How we've handled our QBs.
The media tried their best to conjure the bogeyman of a two QB system in Fall Camp, ignoring some pretty basic context clues that Brown was being gracious to an improved Case McCoy, assuring his buy-in, and wanted to exert some subtle pressure on David Ash. Eventually, they caught up to the bloggers at BC and BON, following our trail of sarcastic bread crumbs.
My concern had nothing to do with the actual starter. We knew that after the Holiday Bowl back in December. My concern was that we'd unduly shield our QB development behind a strong running game and leave our non-conference slate without getting enough reps in the passing game.
82 passing attempts, 8 passing TDs, 0 interceptions, and 255.7 passing yards per game later, running an offense that's 58% run, 42% pass, we're headed to Stillwater with David Ash light years ahead of where he was last year with an improved back-up that our coaches trust.
The focus on giving Ash some early wins in the passing game, getting him to understand his role in the offense, but then urging (read: demanding) him to let it go when the match-ups favor Texas downfield was well played. Like convincing a good shooter that passing up an open shot is actually selfish, our coaches have simultaneously gotten Ash to understand the value of throwing a ball away or checking down while understanding that he's expected to make plays, not be an automaton. Ash still has several more phases in his development and there will be growing pains with each, but right now I couldn't be more happy with our QB coaching and game planning.
Bryan Harsin wins a place on the TLC reality series, The Quarterback Whisperer.
Use of our RBs.
Our two best backs each have only 37 carries. Freshman Johnathan Gray has seen solid playing time (21 carries) and the coaches are clearly breaking him in for a larger role. DJ Monroe and Daje Johnson have flourished in their roles with limited touches (17 combined touches, 153 yards, 4 TDs) in a position built around their strengths, instead of lamenting what they can't do as traditional runners or wide receivers and consigning them to the deep bench.
We've also worked our RBs beautifully into the passing game. The unit has caught 20 balls for 225 yards and 2 TDs and the offense has been outstanding at utilizing them in the screen and check down game. I can't be the only person to notice that we can actually run competent RB screens now? We haven't had that since John Mackovic was here swigging port and wagging his finger at us. Even Jeremy Hills looks scrimmagey.
All told, our RBs are averaging 278 yards per game in yards from scrimmage and have scored 11 TDs. If that seems like a lot, it is. And if it doesn't feel like they're gaining that much, that's because it's distributed over six athletes in every phase of our offense.
Major Applewhite, I award you a keg of SPF-100 sunscreen and a Prince Harry Gingers Rule! wall poster.
An OL that's physical and mentally engaged.
Two of them are probably playing a year or two early, and they have some flaws as a unit, but what a refreshing change in terms of physicality, attention to detail, and basic mental investment. Donald Hawkins has been a godsend at LT, Josh Cochran has been ultra-reliable for a sophomore, Hopkins and Walters have been our two best OL, and Espinosa has improved. Even our 2nd team OL play is drawing praise. As a unit, they're notably more athletic, mobile, and in better shape than any group since 2006. I take my hat off to Stacy Searels and Bennie Wylie. And then Searels will throw it at me.
Stacy Searels is awarded a razor lined sombrero. Bennie Wylie gets a Zumba Groupon.
Depth on our DL
The four defensive tackles rotation has been good enough to keep a freshman as talented as Malcom Brown on the bench while Okafor and Jeffcoat have been as good as promised. Although our depth at DE isn't quite at DT levels, Reggie Wilson and Cedric Reed have played well in their snaps, and can help us in Big 12 play. Having eight defensive linemen is a great luxury. Nice job Giles and Davis.
Here's a quarterback themed pinata full of brisket and Lou Rawls CDs.
We don't appreciate what a special player he is. The most consistent player on our defense. A 215 pound enforcer athletic enough to man up and erase slot receivers and re-route them so severely they end up in Quandre Diggs' zone drop, but instinctive enough to line up at deep safety, play two verticals at once, and pluck an interception in stride like he was the intended receiver. A reliable tackler, big hitter, and a good blitzer. Kenny is proving to be one of most unique, well-rounded players in the storied tradition of DBU.
I offer Kenny outstretched open palms and a smile indicating FRIEND. FRIEND, KENNY. FRIEND.
What are you happy about?