Rice is two weeks away and I thought I'd share some thoughts on where we are based on my observations, what I'm reading from Mack and Greg and Will, and what I'm hearing from people with access to the program.
I also want to talk some personnel strategy.
Garrett Gilbert has the best deep ball we've seen at Texas. His primary issue is his faith in his own arm and accuracy and a desire to fit the ball into tight windows instead of checking down or throwing it away. The problem is that he's good enough to do it and only our first team corners can punish him for it. He's extremely aggressive. A lot of our passing offense will be called plays - play action to the TE, WR screens etc. - but when Gilbert is given open reads with four or five options, he's more likely to push it down the field than not. Expect a lot of "Holy hell, did you see that throw?" intermixed with "Seriously, Garrett?" moments.
They haven't picked the #2 QB and will probably do so in the next week. McCoy was better prepared coming in, Wood has the upside. Obviously, a prolonged injury to Gilbert means a brutal season for us.
I mentioned Cody Johnson as our most impressive back in my open practice report some time ago and now everyone is confirming that Cody is the surprise of camp. He's also pass blocking well and if you know anything about Davis, you know how crucial that is for playing time. Cody will stick his head in there and take/create the hard three yards and he's athletic enough to slash for thirty when it's blocked right. He has decent hands. Cody won't allow negative yardage runs.
I'll call my shot: the depth chart pre-Rice will say Cody Johnson OR Tre Newton.
Tre Newton does everything pretty well and the coaches trust him. In an ideal world, he's my third down back.
Fozzy is a better pure runner than Newton, but the coaches don't trust his injury history and he's a blocking liability in passing sets. So that elevates Tre.
After those three, RB snaps will be few and far between.
Traylon Shead looks pretty good, he's physically ready, and the coaches will play him this year.
Demarco Cobbs is dinged. The coaches like his physical nature and quickness, but think it may be best realized at safety. Expect that move to be made permanent.
Jeremy Hills a talented non-factor. McGee still in the dog house. The coaches are making a concerted effort to narrow the reps at RB.
We're also clearing the way for Malcolm Brown...
WR is the position most likely to have an "all jobs are open" coaching quote after a frustrating loss.
Kirkendoll and Chiles are being cross trained at other jobs to allow us some flexibility as I think the coaches are starting to realize that both on the field at the same time makes us very defensible.
In recent days, both Mack and Greg Davis have made reference to the need to play freshmen and accept mistakes in return for higher upside. They're talking about Mike Davis.
The problem with this group is that the most reliable (in practice) and veteran guys are the least gifted athletically and/or hit the wall against top competition while the less experienced/reliable guys have the upside.
Personnel groupings will be key:
Goodwin is a little banged up. The coaches will bring him along slowly as his composure, good hands, and speed are key to what we're trying to do. He and Williams are our only two big-time physical threats that make cleats quake. They need to share field time as much as possible to open up our running game and the RB/TE play action game underneath.
Malcolm Williams is still inconsistent. Coaches are looking at scaling back his special teams participation thinking fatigue may be part of it. He and Goodwin are the big play big sticks that will allow the running game to breathe. Mike Davis may enter that conversation later.
The coaches have more faith in James Kirkendoll than I do. He will drop 95 yards and a TD on Rice, but I still don't trust him against a real CB. They are cross training, perhaps seeing the folly of what I observed during open practice when we had our best WRs all stacked at slot and Kirkendoll unchallenged.
A four WR pairing of Chiles/Kirk/Goodwin/Williams is fine, but if our three wide consistently features Chiles and Kirkendoll on the field at the same time against OU/Nebraska, our coaches will have to learn the hard way when we put up 240 yards of offense, 13 points, 3 turnovers, and our running game can't breathe.
I shudder at the idea of a two WR pairing of Chiles/Kirkendoll.
John Chiles. Presumably everyone knows the deal by now. In-shape, good attitude. He's going to be a useful tool.
Timmons is inconsistent. A guy with limited speed needs to be Mr Reliable.
DeSean Hales will be a part of the mix. His problem is that the small quick guy role already has some applications.
We like Darius White's athletic ability (Vince-style glider, ball skills) but he's primitive in his understanding of the game. My recommendation is to play him a little and keep him engaged. A redshirt might allow him to stray. DISD rule.
Mike Davis is a stud. He plays early and often. A three WR set of Davis, Goodwin, Williams is our most threatening to the defense. But also our most inconsistent early. So coaches must battle proper execution vs. upside.
Brock Fitzhenry is redundant.
Chris Jones is an Ethiopian. Redshirt. John Harris is a redshirt too.
Six WR rotation as of today: Williams, Goodwin, Chiles, Kirkendoll, Davis, Hales.