jose State’s Aaron Montel and returning it 45 yards for a touchdown. In the opening 4th quarter drive for the Longhorns, Sam Ehlinger found Collin Johnson for 27 yards and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps for 23 yards, setting Chris Warren up for a 9 yard touchdown run, his second of the game. On the Longhorns’ following drive, Ehlinger would notch his first career collegiate touchdown on a one yard shovel pass to Armanti Foreman. Texas pulled Ehlinger halfway through the 4th quarter, letting Heard handle the offense for the remainder of the game. The Longhorns added one more touchdown from tailback Toneil Carter, with 2:46 left to play. While the praise for the offense is warranted, the performance by the defense against San Jose State was equally impressive. The Longhorns held Aaron Montel and the Spartan defense to just 42 yards rushing and 171 total yards of offense. The linebackers played better, the defensive line won the battles they needed to, and the defensive backs closed faster. San Jose State isn’t a Top-10 team, but Todd Orlando has a lot of positives to glean from his unit’s play today. The uncertainty surrounding Shane Buechele’s timetable for return means Sam Ehlinger could get the starting nod again when the Longhorns travel to Los Angeles to play Top-10 USC next week at the Coliseum. Tom Herman will begin preparing his game plan for USC tomorrow morning at 10:00 am. Game Notes Texas freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps did not play in first half for reportedly violating team rules. The Texas kicking game struggled again today with Josh Rowland missing a 43 yard FG attempt. Rowland is 0-3 on the season in FG’s. Holton Hill’s interception for a touchdown return gives him 3 touchdowns on the season. The Longhorns are now 13-5-1 all time in games following a season opening loss. Chris Warren surpassed the 1,000 yard mark with his 166 yard performance against the Spartans. Patrick Hudson left the field with what appeared to be an injury to his knee. Head coach Tom Herman won his first game at Texas and is now 23-5 in his career as a head coach.
  8. Playing quarterback is hard. Playing quarterback without a run game, minimal pass protection, and an unimaginative game plan and play-caller is harder. So before we dig into the things Shane Buechele did wrong on Saturday, let’s briefly consider what he had to overcome. Some of this will be a defense of Buechele, but my thesis is that the challenges won’t change whether Buechele, Sam Ehlinger or Jerrod Heard is taking the snaps. No Run Game As best I can tell, the plan to run the ball was: don’t. In the base offense (not Wildhorn or whatever they’re calling it), Texas ran inside zone 67% of the time. The offensive line got movement 0% of the time. Now, the Maryland defense was giving up the outside, which is why Texas threw so many bubble and swing screens, and they were productive plays. But Maryland also left itself open to some other runs, especially counters. Tim Beck called counter-G once, but Buechele threw the bubble screen instead – a good thing, because the playside of the offensive line took the play off. It’s true that Texas fell behind early, but by the second half, they had made it a close game. And besides, converting short-yardage situations is a lot easier when there’s actually a threat to run the ball. Maybe a more mobile quarterback can open things up, but the benefits will be mitigated if the team is running only one play, poorly, and changing only the ballcarrier. Occasional Free Rushers Connor Williams had his worst game as a Longhorn. (click to play) And he still looked like an All-American next to his peers. (click to play) Because the protection was so bad, Texas used more seven-man protections. The result was always something like this. (click to play) 2.5 to 3 receivers trying to find space against seven defenders. Buechele pressured himself on this particular play, but we’ll get to that. Tim Beck On a day when the play-calling was very special, this goal line series stood out. (click to play) The first clip is a crack screen (at least according to Tom Herman). Reggie Hemphill didn’t block the safety, so it wouldn’t have mattered, but I also don’t know what Dorian Leonard is doing. He could block the cornerback and stay on him – which isn’t a crack screen – or he could act like he’s running a slant and then block the first defender who shows. He tried to do both but succeeded only in telling the cornerback that it was a screen. The point is to pull the corner inside (he’ll think he’s covering a slant route) and cut off the pursuit, eliminating two defenders. Of course there’s also the issue of Garrett Gray, whose fruitless hop to catch the ball slowed his turn upfield. The second clip is a snag concept that looks to be designed to go to Chris Warren*. That raises the question: why not have those receivers block? But there’s a lesson that we can learn here, one that you’d expect a Power 5 offensive coordinator to anticipate rather than learning with us – the fans. When the offense throws the ball to the flat over and over, eventually the defense starts jumping those routes. When the defense starts jumping short routes, other routes come open behind them – like Leonard’s corner route on this play. I thought maybe Beck was concerned that Buechele couldn’t see over the line well enough near the goal line to throw it over the middle, but then he called this levels concept on a two-point conversion attempt. (click to play) And Buechele executed it well, putting the ball up over the defender and… right through Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s hands. In fact, there were lots of things that Buechele did well, and some plays that he singlehandedly turned from bad to good. (click to play) Here’s a passing concept that will become familiar in this post. I don’t know why Texas wasn’t running a slant/flat combination to the boundary, unless Beck gets a bonus for every wasted receiver/route**. Maryland gets not just pressure, but a free rusher, with only four guys. The likeliest hot route, Hemphill, is bracketed. This is a terrible play, but Buechele single-handedly keeps it alive and converts it into a first down. (click to play) It’s 3rd & 9, and the offense is trying to set up a drive concept to the field, with Duvernay running a drag route and Hemphill running a dig route behind him. It takes a little time to develop, which isn’t something Buechele had much of. There’s no blitz this time, just Patrick Vahe failing to pick up a defensive line twist stunt – something he’s struggled with his entire career. Before Hemphill has even made his cut, Buechele has a loose defender – ONE OF ONLY THREE PASS RUSHERS ON THE PLAY – barreling down on him. Again he keeps the play alive and completes it for a first down. I don’t mean to excuse it, but seeing plays like this helps to explain why Buechele flushes himself from the pocket at times. Where Buechele Fell Short Hesitation Texas ran this double-in concept repeatedly in short-yardage situations. (click to play) Maryland is in 2-Man coverage (two deep safeties, man coverage underneath). The Y (Gray) should and does clear out space for Buechele to throw to the slot (Humphrey), but instead Buechele hesitates and the pressure gets to him. And yeah, “Why are they running four-yard routes on 3rd & 8?” is a great question. (click to play) Here’s the same concept from above combined with a go route and a quick out. It’s 4th & 2, the sort of situation where you’d like to have the threat of pounding the ball with your 250-pound running back. Maryland is again in what looks to be 2-Man, but I think the Terps had wisely started to double team Collin Johnson by this point. That may be why Buechele didn’t throw this ball, but I doubt it; it looks like there should be enough cushion to the safety for the throw to be safe. The limited space between Johnson and the sideline could be another reason he hesitated. Whatever he saw, it’s not the end of the world, but he makes things way more difficult when he leaves the pocket for no reason. It constricts the amount of field he has to work with and gives the linebacker who’s spying him a free path to the sack. That leads us to our next problem. Self-Pressure (click to play) Same concept. Maryland’s in Cover 3 this time. Based on the concepts and coverage, Buechele picked the right side of the field to attack, but the DB covering Hemphill has outside leverage on the out route. So Buechele’s first look wasn’t open, but the play isn’t doomed yet. The pocket is intact, and he still has a whole other side of the field to check out – there’s even one whole wide receiver over there***! (The one guy who’s open is Kyle Porter.) Instead, Buechele stumbles forward for a few yards. At least he got the first down. Buechele wasn’t good, but he did lots of things right, and he was hyper accurate on nearly every throw. Three passes were dropped (a long ball to Johnson, a two-point conversion to Humphrey and a deep comeback to Duvernay), the game plan and play-calling were unimaginative, and Maryland overwhelmed Texas’ pass protection all day. * I’m basing this assumption on all the trouble Texas went through to move Warren around before the play, but the more I watch it – now that the clips are already made and the article already written – the more I think Buechele may have pre-determined the throw himself. ** The personnel decisions, especially when Texas went with empty sets, were puzzling. Wide receiver is the deepest position group on the team. Texas is down by multiple scores. They’re going to throw the ball. They telegraph that they’re going to throw the ball by lining up in empty. WHY ARE THEY WASTING TWO OF THEIR FIVE SPOTS FOR ELIGIBLE RECEIVERS ON GARRETT GRAY AND KYLE PORTER (SOMETIMES CHRIS WARREN)? If they’re going to tell the defense what they’re about to do, at least do it with the best players for the job out there on the field. This is like lining up in goal line but playing only the guys on your roster who are 200 pounds or less. *** ^^^^!
  9. The Texas Longhorns will face the San Jose Spartans at 2:30 PM on Saturday at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. The Longhorns were defeated at home by Maryland 51-41 in the team’s season opener last weekend, and look to move to .500 play by defeating the Spartans. Texas opened initially as 27.5 favorites over San Jose State but uncertainties related to Shane Buechele’s injured shoulder have bobbed the point spread up and down since. The current line on the game shows the Longhorns favored by 25.5. With the potential for true freshman Sam Ehlinger to see significant playing time due to Buechele’s injury, can the Texas offense move the ball and put points on the board? Can Todd Orlando’s defense avoid the same mistakes they made against the Terrapins and stop the Spartan rush attack? The HornSports staff give their thoughts and predictions on the outcome of Saturday’s matchup. Texas Longhorns vs. San Jose State Spartans Date: Saturday, September 9th, 2017 Time: 2:30 PM CST Television: Longhorn Network Venue: Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium Location: Austin, TX Jameson McCausland Regardless of whether Shane Buechele can play on Saturday, Texas needs to establish the run early and often. Chris Warren needs to have a big game and the offensive line needs to respond after being embarrassed in week 1. Todd Orlando and the defense have to find a way to stop the run, especially with San Jose State starting a freshman QB who can use his legs. South Florida found out quickly that San Jose State is not afraid of superior completion. The Spartans jumped out to a 16-0 lead very early. If Texas shows some of the same poor fundamentals and mental lapses they showed against Maryland, then the Longhorns will find themselves in a dogfight. The good news is I expect Texas to be able to move the ball on the ground against a Spartans defense that gave up over 300 yards rushing to South Florida. Tom Herman took the right approach this week by not overreacting. This team has talented football players, and it may take a little while for the light bulb to come on for some of these players. The Longhorns will take care of business on Saturday, before turning their attention to what will await them next weekend in Los Angeles. Game Prediction: Texas 35, San Jose State 13 Daniel Seahorn Well last week didn’t exactly go according to plan. It didn’t take long for this team to get its first taste of adversity and now we will get to see if they are any better at handling it. I am going to keep this pretty short this week. I’m even more in wait and see mode this week than I was this time last week given how things played out against Maryland and now with Shane Buechele banged up we may see true freshman Sam Ehlinger get his first start on Saturday. Texas is favored by four touchdowns over the Spartans. I’m taking SJSU to cover that, but think Texas notches its first win of the season after a letdown last week. Game Prediction: Texas 34, San Jose State 21 Harrison Wier The Tom Herman era did not get off to a great start. After a shocking loss in the season opener to Maryland, the Longhorns look to get back on track as they take on San Jose State in Austin. Many will compare this game to how Charlie Strong and the USF Bulls fared against the Spartans in week 1. The Bulls ended up pulling away late and winning the game by 20 points, but not without some first half issues. In the first quarter, Strong’s team was down 16-0. The Spartans are no slouch of an opponent, meaning Texas cannot be lax coming into this game. The main storyline coming out of the week involves quarterback play. In the season opener to Maryland, Shane Buechele sustained a shoulder injury to his throwing shoulder – the same one he injured in last year’s matchup with Cal. In the absence of the sophomore at practice, Sam Ehlinger has taken the first team reps this week. Ehlinger is the prototypical QB in Tom Herman’s offense. In fact, when Herman has a QB rush for 50+ yards in a game, he is 28-4. This could be the game where Ehlinger shows the world what he’s made of. Even if Buechele is healthy enough to start the game, expect Ehlinger to get plenty of reps. Tim Beck’s offense must mix it up after a complete bust of a performance last week, in which his unit only scored 20 points against a subpar defense. The key to this game is whether or not Texas can be disciplined and fix the silly mistakes that were made in their home opener. Can LB’s hit the right gaps? What about defenders getting off blocks? The offensive line being able to make holes and communicate on blitz downs? These are all key questions that must be addressed on Saturday. If the Longhorns can just be disciplined, the rest will take care of itself. Tom Herman knows if his team is not fundamentally sound, they won’t win many games. Texas opened as 27.5 point favorites heading into this matchup. I do not take San Jose State that lightly. They are a good team that can punch you in the mouth if you aren’t prepared. If I were a betting man, I would take the Spartans to cover. However, I don’t think they’ll win outright. I think Herman will fix some of the glaring issues on both sides of the ball this week and the Longhorns will play disciplined football. The true test comes on September 16 at the Coliseum. Game Prediction: Texas 34, San Jose State 17 Ross Labenske Texas is favored to win by 25, but the Longhorns were favored to win by 18 last week versus lowly Maryland, and we all know how that ended up. Texas starting QB Shane Buechele has been dealing with chronic shoulder issues for a while, but unless Coach Herman deems it serious enough expect the sophomore QB to start. If Sam Ehlinger gets the nod and significant playing time come Saturday, expect the Longhorns to slow down on offense and not be as potent as when they got things clicking last weekend. But the rushing game will have to fare better than it did against Maryland if the Longhorns hope to not be 0 – 2 heading into the long-anticipated match-up between USC and Texas. That, along with defense which has been outclassed, to say the least, in the past few years, and special teams, which costed multiple games for Charlie Strong and now even Tom Herman. But as long as the Longhorn offense can produce then Texas should win, 38 – 14. Game Prediction: Texas 38, San Jose State 14 Aaron Carrara Texas quarterback Shane Buechele is a game-time decision for the San Jose State game, and true freshman Sam Ehlinger is likely to see significant playing time as a result. Despite the outcome against Maryland, Buechele put up career numbers and had an above-average game. Regardless of which player starts won’t really matter if the offensive line can’t control the line of scrimmage and win the battles in the trenches. The Longhorns need to find a running game and they need to find it fast to ensure success. This is the week for Tim Beck to show that his unit has made the necessary adjustments to move the season forward in a positive manner. San Jose State will start redshirt sophmore quarterback Montel Aaron, who will lead a a Spartan offense capable of producing yards and long plays. Lightly put, Todd Orlando’s defense was exposed last week against the Terrapins. Missed tackles, blown coverage in the secondary and a porous run-defense headlined the mistakes – something Texas cannot afford to repeat against San Jose State. After what I saw last week, I’ll defer from commenting on the point spread. Instead I’ll take Texas (and Shane Buechele or Sam Ehlinger, or both) to beat an inferior San Jose State team. Texas will have a slight hangover from the Maryland game and open slow on offense, but they will turn it around in the second half and put significant points on the board. The defense will show progress but will give up three touchdowns. USC looms next week for the Longhorns in their first away game of the season. Getting the pieces assembled in Saturday’s game is necessity if the Longhorns want to have any shot at pulling off the upset at the Coliseum. Game Prediction: Texas 41, San Jose State 21
  10. I really wanted to come with some silver linings, but I’m not ready to lie to myself yet. The best I can come up with is that special teams wasn’t entirely a disaster as it has been in the past, and more important, Texas may have still found a way to win if it hadn’t committed so many stupid penalties. Normally you’d say those are fixable, but the repairman has been MIA for years. After what I’ve seen these past several seasons, my definition of fixable for this football team has changed. Run Fits (click to play) This is 2016 all over again: a combination of players who are lost and players who are trying to do too much. The play is sort of an inverted zone bluff. The H-back crosses the formation like he’s going to kick out the defensive end, but instead the DE is being read, and the H-back is looking for the next off-color jersey. The quarterback can either toss it to the running back or run it between the tackles. The man being read is sophomore Malcolm Roach. He should be responsible for the quarterback, but he bites on the fake toss and opens up a lane inside. It was probably game over at that point. But there was another error. Had Roach forced the toss, there would have been no one there to clean it up because Mac linebacker Anthony Wheeler – a junior – was chasing phantoms. There’s nothing indicating to him that he should run inside and into the waiting arms of the right tackle. He and DeShon Elliott should have been outside and in position to bracket the H-back’s lead block. Only Elliott did his job. (click to play) This time, Maryland is running zone read with a triple option. Texas almost plays it well: Elliott eliminates the third option, Charles Omenihu (who’s being read) has the QB, and the inside linebackers are running a cross dog blitz into the A gaps. Malik Jefferson hits the frontside A gap, and Wheeler is supposed to fill the backside A gap. Instead, Wheeler attacks the outside shoulder of the guard, also known as the B gap. He can’t shed the block and get back into his gap, and the ballcarrier waltzes through the opening. EVEN STILL, there’s a safety between the ball and the goal line. Safeties at major programs should make this tackle; Brandon Jones didn’t even make contact. (click to play) Jones was the star of his own tragicomedy when it came to perimeter run defense on Saturday. Look up most of the outside runs and you’ll see him either falling victim to very defeatable cut blocks or flailing hopelessly at the runner’s feet. On this play, it’s the former. But there’s plenty of blame to go around. Junior nickelback P.J. Locke makes the best block on the whole play, since he eliminates two defenders – himself and Wheeler. The running back who becomes the lead blocker should have been looking to cut Locke, but since Locke had already blocked himself, Maryland was able to block Jones, who should have been free. Finally, there’s the comically bad pursuit angles taken by Locke and Kris Boyd. This issue has reared its head over and over for years, and it’s hard to blame coaching. Go to any youth football practice and you’ll see players doing pursuit drills. Being incapable of observing a runner and adjusting your speed and angle to intersect his path is the punter equivalent of this: (click to play) At least Todd Orlando can blame youth for some of this play. True freshman Taquon Graham is lined up as the 4i on the right side. He’s responsible for the B gap, but Maryland’s left tackle is able to dig him out of his gap. Freshmen playing like freshmen (ahem, Daniel Young fumbling a kickoff) is understandable, especially in week one. But where the heck is Locke going? He runs straight upfield, but he’s not responsible for the near back – that’s the job of Brandon Jones (just out of the shot). Maybe Locke thought Maryland was running a sweep, but the back likely would have been lined up closer to parallel with the quarterback if that were the case, and at any rate, even a cursory glance at the nearest lineman would have told him it wasn’t a sweep. No Pass Rush, No Eye Discipline (click to play) Here’s one of those exotic blitzes you heard about when Orlando was hired. It’s a four-man rush, with Elliott blitzing off the weak side. Behind the blitz, it plays out like Cover 2. Jones and Locke are the deep zone defenders, and there are five underneath defenders, with the solo-side cornerback (Kris Boyd) in man coverage. The biggest problem is that Locke lost a race; in the future, he probably should start bailing before the snap. But he also should have had a little help from Jones in the other safety spot. Jones basically didn’t drop at all. If he had, he may have been able to affect the throw. The defensive front also could have done more to disguise the pressure. It would have helped, for example, if Naashon Hughes had lined up closer to the box instead of defending grass. I’d blame it on the new scheme, but Texas has been terrible at disguising looks for years now. Underclassmen, upperclassmen – it doesn’t matter. (click to play) Here’s another pressure that didn’t get the job done. The blitzers, Locke and Wheeler, were hardly at the line of scrimmage by the time the quarterback had completed his drop. There was no anticipation of the snap whatsoever. Behind that, an old problem in the secondary was back. Despite having no run responsibilities, Kris Boyd was so focused on the backfield that he forgot about his only job: covering the guy in front of him. There’s no reason for it; he’s trying to do too much. Buechele: The Difference Between ‘A’ Problem and ‘The’ Problem Shane Buechele had ups and downs, but my initial read is that he played an above-average game. His stat line was fine and looks better when you consider that he was under pressure even when Maryland was dropping seven or eight into coverage and had NO run game to ease the pressure. The biggest problem I saw was that he was trying to do too much. (click to play) This was an insanely predictable play call to start the game. It was one of the most frequently run plays in the spring game – watch the first two plays and you’ll see it. Maryland thought it was predictable as well, which is why they rolled their coverage to the trips side – the best defense against this passing concept (known as Sail). What’s frustrating is that the coverage has a glaring weakness – the weakside flat – and the play has a route built into it to target that area. For whatever reason, Buechele seems to think that’s a play-fake and not a true option. It’s pitch and catch for at least a five-yard gain if he makes the obvious throw. Some folks on Twitter wanted him to throw the flat route, and perhaps he could have for a minimal gain, but the defense was accounting for that route as well with two defenders. The fatal mistake had already happened. (click to play) Tom Herman said Maryland played a lot of 2-Man. Here’s an example. To beat it, the offense needs to be able to run the ball, create rubs to knock defenders off their man, or select or manufacture favorable matchups. The first option was too tall a task for Chris Warren, Kyle Porter and the offensive line. (I hope to find out why later this week.) The officials deemed the second option intolerable – and Texas wasn’t very good at executing the rubs anyway. The third option somehow wasn’t viable as often as it should have been; guys weren’t consistently winning and getting open. This time, one of them did. Texas switched the normal alignment so that Armanti Foreman was the No. 3 receiver and Porter was in the slot to the trips side. Maybe Maryland would get sloppy and put a linebacker on Foreman. At the very least, this alignment gives Foreman more room to work. The protection was good (it was just a three-man rush, though), and Foreman beat his defender. The throw wasn’t great but ironically may have disoriented the safety enough to enable Foreman to score. Bright Spots Reggie Hemphill-Mapps picked up where he left off in the spring game. He’s not the game breaker that Urban Meyer and Herman are used to having in the H role, but he appears to be dependable and he played as hard as anyone on Saturday. Holton Hill is another guy who looked pretty good. (click to play) Hill did a great job hanging on the vertical route by the outside receiver until the ball was thrown, then closing on it in time to snag the tipped ball. He may have been a tad too quick in his backpedal, but it worked out fine. He seemed to be all over the field. I hope to have time later this week to analyze the problems with the run game on both sides of the ball.
  11. The Tom Herman era got off to a hot start. On the third play of the regular season, Maryland QB Tyrrell Pigrome threw a pass that was intercepted 31 yards for a touchdown, giving Texas a 7-0 lead. It only got worse from there. The two teams duked it out last weekend at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, and the 18-point underdog Terrapins won their first game versus a ranked opponent since 2010, 51 – 41. And as great a performance it was for the Terrapins, it left the Longhorns and their fans with more questions than answers. One of the most critical takeaways from the season opener was the injury to sophomore QB Shane Buechele. The second-year starter was hoping to improve upon his breakout freshman year, throwing for 2,985 yards with 21 passing touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. His sophomore campaign didn’t start in amazing fashion, as he completed 34 of his 52 passes for 375 yards, 2 touchdowns through the air and one on the ground, and an interception to accompany that. While that’s just fine and dandy, he bruised his throwing shoulder during the game and is being further evaluated. What does this mean for the Longhorns? Shane Buechele did not practice on Tuesday and Coach Herman has yet to rule him out for the home game this weekend against the visiting San Jose State Spartans. What are the Longhorns’ options at the quarterback position? The only 2 QBs on the depth chart is injured starter Shane Buechele and true freshman Sam Ehlinger. The only other option that Texas could explore would be former quarterback turned wide receiver Jerrod Heard, who started 10 games during the 2015 season. But is Heard a legitimate option? While he did have a moderately successful year – throwing for 1214 yards – he had the same number of touchdowns as interceptions at 5. And while that may not be great, it was Heard’s running ability that made him a legitimate threat, rushing 139 times for 556 yards and 3 touchdowns. He did upset Oklahoma, a top-10 team at the time, but only passed 11 times in the upset. It was the running game that got the Longhorns the upset over their bitter rival, as they rushed 58 times. But that is not a precedent for success in this day and age of spread offenses, and Heard has not started at quarterback since November 14, 2015 in a loss to West Virginia. Coach Herman once considered Heard the “nuclear option,” but being that Buechele is potentially out for the game versus the Spartans, Heard is taking second team snaps during the week. What this program needs is a sense of stability, but that might be out of the question as the Texas varsity squad could be starting their third freshman quarterback in 3 years if freshman Sam Ehlinger gets the start on Saturday. Sam Ehlinger is a from Westlake here in Austin, Texas and was recruited heavily as a dual-threat quarterback, ranked #4 of all players from the 2017 class and #19 highest rated player in the state. Whether he is ready to take the reins of such a team is up for debate. It’s a sigh of relief that Ehlinger gets to test his abilities and get a feel for live-time action at home instead of next week, when the Longhorns travel to Los Angeles to take on USC in a prime time matchup. Ehlinger will be able to test his abilities on Saturday, as the Longhorns look to bounce back against San Jose State at 2:30 PM at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.
  12. The Vegas line on Saturday's Texas vs. San Jose State game has the Longhorns opening as 27.5 point favorites over the Spartans at Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. Texas (0-1) lost its season opener to Maryland 51-41, struggling to find an identity on both sides of the ball in Tom Herman's debut as head coach. Quarterback Shane Buechele threw for 375 yards and two touchdowns, but the lack of a running game and offensive line issues proved problematic for the offense throughout the game. While the offense had its share of problems, Todd Orlando's defense wasn't without blame. The Maryland rushing offense gashed the Longhorns for 263 yards while the quarterback tandem of Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill combined for 219 yards passing. When it was all said and done the Terrapins amassed 482 yards of total offense. The loss to the Terrapins extended the team losing streak to four games, dating back to November 12, 2016. San Jose State (1-1) lost its season opener to Charlie Strong and South Florida 42-22, following up the loss by defeating Cal Poly 34-13 on Saturday. True Freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger could see playing time on Saturday against the Spartans, as Shane Buechele is nursing a shoulder injury sustained in Saturday's contest. Regardless of which player starts at quarterback on Saturday, wide receiver Collin Johnson says his focus is on his game. Whoever is in, I’m just going to do my part. I can’t control who is playing, but I can control what I do. My route depth, how I run my routes – that’s all I can worry about. I try not to get outside of what I can worry about. Whoever is in, I’m just going to do my part. This week San Jose State named redshirt freshman quarterback Montel Aaron as the team's starter for Saturday's contest. Aaron won the starting job after coming off the bench against Cal Poly, replacing a struggling Josh Love and leading the Spartans to victory. Texas, ranked #23 in both the Associated Press and Coaches Preseason Top 25 Polls, dropped from both after starting the season 0-1. The Longhorns look to right the ship on Saturday at 2:30 pm in front of an exasperated crowd that threw trash trash on the field as the game clock expired in the loss to Maryland. Game: Texas vs. San Jose State Date: Saturday, September 9, 2017 Time: 2:30 PM CST Venue: Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium Location: Austin, Texas Television: Longhorn Network
  13. Well after everybody had their hearts ripped out with the Week 1 debacle, and we learned that most of us (me included) drank way too much koolaid. What's your prediction for this week?Here's mine:UT 51-24
  14. The Texas Longhorns (0-1,0-0) will welcome the San Jose State Spartans(1-1,0-0) to Austin on Saturday as Texas looks to rebound from a season opening 51-41 defeat at the hands of Maryland. The Spartans come into the game with a loss in the season opener to South Florida (42-22) and a victory last weekend against Cal Poly (34-13). Let’s take a look at the San Jose State defense and special teams. Defensive Line San Jose State will operate mainly out of a 3-4 look. Junior defensive end Robert Owens led the team in tackles for loss in 2016 with 8.5 and is off to an excellent start in 2017. Through 2 games, Owens has 2 TFL, 1 sack and a forced fumble. The nose guard position will be occupied by junior transfer Sailosi Latu, a lifelong ruby player who switched to football and had 2 successful seasons at Mt. San Antonio Community College. Latu has totaled 9 tackles and a sack so far this season. The other defensive end spot belongs to junior Bryson Bridges, who has 7 tackles to go along with 1 sack in 2017. In 2016, San Jose State struggled to get to the quarterback, ranking 114th out of 128 FBS teams in total sacks. Those struggles have carried over into 2017 so far, with the Spartans only having 3 sacks through 2 games, with all 3 coming in the first game against South Florida. New defensive coordinator Derrick Odum will rely on his front 3 to occupy the offensive line and allow the linebackers to make plays. Linebackers The player who has benefited the most from the new defensive coaching staff at San Jose State has been outside linebacker William Ossai. The senior finished 2016 with 33 tackles and just 1 TFL, but has exploded at the start of 2017 for 15 tackles, 4 TFL and a sack. Junior transfer Jamal Scott starts at the other outside linebacker spot and has had success in his first year with the Spartans. The former Arizona State linebacker has notched 1 sack to go along with 11 tackles and 2 TFL. Frank Ginda and Ethan Aguayo start at the two inside linebacker spots and have combined for 54 tackles and 3.5 TFL through the first two games of the year. Behind the 4 starting linebackers, the Spartans do not have much to offer in terms of depth. Sophomores Jesse Owens and Malik Hayes are the only two other linebackers who have recorded a tackle this season. South Florida was able to rush for over 300 yards against a defense that struggled after the first quarter of play. San Jose State will lean heavily on their 4 starters at linebacker and hope Ginda and Aguayo continue to be rack up tackles in the middle of the defense. Defensive Backs San Jose State has yet to record an interception through the first two games of the season, but a main contributor to that has been the willingness of their opponents to run the ball. The Spartans secondary has only faced 36 pass attempts through the first two games, but have a formidable defensive backfield that can defend the pass well. Senior cornerback Andre Chachere was a first team All-Mountain West selection a season ago and had 4 interceptions. Chachere is a physical corner who will most likely be matched up with Collin Johnson on Saturday. Senior Jermaine Kelly will start opposite of Chachere. The former Washington Huskie had 5 pass breakups and a fumble recovery in 2016. Junior Dakari Monroe started 7 games in 2016 and will serve as the 3rd cornerback. At safety, the Spartans have 4-year starter Maurice McKnight and sophomore Trevon Bierria. McKnight was honorable mention All-Mountain West in 2015 and 2016, and brings a wealth of experience with 29 career starts. Bierria started 10 games a redshirt freshman and recorded 2 interceptions to go along with 2 forced fumbles. Opponents have completed less than 50% of their passes so far against San Jose State. Regardless of who lines up at quarterback for Texas, offensive coordinator Tim Beck will need to be creative on how to get the ball to his playmakers on the outside. Special Teams The Spartans boast one of the most accurate kickers in the country. Junior Bryce Crawford, a Texan native, was 16-18 in field goals a season ago, with a long of 44 yards. His 88.9% conversion rate on field goals ranked 12th in the country. In 2017, Crawford has only had 1 field goal attempt, a successful 34-yarder. Senior punter Michael Carrizosa was a honorable mention All-Mountain West selection in 2016 and was named to the Ray Guy Award Watch List. Carrizosa has punted 16 times already during the 2017 season, averaging 43.6 yards per punt and pinning 7 punts inside the 20-yard line. Wide receivers Bailey Gaither and Thai Cottrell are heavily involved on special teams. Gaither returned a blocked punt inside the 10-yard line against South Florida and also handles the return duties on kickoffs, where he is averaging 21.5 yards per return. Cottrell handles punt returns and is averaging 5.7 yards per return in 2017.
  15. The Texas Longhorns (0-1,0-0) will welcome the San Jose State Spartans (1-1,0-0) to Austin on Saturday as Texas looks to rebound from a season opening 51-41 defeat at the hands of Maryland. The Spartans come into the game with a loss in the season opener to South Florida (42-22) and a victory last weekend against Cal Poly (34-13). Let’s take a look at the San Jose State offense. Quarterback Entering 2017, the Spartans had a question mark at the QB position. Sophomore Josh Love had one career start under his belt and entered into a competition with Montel Aaron during fall camp. During the opener against South Florida, Love received the start and threw 2 quick touchdowns before tossing 3 interceptions and giving way to Aaron late in the game. Love received another start this past weekend against Cal Poly, but was pulled after throwing for 29 yards on 4 of 9 attempts. Aaron took over and helped San Jose State pull away by throwing for 3 touchdowns and 183 yards. The redshirt freshman stands at 6’5″ and has the ability to use his legs along with his arm to beat opponents. Even if head coach Brent Brennan continues to ride the hot hand and give Aaron the start against Texas, it would not be surprising to see both quarterbacks play. First year offensive coordinator Andrew Sowder is no stranger to Austin. The youngest offensive coordinator in the country served as an assistant wide receivers coach at Texas last year. Sowder also had a previous stop at Baylor in 2009 and 2010 as an assistant wide receivers coach, where he learned the veer and shoot offense under head coach Art Briles and offensive coordinator Dino Babers. Running Back San Jose State has struggled to run the ball thus far, only recording 1 rushing touchdown. Junior Malike Roberson led the Spartans in rushing in 2016, but has only averaged 3 yards per carry this season. The only rushing touchdown of the season belongs to sophomore Zamore Zigler, who through 2 games leads the team in rushing with 141 yards on 21 carries. Zigler is seen as an explosive back who is able to use his speed well in the open field. Senior Brandon Monroe also plays a key role in the rushing attack. At 241 pounds, Monroe serves as a fullback in the San Jose State offense, but has also received 12 carries for an average of 5.5 yards per carry. The Spartans struggled to get their ground game going against South Florida, gaining 109 yards on 38 attempts, before exploding for 271 rushing yards against Cal Poly. With 4 players capable of handling the load and youth at the quarterback position, San Jose State will look to establish the ground game early and often against the Longhorns. Wide Receivers/Tight End Through 2 games, the MVP of the San Jose State offense has been receiver Bailey Gaither. The sophomore is averaging 17.3 yards a catch and has caught 3 touchdowns. Gaither will operate primarily out of the slot, with juniors Justin Holmes and Tre Hartley manning the outside wide receiver positions. Holmes and Hartley each have a touchdown on the season and have combined for 131 yards. The only other receiver who has recorded a catch on the year is redshirt freshman Jaquan Blackwell, who has hauled in 4 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Josh Oliver is tied for the team lead in receptions with 9, which is 6 more than he caught all of 2016. The 6’5″ 253 pound junior is a very capable blocker who has the ability to flex out as a receiver and create matchup problems. Oliver will far and away be the best tight end on the field on Saturday, and must be accounted for in the run and pass game. Offensive Line San Jose State had the luxury of returning all 5 starting offensive lineman from 2016. The veteran unit starts 4 seniors and a sophomore. In total, the 5 starters have 123 career starts between them. Seniors Jeremiah Kolone and Nate Velichko have combined to start 68 games over the course of their respective careers, with Kolone earning honorable mention All-Mountain West in 2016. Troy Kowalski, the lone sophomore, started 9 games as a freshman at left tackle. The Spartans have only allowed 3 sacks through the first two games, but much of that can be attributed to the quick passing game that is a part of the veer and shoot. Despite the experience the offensive line has, they proved to be vulnerable against South Florida, struggling to open lanes in the run game. The front 7 for Texas will need to do a better job of filling gaps and playing sound football against an inferior offensive line.
  16. When Tom Herman first arrived at Texas, he reiterated time and time again that his team would be the most physical and disciplined on the field. That was not the case today. After a promising start to the game with a Holton Hill pick six on Maryland's first pass attempt, the Longhorns fell apart - in every aspect. Although Texas tried to mount a comeback during several crucial moments of the game, Maryland always struck back. Although the results speak for themselves, it's necessary to dive in deeper to this game and what exactly happened. Offense The offense was decent at times, and at other times bewildering. First of all, Texas has absolutely no rushing attack. The offensive line got out-physicaled by Maryland's front four practically the entire game, which did not help Kyle Porter and Chris Warren III. That being said, I am still baffled as to why Porter is playing over Warren. Don't get me wrong - Porter is a talented running back. But he's not Chris Warren. Sometimes, backs have to create holes for themselves and use their vision to gain positive yardage. For Porter, that trait is not developed. Instead, Porter hesitates when hitting the holes, and is not big or strong enough to shake off tacklers in open space. Yes, he's shifty, but that only matters if he can get to the second level. The coaching staff raved about Porter the entire offseason, and I now wonder if that's because the Texas run defense is so bad that they misguided Stan Drayton. The blame, however, does not solely fall on the running backs. The Texas offensive line, said to be one of the strongest units on the team (aside from RT) were dominated the entire game. Even All-American LT Connor Williams struggled towards the end of regulation, in which he accumulated two costly holding penalties. The RB's seldom had holes to run through, and Shane Buechele was under pressure inside the pocket all day long. A big reason for that was a lack of an abled body at the TE position. Converted WR-to-TE Garrett Gray got the start for Texas today, and his inexperience showed. Gray may have soft hands, but his blocking ability is subpar at best. The loss of Andrew Beck and the only real TE on the team hurts in a major way. Considering the circumstances, Buechele and his receivers had a decent day overall. The main disappointment on offense was offensive coordinator Tim Beck's play calling. More often than not, Beck made highly questionable calls that did not place his unit in the best position to succeed. In short yardage situations, Beck often made repetitive and predictable play calls. The Longhorns went for it on 4th down three times today, and failed to convert once. In one situation later in the game, Beck elected to go for a 4th down conversion at midfield instead of letting All-American Michael Dickson pin freshman QB Kaism Hill deep. As a result, the Longhorns turned the ball over on downs and Maryland scored seven plays later. Although there were some bright spots, Tim Beck did not help his team today. Scoring only 21 points on offense is not enough to win in the Big 12. Tim Beck and his offense have a lot of work to do. Defense The Texas defense gave Texas fans horrifying flashbacks of the 2016 season. The Terrapins rushed for 263 yards on offense, frequently attacking Texas right up the gut for big gains. Where Todd Orlando is well-known for his extravagant schemes and the toughness of his players, that was clearly lacking today. More often than not, Orlando brought too much pressure or not enough pressure at the wrong times. For example, DeShon Elliot was brought up to the box in a running situation, but had nobody behind him to provide assistance. Once the Maryland rusher got to the second level, it was off to the races. Speaking of miscues, the Texas secondary did not look like the talented bunch that has been praised all offseason. The only defender that lived up to the standard was Holton Hill. Kris Boyd was beat in coverage all day. Brandon Jones looked lost and had no idea how to get off blocks. PJ Locke was nonexistent the entire game. This is not the physical defense that Orlando has a reputation of building. Granted, it's only the first game - but not a promising sign regardless. I lost count of how many poor angles defenders took as well as the poor effort at getting off blocks. The most concerning aspect of the defense's performance has to be the run game. Once a rusher got to the second level, it was a foot race. It seems like Orlando's LB's are not hitting the proper gaps, or maybe his DL is not getting enough penetration up front. Whatever it is, this unit clearly lacks the physicality and discipline that is needed to succeed. If the Texas defense cannot hold the Terrapins to under 51 points, how will they fare in the Big 12? If they don't improve dramatically, not great. The first step is stopping the run. Special Teams Surprisingly, this unit had the best performance of the day despite several miscues. First, it began with a missed 42-yard FG from Joshua Rowland. Then, on Rowland's next attempt, the kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Not an ideal start on special teams for Tom Herman. Then, the tides began to turn. On a Maryland FG attempt, senior DT Poona Ford got a hand up and blocked the attempt, which resulted in a 65-yard touchdown return from none other than Holton Hill. Shortly after in the second half, Reggie Hemphill returned a punt for 91-yards and the score, thanks to a miraculous block by Malik Jefferson. While special teams did not score a single touchdown for Texas last season, this unit scored twice for Texas today and in large part kept the Longhorns in the game. Although there were several miscues that led to points, they can be fixed. I have faith that Tom Herman can sort this unit out, but that appears to be the least of his worries at the moment. Overall, the Longhorns just did not appear prepared today. That just goes to show you that preseason hype is worthless if the results do not match on the gridiron. College football opening weekend can be a spectacular or heartbreaking thing. For Texas fans, this instance was unfortunately the latter. That does not mean that the Longhorn faithful should abandon ship. As the Texas coaching staff emphasizes time and time again, take it one game at a time. One loss does not mean the season is over. Texas fans are tired of a decade of mediocrity, and want the results immediately. At some point, they will come. But right now Tom Herman has many issues to address. Until they can be fixed, Texas fans will just have to do what they've done for the past decade - remain faithful and keep going. It's the only thing any football fan can do.
  17. It's so close. Football is almost back, folks.
  18. Ok what's y'alls prediction to how this game turns out? I'm going with: UT 31-14
  19. Earlier this week Tom Herman and his staff released their first depth chart of the year for the game against Maryland, and while there weren’t many surprises this time around there are still some things to discuss before the Terrapins roll into town. Lets take a quick glance position by position on how the Longhorns will jog out onto the field this Saturday to kick off the Tom Herman era at Texas. Quarterback 1) Shane Buechele 2) Sam Ehlinger My Take: No surprises here. Along with having game experience under his belt, Buechele did nothing to hurt himself in the eyes of the coaches this offseason. Ideally Ehlinger would redshirt and carry a clipboard this year, but that’s not going to be in the cards with the depth chart being light. Whether it’s in a package of plays or mop up duty, it’s expected Ehlinger will be on the field this fall. Worth mentioning again that Jerrod Heard is the emergency quarterback if it gets to that point this fall. Running Back 1) Kyle Porter OR 2) Chris Warren III 3) Kirk Johnson My Take: This smells like running back by committee, unless a guy proves he be trusted to be the feature back. The positive news here is that Johnson is listed on the depth chart and is healthy headed into the season opener. Health is going to be the key for this group, as each guy has been banged up and missed time at one point or another. Cross your fingers and pray for a clean bill of health for these guys. If injuries become an issue, Toneil Carter and Daniel Young are the next guys up. XWR (Outside WR) 1) Collin Johnson 2) Dorian Leonard OR 3) Lorenzo Joe My Take: This is Collin Johnson’s show. Everyone is expecting big things from Johnson this year and he is going to have plenty of opportunities in this offense to put up numbers. Leonard has proven to be a solid option and is capable of making big plays down the field, while Joe is a max effort guy who has proven to be a solid blocker. HWR (Slot WR) 1) Reggie Hemphill-Mapps OR 2) Lil’Jordan Humphrey 3) Armanti Foreman My Take: Few things here. Devin Duvernay not being listed here means he’s been moved to the outside, Hemphill-Mapps performance leading up to this week has earned him a spot atop the depth chart, and Humphrey moving to the inside is intriguing to say the least. Hemphill-Mapps’ route savvy and ability to get open underneath has made him a desirable option here, while Humphrey’s size can be used to his advantage from here both as a receiver and a blocker. Foreman coming in a third validates that he has underperformed this offseason and has been passed up by younger guys. ZWR (Outside WR) 1) Devin Duvernay 2) John Burt OR 3) Jerrod Heard My Take: There isn’t much mystery to Duvernay’s game at this point in the game. He’s going to be used to take the top off a defense and the staff will put defensive backs in tough positions to have to stay in front of him. Behind him, Burt and Heard looked to be locked into a battle for snaps. Both were said to be having solid camps and both have the skills to be more than capable players if they are able to put it together. Tight End 1) Garrett Gray 2) Cade Brewer My Take: As expected, the options are slim here with Andrew Beck out for the year and Reese Leitao sitting out the first two games. Kendall Moore should also be available for the staff, but it has been said he is more of a blocker than a pass catcher. It will be interesting to see how this position is deployed this Saturday. Left Tackle 1) Connor Williams 2) JP Urquidez My Take: Not much to discuss here. Williams is your cornerstone on the offensive line, and while Urquidez is listed as the backup, I would expect Derek Warehime to do some reshuffling before putting him out there. Left Guard 1) Patrick Vahe 2) Alex Anderson My Take: No surprise here either. Vahe has been a solid run blocker since arriving on campus and it has been said that he is improving as a pass blocker, which would further solidify the left side of the line. Center 1) Zach Shackelford 2) Terrell Cuney My Take: Barring injury, Shackelford is going to be the man here and if Shack does get banged up then Jake McMillon will most likely slide over to center. I don’t expect Cuney to be a contributor unless disaster strikes at this spot. Right Guard 1) Jake McMillon 2) Patrick Hudson My Take: McMillon emerging last year was one of the more pleasant developments and he will continue to be a valuable piece upfront due to his versatility on the interior. Hudson has continued to come along and his physical tools will allow him to contribute if called upon. Right Tackle 1) Tristian Nickelson OR 2) Denzel Okafor My Take: Arguably the biggest question mark on the entire depth chart is at this position. While Nickelson is a max effort guy and a hard worker, he has still proven to be a liability. Okafor is the more talented of the pair and has more upside, but he is still young and needs to firmly take ahold of the starting job. If I had to guess, I would say that Okafor eventually takes over as the season wears on and he continues to get more reps. Defensive End 1) Chris Nelson 2) Ta’Quon Graham OR 3) Jamari Chisholm My Take: No surprise with this group with Nelson getting the starting nod while being backed up with Graham and Chisholm. The staff has been raving about Graham since his arrival on campus, so I expect him to get his feet wet early, and Chisholm has been a nice surprise despite arriving much later than the rest of the class. Nose Tackle 1) Poona Ford 2) Gerald Wilbon My Take: Fresh off of being named a team captain, Ford is going to anchor the interior along the defensive front and will be spelled by Wilbon. While Ford is a known commodity at this point and sure to receive majority of the snaps, I want to see Wilbon take the next step forward in his development. Defensive End 1) Malcolm Roach OR 2) Charles Omenihu My Take: Roach is the hell raiser up front that will no doubt receive plenty of attention, but the staff sees Omenihu as a starting caliber player as well hence the or designation. Both players should get plenty of snaps this year. B-Backer 1) Naashon Hughes 2) Jeffrey McCulloch My Take: Is this going to be the year that Hughes puts it all together and breaks out? He has all of the physical tools that you want, but it hasn’t translated to production to this point. With McCulloch already showing promise, it’s now or never for the senior linebacker. Mac Linebacker 1) Anthony Wheeler 2) Breckyn Hager My Take: Wheeler didn’t take the next step many expected him to last year, but buzz around him has been positive since the new staff rolled into town. Hager’s placement at Mac raised a few eyebrows given his ability to rush the passer, but Herman has said they plan on putting him in a position to play to his strength in sub packages. Rover 1) Malik Jefferson 2) Gary Johnson My Take: Probably the most discussed and debated portion of the depth chart right here. There is no way to sugarcoat Jefferson’s down year in 2016, and now with a very talented Johnson behind him there won’t be as much wiggle room for not being dependable. This will be a group to keep an eye early on, as I expect there to be a healthy competition that plays out into the season. Cornerback 1) Kris Boyd 2) Davante Davis My Take: No surprises here. Boyd has solidified his spot at the top of the depth chart at this corner spot and will be looking to improve on his success from last year. Davis is looking to rebound after hitting rock bottom in every way imaginable last year. Safety 1) DeShon Elliott 2) Jason Hall My Take: With Hall missing time due to injury, Elliott made the most of the reps and has put himself firmly in the starter spot. Elliott has begun to show the talent and ability that made him a highly sought after recruit. When you go over the middle, you better make sure you keep your head on a swivel and that chin strap buckled. Safety 1) Brandon Jones 2) John Bonney My Take: Jones is yet another highly sought after recruit that seems to be taking the next step. The pair of Jones and Elliott at safety is every Texas fans dream since they arrived on campus. Bonney proved to be a versatile piece in the secondary last year and will no doubt fill in the gaps as necessary. Cornerback 1) Holton Hil 2) Josh Thompson My Take: Hill is another guy looking for a bounce back year. Off the field issues plagued him last year and he found himself in the doghouse most of the year, but he now has a new lease on life and is trying to make the most of it. Thompson got a little banged up during camp, but he showed up in phenomenal shape and ready to play this year. I can’t wait to see him get his feet wet. Nickelback 1) P.J. Locke 2) Antwuan Davis My Take: Locke is Mr. Dependable. He might be the hardest worker on the team and he really started to make a name for himself last year despite the secondary as a whole struggling. Davis is a guy that would probably be pushing for starting reps at any other school in the conference and will provide solid depth in a league that loves to toss the ball around. Kicker 1) Joshua Rowland 2) Mitchell Becker My Take: Herman made it a priority to go get a kicker as soon as he arrived and Rowland will be the one to trot out there for field goals. He doesn’t have the strongest leg, but as long as he can be reliable from 40 and in Texas should be in fine shape. Punter 1) Michael Dickson 2) Jack Geiger My Take: “The Punter” aka Michael Dickson was arguably the best punter in all of college football last year. He will be a heck of a weapon once again this year for Texas when it comes to the battle of field position.
  20. With the season right around the corner now, we’ve seen discussion about players that could potentially break out this fall, so we decided to get in on that action as well to get things cranked up a week out from kickoff. Here we each give three players that we think will burst onto the scene this fall as the Longhorns venture into season one of the Tom Herman era. Harrison’s Picks Sam Ehlinger – QB No, Sam Ehlinger is not the starting quarterback for the Longhorns. Yet, he will be just as important as Shane Buechele in 2017. Ehlinger embodies the exact type of QB that Tom Herman wants in this offense – he can sling it, he’s tough, and he’s not afraid to tuck it and run through somebody. Make no mistake; Shane Buechele is going to be the starter against Maryland, as he should be. He’s got a full season of experience under his belt, and his accuracy is second to none. Regardless of Buechele’s attributes, Ehlinger is going to make a bigger impact than most think this season. Ehlinger and Buechele are two different quarterbacks. In some situations the freshman is going to be the better option, and is going to show everyone why. After a senior season riddled by injury at Westlake HS, the freshman is eager to prove that he belongs on the biggest of stages. When the spotlight is on, I believe he’ll shine. Josh Thompson – CB Not many freshmen from the 2017 signing class have earned consistent praise from the Texas coaching staff. Josh Thompson is one of the few. When Thompson arrived in Austin this summer, he was in the best shape of his life. He immediately began absorbing the playbook and embraced a role entitled “student of the game.” When I think of Thompson, I see a fundamentally sound player. I see a teammate that can always be relied on, even in crucial situations. I see a player that never makes mistakes – a player like Jordan Shipley. Before I go any further, I could be completely wrong. Thompson is indeed only a freshman. He will make some mistakes, as a young Jordan Shipley oftentimes did. I just believe the mistakes will be few. Thompson has made an immediate impact since arriving on campus and will see significant playing time this season. I won’t be surprised when he becomes a star. DeShon Elliot – S This is the easiest name to put on this list. Since arriving at Texas, Elliot has made plays. From nabbing two interceptions in his first real playing time as a freshman against Kansas to his lethal hit against Torii Hunter Jr. in the end zone of the Notre Dame game last year, Elliot is always around the ball. It appears that the lights finally flickered on for Elliot this offseason. Behind PJ Locke, Elliot is one of the names that are constantly brought up in a positive light by the Texas coaches. Not only has ‘The Kraken’ improved as a player, he’s improved as a leader too. For a Texas defense that more often than not had their arms up in confusion before a snap last year, this is crucial. The only true difficulty for Elliot at the college level has been pass coverage. He’s never had a problem with coming up on a runner and hitting them at full speed. This offseason, it appears he dedicated great amounts of time to the art of route running. For a safety, understanding route running is what takes him from good to great. For Elliot, I believe this year is his time to take that next step. If he does, he can be a force at the next level. Daniel’s Picks Lil’Jordan Humphrey – WR Last Texas witnessed a breakout player in Collin Johnson at the wide receiver position, and they very well could witness another one in 2017 in LJ Humphrey. While Johnson was certainly underrated in that 2016 signing class, for me Humphrey was probably the most intriguing prospect of the bunch. Humphrey has the ability and skill set to be an absolute nightmare on the outside and the idea of putting him opposite of Johnson has to excite the fan base. Humphrey currently backs up Johnson on the depth chart, but I think at some point we will see both players on the field at the same time and it will become an absolute headache for defensive coordinators in the Big 12. Josh Thompson – CB After players get signed in February, the message from the coaches to the signees is to show up on campus ready to play. It’s safe to say that message was well received by Josh Thompson, because he worked his butt off and showed up on campus in phenomenal shape and the mindset that he is going to be contributing from day one. Thompson has quickly put himself squarely in the mix to crack the two deep at corner during camp and as long as he doesn’t miss extended time from getting banged up I like his chances of putting himself in the spotlight this fall. He has the mindset and the skill set to contribute at multiple spots in the secondary, and he is his number is likely to be called early this year. Thompson’s trend line has been fascinating to watch from the time he was simply known as Brandon Jones’ friend, to being a guy some analysts thinking he was going to be a G5 caliber player, to him blowing up and ending up at Texas with a chance to contribute as a freshman. Taquon Graham – DE I almost rolled with Gary Johnson in this last spot, but I called an audible at the line of scrimmage and went with another defensive player. Here’s another 2017 signee who should find himself on the field early on this year. Taquon Graham is a guy I labeled as a must have after seeing him his physical makeup in person last summer at UTL when he told the media he was already up north of 260 and looking like a million bucks. While some tried to throw dirt on Graham during his senior year, people need to be mindful that he played hurt most of the year and when you go back and watch that film when he’s healthy it’s a no brainer that he’s a stud. It’s obvious that Graham is now healthy and is showing the ability that we all knew he had, as he was one of the first newcomers to get his stripe removed from his helmet during camp and the coaches have been raving about him. Like with Thompson, Graham showed up to campus in great shape and with the right mindset to put himself in a position to contribute early. Many have wondered about depth along the defensive line, and I think Graham will be a guy we see a lot of this year. Feel free to weigh in with your predictions and discuss!
  21. With the season right around the corner now, we’ve seen discussion about players that could potentially break out this fall, so we decided to get in on that action as well to get things cranked up a week out from kickoff. Here we each give three players that we think will burst onto the scene this fall as the Longhorns venture into season one of the Tom Herman era. Harrison’s Picks Sam Ehlinger – QB No, Sam Ehlinger is not the starting quarterback for the Longhorns. Yet, he will be just as important as Shane Buechele in 2017. Ehlinger embodies the exact type of QB that Tom Herman wants in this offense – he can sling it, he’s tough, and he’s not afraid to tuck it and run through somebody. Make no mistake; Shane Buechele is going to be the starter against Maryland, as he should be. He’s got a full season of experience under his belt, and his accuracy is second to none. Regardless of Buechele’s attributes, Ehlinger is going to make a bigger impact than most think this season. Ehlinger and Buechele are two different quarterbacks. In some situations the freshman is going to be the better option, and is going to show everyone why. After a senior season riddled by injury at Westlake HS, the freshman is eager to prove that he belongs on the biggest of stages. When the spotlight is on, I believe he’ll shine. Josh Thompson – CB Not many freshmen from the 2017 signing class have earned consistent praise from the Texas coaching staff. Josh Thompson is one of the few. When Thompson arrived in Austin this summer, he was in the best shape of his life. He immediately began absorbing the playbook and embraced a role entitled “student of the game.” When I think of Thompson, I see a fundamentally sound player. I see a teammate that can always be relied on, even in crucial situations. I see a player that never makes mistakes – a player like Jordan Shipley. Before I go any further, I could be completely wrong. Thompson is indeed only a freshman. He will make some mistakes, as a young Jordan Shipley oftentimes did. I just believe the mistakes will be few. Thompson has made an immediate impact since arriving on campus and will see significant playing time this season. I won’t be surprised when he becomes a star. DeShon Elliot – S This is the easiest name to put on this list. Since arriving at Texas, Elliot has made plays. From nabbing two interceptions in his first real playing time as a freshman against Kansas to his lethal hit against Torii Hunter Jr. in the end zone of the Notre Dame game last year, Elliot is always around the ball. It appears that the lights finally flickered on for Elliot this offseason. Behind PJ Locke, Elliot is one of the names that are constantly brought up in a positive light by the Texas coaches. Not only has ‘The Kraken’ improved as a player, he’s improved as a leader too. For a Texas defense that more often than not had their arms up in confusion before a snap last year, this is crucial. The only true difficulty for Elliot at the college level has been pass coverage. He’s never had a problem with coming up on a runner and hitting them at full speed. This offseason, it appears he dedicated great amounts of time to the art of route running. For a safety, understanding route running is what takes him from good to great. For Elliot, I believe this year is his time to take that next step. If he does, he can be a force at the next level. Daniel’s Picks Lil’Jordan Humphrey – WR Last Texas witnessed a breakout player in Collin Johnson at the wide receiver position, and they very well could witness another one in 2017 in LJ Humphrey. While Johnson was certainly underrated in that 2016 signing class, for me Humphrey was probably the most intriguing prospect of the bunch. Humphrey has the ability and skill set to be an absolute nightmare on the outside and the idea of putting him opposite of Johnson has to excite the fan base. Humphrey currently backs up Johnson on the depth chart, but I think at some point we will see both players on the field at the same time and it will become an absolute headache for defensive coordinators in the Big 12. Josh Thompson – CB After players get signed in February, the message from the coaches to the signees is to show up on campus ready to play. It’s safe to say that message was well received by Josh Thompson, because he worked his butt off and showed up on campus in phenomenal shape and the mindset that he is going to be contributing from day one. Thompson has quickly put himself squarely in the mix to crack the two deep at corner during camp and as long as he doesn’t miss extended time from getting banged up I like his chances of putting himself in the spotlight this fall. He has the mindset and the skill set to contribute at multiple spots in the secondary, and he is his number is likely to be called early this year. Thompson’s trend line has been fascinating to watch from the time he was simply known as Brandon Jones’ friend, to being a guy some analysts thinking he was going to be a G5 caliber player, to him blowing up and ending up at Texas with a chance to contribute as a freshman. Taquon Graham – DE I almost rolled with Gary Johnson in this last spot, but I called an audible at the line of scrimmage and went with another defensive player. Here’s another 2017 signee who should find himself on the field early on this year. Taquon Graham is a guy I labeled as a must have after seeing him his physical makeup in person last summer at UTL when he told the media he was already up north of 260 and looking like a million bucks. While some tried to throw dirt on Graham during his senior year, people need to be mindful that he played hurt most of the year and when you go back and watch that film when he’s healthy it’s a no brainer that he’s a stud. It’s obvious that Graham is now healthy and is showing the ability that we all knew he had, as he was one of the first newcomers to get his stripe removed from his helmet during camp and the coaches have been raving about him. Like with Thompson, Graham showed up to campus in great shape and with the right mindset to put himself in a position to contribute early. Many have wondered about depth along the defensive line, and I think Graham will be a guy we see a lot of this year.
  22. Williams continues to pile up the accolades.
  23. Texas comes in at 23 in the first AP poll of the year.
  24. In a bit of unexpected news, redshirt freshman offensive tackle Jean Delance has announced he is transferring from Texas and has been granted his release. Delance has mainly been working with the twos and threes, but this comes a bit out of nowhere.
  25. Player News

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