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Sure this team is young... But what has Rick Barnes done in the last 5 years to warrant him keeping his job at the Head Coach of Texas basketball? Yes I'm going there. I understand he elevated the program to a new level, and that's great. We all thank him for that. But this program should be playing at the next level and it hasn't been at the next level for some time now. Anyways, watching this team play makes me want to pull my hair out a lot of the times. It's like the Longhorns play with 1 hand tied behind their back. They are frustrating because they show flashes of making plays at both ends of the floor but they shoot themselves in the foot by turning the ball over and not rebounding well. My thoughts: -First and foremost Texas needs to rebound better, especially when they are on defense. I've never seen a Longhorn team give up this many offensive boards. There is too much jumping and not enough boxing out. I also woud like to see two hands on the ball more. Sloppy rebounding is leading to balls turned over out of bounds. Rebounding is an effort stat/play. There's no excuse why Texas should be losing that battle each game. -In my mind, it's the same as stopping the run in football... Texas has to have better interior defense. Ridley shows up at times with blocks but protecting the rim needs to be a focus for this team. It was tough today against ISU because the Cyclones did their damage from beyond the arc. But protecting the rim makes teams more one dimensional. And with the height UT has there should be no reason why that's an issue. Inexperience definitely is playing a factor because Ridley, Ibeh, and the other young posts definitely look lost at times around the rim. This will improve as they adjust to game speed. But it needs to get better quick. -Turn overs are still very much a problem. I honestly do not trust the ball-handling ability of any guard other than Felix. (And Kabongo when he returns). But the Longhorns also make sloppy passes. -The flow of the offense still isn't there. One reason why is because there really isn't any who can create their own shot, other than Felix (who doesn't have the best shot in general). Felix is the only player that can drive in consistently and either get to the rim or pull up for a mid-range shot (I've been impressed with his improvement in his mid-range jumper). So without anyone else creating any offense, the Longhorns often jack up a bunch of contested shots and live and die by the jump shot. This could also be fixed if the Horns had more offense from the post players. The ball could be fed down low and the post player would either try to score the ball down low or kick it out to a guard. But there isn't any post player who is polished enough on offense for that to be an option right now. So once again the Longhorns are forced to some how find more open jumpers for the guards. Their best offensive play is a jump shot off of a curl from a screen on a lower block... When that's your best offensive play you will have issues on offense. -There isn't a "go-to" guy. We really saw this problem late in the Baylor and WVU games. Texas really doesn't have anyone to turn to in order to finish games or make a play when they need one. This ties back into the fact that the guards are mainly jump shooters and no one really can create any offense. Again, Felix is the only guy who really can create anything off the dribble, which is why he was big in the Baylor game. But he still isn't that "go-to" guy yet either. Hopefully Kabongo can help with that issue. -The identity and chemistry on both ends of the floor are still a work in progress. Texas has been beat by a team that played well inside (Baylor), a less-than-average offensive team (WVU) that grinded it out and fought for a lot of offensive boards, and a team that made a living off of three's (ISU). So although Texas had some good stats in the defensive category, the stats are not translating to wins and they don't matter. I do like how the guards get after the ball at times, but the team defense is still poor. -Since Texas doesn't have strong post play on offense and since they really don't have any players that consistently take it to the rim, they will undoubtedly continue to lose the free throw battle as well. Do not be surprised to see other teams attempting a lot more free throws than Texas right now. It's just how they play at the moment. There's still more Texas could work on but right now those are some thoughts running through my head. This team is frustrating to follow because they have a lot of depth but it isn't good depth right now. We have to remember this team is young, one of the youngest teams in the NCAA. And each player shows flashes that he can be good. But it could be some time before we see this team actually make any serious noise. Like I said earlier, it just feels like they play with 1 arm tied behind their back.
The college football season may be over but there is still a lot of college football swirling around in my head. As I watched Alabama tonight I began to think back to when Texas made their 2 National Championship runs in recent years and started asking myself what the Longhorns needed to do in order to get back there. Below are just some quick thoughts on the entire team about what I'd like to see changed and improved upon. Offense - QB play must be consistent if this team wants to seriously take it to the next level. Some like Ash, some don't, but I think he will be under center to start the season off in 2013 and he can't have "no-show" games like he did in 2012. He has shown he is capable of having success in the offense, but now it's on him to bring it each week. I also think Applewhite's personality will help create a better relationship with Ash. -Along with consistent play, I want to see Ash run the ball more. I'm not talking zone read or anything like what VY did. I'm talking more along the lines of what Colt did. Just having the ability to pick up 5+ yards at least a few times a game will not only help add another dimension to the offense and keep defenses honest, it also will help Ash settle down much like we saw in the second half of the bowl game. Major will likely also improve on this because Harsin was the one who hindered Ash from running more. Which is ironic since he was brought into games for run packages as a freshman. - The offensive line has to get more of a push off the line on running plays. It's great that Texas has a stable of talent running backs but that strength of the offense gets neutralized when there aren't any running lanes for the backs to get upfield through. -Texas had a luxury by having 3 guys (D.J. Monroe, Goodwin, Daje) who have blazing speed. Many coordinators would have been thrilled to have just 1 of these guys to utilize during a game. All season long I wondered why these three weren't a larger part of the offense. In just weeks after taking over Major understood what speed can do for an offense and fed Marquis Goodwin the ball enough to where he had his best game of his career and help lead the Longhorns in their come from behind bowl win. I'm sad to see Monroe and Goodwin graduating right when Major is taking over because I think he would have used them in much better ways but I want to see Applewhite move Daje Johnson around and take advantage of his speed. -Ever since Jermichael Finley left for the NFL the Longhorns have also failed to find a consistent threat at tight end. Finding a tight end that can be relied upon in passing and block also will add another dimension to the offense in the form of play action, miss matches against opposing defenses, and check downs for Ash. Defense -STOP THE RUN! This one improvement will cause a ripple effect of improvement for the defense. Look at what Notre Dame failed to do against Alabama. When a team can run the ball effectively on a defense it opens up the playbook and causes all kinds of problems for the D. Part of the problem falls on the schemes Diaz was running. They were too cute and too fancy at times. Instead just let the guys line up and go win their individual battles. Also the front 7 really needs to improve on shedding their blocks. Time after time I'd see running backs get past both the D-line and the LB's while barely getting touched because the defenders were stuck on blocks. That should be a large area to focus on in the spring. -In order to stop the run the interior of the defense needs to be strengthened, and that starts with the defensive tackles. Right now I think Malcolm Brown should be starting and playing majority of the games. He is an aggressive player and has a relentless mentality on the field. Next to him I'd insert Desmond Jackson. But regardless of who's plugged into the middle of the line, they have to be able to at least demand double teams in order to free up the linebacker's so they can make plays on the running backs if the DT's can't get to them. -The linebackers Outside LB's (who are specifically coached by Manny Diaz himself) need some shuffling around on the depth chart. My starters right now on the outside would be Peter Jinkens and Tevin Jackson. Sure, we haven't seen them play all that much but both those guys play with the attitude I want at linebacker. Middle Linebacker - But The larger area to improve on at linebacker is in the middle. Steve Edmond may have the perfect size for a MLB and tackles just as hard as anyone in the Big 12. But all that means nothing if he can't get to the ball carrier. Though he lacks the speed to keep up with many of the players in the Big 12, his instincts largely made him a monster in high school. But coming from a 2A school and being a first year starter this past season, his instincts and reactions to what opposing offenses were doing were not at a level that could allow him to have consistent success in the middle. Edmond isn't the most outspoken guy on the field and I'd rather have an MLB who isn't afraid to bark out orders and get players lined up correctly. Edmond can be an effective MLB but it all falls on his ability to find a way to get to the ball carrier faster. I'd also like to see more of Kendall Thompson in the middle during the spring to see what he could bring to the position. Though he's smaller than Edmond, the guy is much quicker and made positive strides towards the end of the season. Either way, the interior has to improve. - The secondary was also a major disappointment as a specific group. The tackling of the secondary was largely in question, though later in the season they picked it up a bit. I think the secondary can bounce back from this past season, especially since they return everyone except Vaccaro. At corner, Carrington Byndom had a down year. But We've seen him have success in the past and I'm confident Akina will re-focus him and help him get back to playing at the level we know he is capable of. Rumors are swirling that Quandre Diggs may make the move to safety. Personally I think he will be effect at safety or corner. To me it doesn't really matter. He is a play maker and a leader, so having him in the back of the defense may help organize the secondary as well. I see Mykelle Thompson remaining at safety with Diggs as well. Which would most likely push Josh Turner to corner. I'd be a fan to try that out because I always like corners who a bigger than the average at that position. And at 6'0", Turner fits that mold. Duke Thomas will also be in the mix a lot more than he was this past season and he has shown flashes that he can be very good. Regardless of how this group shuffles around and who starts where I think the secondary will bounce back from a down year. But their potential to bounce back also relies on the front 7's ability to stop the run. If the front 7 can't stop the run then the secondary will be forced to play closer to the line and have the potential to get out of position more than the should. Special Teams - Texas still needs to find a reliable field goal kicker, and preferably one with a strong leg. The problem is other than Fera, the other kickers don't exactly have the strongest leg. I'm not sure if Mack has come plan in recruiting to still snag a kicker but this is one of the more confusing positions on the team for me because I still don't quite understand why Mack didn't have a better plan to replace Justin Tucker. -Texas also needs to replace Alex King, who was underrated all season long. I assume Fera will also get a crack at this positon. And if he doesn't win the FG job, then I'd like to at least see him win the punting job because I still think he has talent that just hasn't gotten back on track since he left Penn State. -Kick and Punt coverage can always be improved upon. And that's an area where young players can start to make a name for themselves. Coaches -There are still many quality coaches on this staff. I'd love to see Mack get more in tune with his coaches and show more energy with the program, especially since I believe he is close to his last go at it. And I don't want to hear "it is what it is" from him or any coach because that saying to me sounds a lot like "we are still average, deal with it". It's not okay for Texas to be 22-16 the past 3 seasons. Expectations should always be high. -Manny Diaz needs to get his act together, tone down his craziness, put the right players in the right spot and let them make plays. Some creative blitzes are nice, but he runs too many and it caused many of this players to get out of position. He also needs to teach the team how to tackle again. -Major had a nice bowl game performance, but improving upon that to keep the offense rolling an entire season will have to happen if Texas wants to win the conference. -I've given Stacy Searels somewhat of a pass these past few seasons because many of the offensive linemen he was having to use in the lineup weren't guys that naturally fit into Texas power running scheme. They were guys left over from Greg Davis' pass-blocking oriented offensive line. But heading into the 4th year of this transition it's now time for Searels to coach these players into a stronger and more dominant offensive line. There are still numerous areas where Texas can be improved upon to help Texas regain it's strength as a team. These are just some that popped into my head. What are areas of the team that you would like to see improvement in? Provide an area or position and briefly say why. Hook'em