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Matt Cotcher

Looking forward on offense (article)

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in Texas Longhorns Football By Matt Cotcher   social_twitter.png @mlcotcher
 

The Texas football team didn't take much of a break for the Christmas holiday. The team practiced all the way up through Christmas Eve, and then traveled to Houston on Wednesday night. After taking a day off and spending Christmas together as a team, everyone will be full bore for the Arkansas Razorbacks starting on Friday.

Throughout November, Charlie Strong consistently talked about how important 15 bowl practices would be for his young Texas team. The tricky part for coaches is to decide how much of a bowl practice to spend on the actual bowl game versus how much to focus on preparing for next season. After the Texas Bowl, there will be a void left by the departure of key Seniors - how much time will Strong spend repping younger players at those positions?

This is a quandary that every coach faces, but when coaches need to find a replacement for a name like Jaxon Shipley, it makes bowl preparations seem less of a priority. Offensively, here are some of the decisions Strong is faced with (broken down by position group):


QUARTERBACK

Realistically, nothing is going to change in the bowl game. Offensive performance rests squarely on the shoulders of Tyrone Swoopes and he'll be backed up by Logan Vinklarek. The decision to balance at signal caller, is how much practice time to devote to Jerrod Heard (with the understanding that he will not play against Arkansas).

While fans want the competition at quarterback to start yesterday, every snap that Heard takes in practice is a snap that Swoopes needs. At one of the only positions on the field where only one player practices on any single play, Texas has a need to get multiple bodies as many snaps as possible.


RUNNING BACK

The Texas Bowl will be the last go 'round for the duo of Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray. Brown and Gray have had plenty of challenges to overcome throughout this season, but to the pair's credit, they've done so without a complaint. Short term, both backs don't need a tremendous amount of practice repetition because they're both veteran players. However, running behind an inexperienced offensive line changes the game - the timing needed to find a crease, and knowing blitz keys are going to be important against the Hogs.

Balance that against letting Dont'a Foreman and Donald Catalon audition to replace Brown. Looking ahead at running back in 2015 shows there is a need for practice time for the youngsters. Not only is Brown graduating, but given Gray's injury history, it's tenuous to assume that the Horns won't need multiple players to fill roles next Fall.


WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

Jaxon Shipley and John Harris are moving on, and Texas has a solid group of young players to fill roles. But with the erratic play of Swoopes, the Longhorns need Shipley and Harris on the field throughout practices. Armanti Foreman has shown promise in limited duty; Marcus Johnson could be a steady Senior playmaker; Dorian Leonard, Lorenzo Joe, and Jacorey Warrick all have the ability to contribute; the question is whether any of those names need to take snaps away for Swoopes/Shipley/Harris.

At tight end, Geoff Swaim has been a solid surprise all season. Since both he and Greg Daniels are Seniors, the tight end position is full of questions next year - will MJ McFarland live up to his potential? Can Blake Whiteley produce the way he was able to in junior college? Is Andrew Beck need full time at tight end? The most intriguing question of all, also has a significant timing component...based on the current roster, how many tight ends does the staff need to recruit between now and Signing Day?


OFFENSIVE LINE

There is no question that the current Texas OL needs every practice snap they can get. For purposes of this discussion, the good news is also the bad news...the line is paper thin. That means that there aren't extra bodies to take practice repetitions for next season.

Looking at the current commitment list, the offensive line is set to get an infusion of talented players. Joe Wickline's work with the current group will pay dividends next season. This group's improvement, plus the addition of new bodies makes the OL a key group to watch throughout Spring practice. Until then, bowl practices are time well spent for the current players. 

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You're right about the RB position, Cotcher.  Texas has been fortunate to have the Brown/Bergeron/Gray triumvirate (now the Brown  & Gray show) for a while and the RB spot has been solid in terms of optimism & health.  After the Arkansas game Johnathan Gray will be the veteran and others will have to step up for this team. It's a definite area to keep an eye on.

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You're right about the RB position, Cotcher.  Texas has been fortunate to have the Brown/Bergeron/Gray triumvirate (now the Brown  & Gray show) for a while and the RB spot has been solid in terms of optimism & health.  After the Arkansas game Johnathan Gray will be the veteran and others will have to step up for this team. It's a definite area to keep an eye on.

 

 

Donald Catalon will be the best back we have next year.

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Donald Catalon will be the best back we have next year.

Well, if it turns out that Jonathan Gray has indeed been playing at less than 90 % all season then maybe he is ready for a breakout year. I'm certainly hoping that's the case. I think given a year behind some semblance of a D1 O-Line will make that happen.

 

Here's to hoping it does!

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My feelings are that Gray needed this year to get his legs back under him. Early on he ran very timidly and without the same explosion he had during his freshman year but I personally think he got better as the season progressed. I would have prefered it happen a bit more quickly but it is what it is. The kid is an absolute stud and I personally want to see him excel through the roof! It would do absolute wonders for us if Gray and Catalon are both healthy and killing it. Obviously so much of either of their success will be based on what the OLine can do.

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Well, if it turns out that Jonathan Gray has indeed been playing at less than 90 % all season then maybe he is ready for a breakout year. I'm certainly hoping that's the case. I think given a year behind some semblance of a D1 O-Line will make that happen.

 

Here's to hoping it does!

 

 I dont think it can be overstated how our horrible QB play all year long defeated the run game(among other things)... The OLine obviously being the other huge issue. There are plenty of successful running teams around the country that have BAD/very average QB's... But not many teams in the country find any success with a bad OLine.

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 I dont think it can be overstated how our horrible QB play all year long defeated the run game(among other things)... The OLine obviously being the other huge issue. There are plenty of successful running teams around the country that have BAD/very average QB's... But not many teams in the country find any success with a bad OLine.

 

^^^ This. 

 

Even with the OL merry-go-round this season, me thinks had Ash stayed healthy all season the Horns possibly win at least 2 games that were lost.... but we will never know.

 

Swoopes and the OL were the Achilles heels for the O this season. Overcoming both those every week is a lot to ask of the team or especially a defense.   I am hopeful somehow the OL comes together for it's best game of the season and Swoopes manages the game enough for the Horns to eek out a win over the lowly hawgs.  

 

We will see.

 

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Ok, I'll drop one. This is something someone connected shared with me in late October.

 

A certain RB being redshirted at the time walked into a certain coach's office and sat down. He explained that he had proven himself in practice after practice. Sure enough, it was widely thought on the team and certainly the staff that this back was the most productive in practice the team had, despite not having the benefit of anything more than a scout team OL. Frustrated, the player explained to the coach that he wished to transfer to some other place where he would see playing time. He had proven himself and was not being rewarded.

 

Coach replies. Says son I agree you've been the most productive. But there's no way I'm going to let you run behind this OL the way it is now. Next year, you'll have a real OL to run behind, but there's no way I'm going to get you beat up like that now, possibly get you hurt before you have a chance to do anything.

 

"Oh, okay. I'm good." and he says bye and walks out.

 

 

 

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I wonder if a certain QB that was red shirted was told the same thing.

 

Excellent follow up question....

 

and due to that OL, perhaps this same certain QB was also held back to keep him from losing confidence in himself and by others.

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If we don't get a dependable quarterback, we are in deep doo-doo.

 

I think Swoopes made a lot of progress and did so without a consistent running game. That being said I want to see more competition at the QB position. My biggest concern with Swoopes is he could not execute the zone read and didn't have the pocket presence I would like to see in my QB.

 

We are in deep doo-doo without a better running game. 

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I think Swoopes made a lot of progress and did so without a consistent running game. That being said I want to see more competition at the QB position. My biggest concern with Swoopes is he could not execute the zone read and didn't have the pocket presence I would like to see in my QB.

 

We are in deep doo-doo without a better running game. 

Baylor game vs TCU game ???........A passing game will open up the run game quicker than a good OL. Even with a good OL the defense can stack the box against the run if there is little threat of the pass. We are in deep if we don't get a QB.

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