We've talked a lot about Gilbert and the 2-back offense being built right now and not as much about the defense which has that same old question mark and a lot of impact guys to replace. It's probably a testament to Muschamp that there is so much faith that he'll produce another strong product but I wasn't personally thrilled with how the defense finished.
It looked like Texas had one of their all-time great units and while the A&M game only damaged that perception the Alabama performance knocked them down a peg for their weakness against an elite-level power running game.
Rollonyoubears has a good article up by whichplayagain? about the 3-4 vs. the 4-3 for a college program. He makes an excellent point about the difficulty in finding the elite-level pass-rusher at end a 4-3 requires to get consistent pressure. The 3-4, he points out, requires the 2-gap Nose tackle that can also be hard to find but is still easier to manage than the elite 4-3 end.
For Texas questions about choosing a pro-style offense or any particular defense doesn't necessarily have to be about "what's easier to recruit" since Texas is bringing in NFL caliber athletes every year. Muschamp isn't content to pick between these base fronts and switched back and forth between the 3-4 and 4-3 even in a given offensive drive last year. That required a lot of flexibility between the players and the key is the "Buck" who needs to be able to be that dominant pass-rusher in the 4-3 and effective in space as the 3-4 SOLB (in the Muschamp system).
The 2010 squad may not afford Muschamp the same flexibility. He's got the 2-gap NT in Kheeston Randall for a 3-4 but another factor that made the 2009 defense so versatile in their fronts was Houston's ability to wreck wreak havoc as a 3-tech or a defensive end in the 3-4. No one has emerged yet as a guy worth taking snaps on every down in that role.
There is a plethora of great ends with Okafor, Sacho and Jones so against all the passing spreads I expect to see Oak in the buck with Jones as the Houston-end and Sacho in his normal place. Against running teams that's a group that will kill on perimeter but up the middle will be relying on Robinson and Earnest? to take on blockers and fill gaps, which we haven't really seen consistently from them. Against those squads Muschamp might prefer to use Howell or whoever wins the job as starting 3-tech and rotate him out in passing situations.
Overall I think Texas will be in position to be stronger against the run with Scott starting, the linebackers being yet even more experienced, and Kheeston Randall emerging as a star and Texas also has a lot of pieces to dominate the passing attacks with 3 great pass-rush ends and 3 really good cover corners. To maximize all those weapons Muschamp will most likely return to the multiple packages of 2008 that rotate personnel for situation.
Given this development at OSU we can expect the number of effective running opponents on the roster to be smaller as they move towards a more wide-open attack. The author here, Iba's water bottle, is glad to see an all +300 pound OL but they were better as a zone-blocking unit with a few 290 lb. types who could make the slide step and catch linebackers in space...and with Pettigrew. The 300 types are probably a better match for pass-protection and it sounds like that will be necessary from this Poke group.
Meanwhile that should even further reinforce for the staff that a potent 2-back offense drive-blocking against these smaller defenses can have success like the AirRaid as no one's used to facing it regularly and teams aren't making it a priority to find big MLBs and tackles, run-support safeties and aren't emphasizing the 8-man front as much in practice time.
Taylor Jungmann has been a real ace and worked his friday magic again applying the pillow to Rice like the Chief on brain-dead Jack Nicholson. 7.2 innings and 1 run allowed with Chance Ruffin striking out the side in the 9th for the win. Since that awful loss to New Mexico Ruffin has been dominant with 15 Ks in 11 innings while not giving up another costly late deep shot. You'd like to see the bats wake up more against the North Texas' of the world but at least pitching and defense is a bankable strength.
Fellow fantakers the pitchmen have a post-mortem on the last US team friendly vs. Netherlands. This team could one of the better squads the US has sent out there if all the injuries that have ravaged the team can be overcome. Since the talent level of the US team only justifies excitement if they can perform very strongly it's disconcerting that they haven't been able to work as a team much with the injuries and absences.
Pitchmen also take a look at the top 50 soccer players in the world right now. All the representatives on the list from Spain make them a pretty easy pick as your World Cup Champion but I'm rooting for the Kaka Brazilian team and our Rooney-led brothers from across the pond. After the US loss in the Federations final when they started the game off with a 2-0 lead and then went down under a flurry of Brazilian shots that pushed it back to 4-2 (should have been 5-2). It's just hard not to enjoy a team that plays really well together and has likable characters like the Brazilian team.