Our Post Vince Young year and a quarter has been more failure than success. We're finding familiar obstacles and familiar outcomes. Are we back to where we were in 2001? We report, YOU DECIDE!! FOX NEWS!
- Skill Positions - NO - Remember how many times BJ Johnson just ran around looking generally disinterested in anything going on around him? Remember when Cedric Benson got on Sloan Thomas for not blocking well enough in the Holiday Bowl? Remember when our upperclassmen receivers made fun of Billy Pittman for having Bell's Palsy? We may be frustratingly inconsistent, but the problem isn't at WR or RB. They block with gusto, they catch the ball away from their body, and they don't drop easy passes. Our tight ends are vicious blockers (effort, if not results) and we've had the best receiving TE in the country for the last 5 years running. We're big, we're fast, we're playmakers.
- Quarterback - YES - This is not a bad thing, per se. We're much better off than we were during the fabled Chance Mock era, but for the most part we're right where we were with Chris Simms and Teh Major (youth slang alert! Look away old fogies). A stale running game and a conservative passing game, unable to break the bond between Greg Davis and terribleness because we can't make big, unscheduled plays. Now, I think Colt is better than Simms or Major, which is why we beat TCU and UCF, instead of suffering through Stanford or Colorado. But as far as the QB's role in the offense, we're right back where we were 6 years ago. We're slaves to the playcalls.
- O-Line - NO - What!? How can you watch our first three games and say we're better than 2001? I'll tell you. You're simply forgetting how bad we were back then. These days, we can pass protect with any team in the country. We actually open holes once out of four or so runs. Guys come in and get better. Is Charlie Tanner a great OL? No, he isn't, and probably won't ever be. Is he better than he was when he got here? Hell yes he is. I remember how bad he and Chris Hall were in their first spring games. I remember Thomas Marshall looking like John Randall against them. Now they are legitimate, perfectly average players. I call this the McWhorter/Glynn theorem. Players reach their potential, even if their potential isn't all that high. And, as bad as our run game has been, it's not the OL's fault, unlike years ago when we combined bad playcalling with bad OL play and ran for 30 yards against North Texas. Our run game is poorly constructed, like most of my sentences be, but it's not the OL at fault now.
- Scheme - NO. JUST KIDDING, YES - Hunt 'n Peck. Run 'n Fail. Whatever you want to call it. It's all been covered multiple times so I won't delve too deep. Plus, we are better off in a few ways now. We run crossing routes occasionally. We throw deep. That's about it. Our hot routes are still hitch routes instead of anything that has big play potential. Teams know we do it. They'll jump them. They'll pick them off. We still won't run a slant or an out. Nothing to change it up. Our run game is still easily disrupted by run blitzes. We still have no quick hitters and not nearly enough misdirection. We don't make LBs work: we tell them exactly what we're doing and where we'll be. Why don't you meet us there, defense? We'll make it a double date.
- D-Line - NO - There is a lasting image that I have from our 2003 Arkansas home loss. Actually there are two. One is the same pass play we ran 5 times. It worked the first time for our first TD, we ran it 4 more times, Arkansas adjusted, and it never worked again. We didn't run anything off of it to adjust the the adjustment, we just did it over and over again and it never worked. Good thing that hasn't happened recently . . . Anyway, the other was early in the 3rd quarter. Arkansas had just run a play, our defense was huddling, and Kalen Thornton and Marcus Tubbs were both bent over at the waist, sucking wind like mad. They were both good players, but we didn't have the conditioning or the depth to play up to our potential past halftime. Now we have both. Our guys are in shape (mostly), and we have 3-4 guys at any given position who can play. And with Eddie Jones, Lamarr Houston, Sam Acho, Brian Ellis, and Andre Jones Jarvis Humphrey, our future is even brighter.
- Linebacker -NO - We're freaking worse. You take on blocks with a solid, low center of gravity base. You strike with your shoulder and hands. You keep your playside shoulder and arm free to peel off and make a tackle if the play is in your gap, or at least fall and trip them up. You do not lower your head and shoulder and just ram into whoever is trying to block you, you just block yourself. Nor do you charge through your gap completely out of control and let the RB simply sidestep you. Nor do you take bad angles and let players run around you like you aren't there. We've had some poor units under Mack, but this might be his worst yet.
- Secondary - YES AND NO - Foster and Palmer have issues. They aren't overly instinctive, they are short and don't display their considerable speed on a regular basis. Foster is weak in run support, and gives too much cushion in the passing game. Just like Maddog, there is a big old but here. BUT, our young talent is considerable. Ben Wells, if he doesn't rob anyone between now and next year, is a player. Deon Beasley has already demonstrated his ability. Chykie Brown has an NFL future, if Roger Goodell can figure out how to pronounce his name at the draft. Our future at safety is a little more tumultuous. Just like CB, our current starters are deeply flawed. Unlike our corners, we don't have answers on the bench. Maybe Ben Wells can make the move, or maybe one of our Great White Hypes can come in and be decent. Either way, Robert Joseph's lack of criminal mastery really hurts us. How do you get caught twice by the same guy stealing a car? Why don't you put on a bandanna or something if you rob a dude's house? Yeah, it's pretty pimp to rob a drug house, but you have to be smart about these things. Even Omar Little prepares, son.
- Scheme - UNCLEAR - It's tough to say. Our run defense is hampered by terrible LB play, and our pass defense is hampered by our secondary players. At least when we mug we get a running start now. We'll know more after the veterans are replaced after the imminent loss to OU.
In conclusion, are we back to PVY? My super-scientific analysis says that we are 50% better off. You can draw your own conclusion, which I suspect most of you will do anyway. I just wanted to hear myself type.