Yeah, I went to the open practice. When it ended, I went home, packed a bag, got 17 minutes of sleep, then boarded a 6am plane to SFO. I brought a BB gun in case I saw any joggers.
I'm back now and there are a two things that will play significant roles in this upcoming season.
First, without giving anything away (Brent Venables reads this blog, as NateHeupel) the coaching staff does seem to recognize the lack of any backside threat to keep teams from crashing on our shotgun zone stuff. The actual plays we continue to add don't matter as much as the fact that we continue to add them.
On one hand, it's good that Greg Davis recognizes that he sucks. On the other, it's been three years now, and the fairly obvious fixes continue to elude him. Adding trick plays to make your one bad play work is like adding spinning rims to an already exploded Pinto. It'll add value but it's much easier to scrap the whole thing and buy a Vespa.
We'll see what else falls out as the season goes on, but usually what you see right away is what you get. All we need is a B- running game just to take what little pressure Colt can't handle off of him. If we get that we waltz to 13-0.
Second, this defense continues to impress. The players remind me very much of the better blackshirt teams from the mid 90s -- tough, big, quick DL with a secondary that forces the QBs to make excellent throws consistently to score. They give you nothing, and fight for every inch. I'm not sure I've seen anything like it at this university.
The best thing, though, is that my soulmate and soon-to-be-stalker-victim William Muschamp continues to spit hot fire. Last season he put every single person in the front 7 in the best place for them to succeed instead of expecting them to conform to some system he learned form a guy who developed it in a different era, in a worse conference, with different players. He shows real awareness of what it takes to keep your guys playing at a high level.
We'll be rushing 5 a lot this year, partially because we can cover this shit out of anyone, and partially because relying on a potentially bad pass rusher and a potentially weak double team taker-oner in the interior is a recipe for 30 point games. If Alexander/Randall (Randall has been playing a lot with the 1s. Look out.) can't demand a double team, then Houston will get one. Houston is basically Tommie Harris, a cat-quick disruptor who becomes useless if made the focal point of the blocking scheme
We're not only moving around our best rusher (Sergio, who never once during the time I watched rushed from the spot in which he lined up) but the movement and extra rusher will take focus off of our weaknesses in the middle and force that potential double team guy to look for other guys.
In the old days, we would put whatever weakness on the field and hope for the best, because this is the way we do things. Now we have actual synapses firing. Our potentially spotty but crucially important pass rush will require a lot of scheming and play calling, which means we'll get caught in bad spots from time to time. We're not good enough to just play, like the Ravens in 2000. Yards will be gained and points will be scored. However every time I see the defense I get more and more pumped.
Another thing that struck me about the group was how similarly they play, which means it's a purposeful direction. Their aggression, their ball skills, and their speed (even Dustin Earnest) all blend together after a few plays. There were no YAC, lots of forced drops, and a few PI's that would be called in a game. We will be intimidators. Nolan Brewster was knocking guys around, for heaven's sake.
Overall, this defense simply has a confident, aggressive sheen that comes out in everything they do. We've gone from a team of dreamers to a team of kids who want to make things happen. If they can make Colt look mediocre, which they did (granted, they probably know the offense as well as the quarterbacks do at this point), then there isn't really much you need to say.
Except for these things:
- Look out for Marquis Goodwin, if he sticks with football, which he probably won't. Lots of potential there.
- Kheeston Randall. I'm just going to put his name out there.
- Forget about Sherrod Harris. He lacks the sharpness that the immediacy of relevant snaps brings you. He's very talented, but he hasn't had to take anything seriously and it shows. He is lazy with the ball, like Troy Aikman in his twilight.
- I am ready for the Barrett Matthews era. He BEASTED some poor end (I think it was an Acho brother) into a crowd of onlookers during a drill. It wasn't just that he did it, but how intensely he did. He is into blocking the way Old Dirty Bastard was into crack.