Lots of good stuff written recently and interesting developments in the Longhorn world. Were you all aware that you can watch the Texas football team play on Sunday? 4 pm, DKR, free.
Before handing me the keys to the Barking Carnival cell office in Sailor Ripley's dungeon basement Scipio gave some thoughts for the weekend. After waving at the gimp HenryJames chained stationed to the wall I sat down at the BC 486 and wiped down the keyboard to avoid, umm, just as a precaution. I could have commented on Scip's actual post, I suppose, or I could just use this space to add my own thoughts.
As Scipio already typed and linked, there are lots of moves to the 3-4 around the league. The more demanding positions for that scheme (hefty, squat nose tackles and range-limited middle linebackers) are the guys that the big schools aren't chasing right now and it allows teams to load up on undersized defensive ends, etc. It's the right move for a program that can use specialization to match Texas/OU talent. Great point by Scip.
Then there's Nebraska who is going classical with lots of "peso" defense and matching the OU/Texas plan on modern Big 12 defense, i.e. nickel sets and some dominant DL. If Pellini keeps fielding defenses like last year with the talent Nebraska is currently bringing in we'll have to look long and hard about having him above Stoops/Venables and Muschamp on the DC totem pole. Or demand steroid testing for their DL.
In all of this 3-4 talk I looked back at some Texas tape of last season and discovered very little use of that front. Casual glances at the fronts with Kindle playing as a stand-up end looked like 3-3-5 with Kindle as strongside linebacker but a closer look revealed mostly heavy use of the 4-3 over defense in nickel with Kindle getting to play as a 9-tech defensive end. From there he could stand up and basically shoot upfield against the right tackle all day. It's a nice life for a dominant edge player and easier than trying to control the c-gap from the line of scrimmage. Also, it paired him next to Lamarr Houston.
Early in the season we heard from people like Kirk Herbstreit that the answer to Kindle was to throw running plays straight at him. How that seemed more appealing than attacking Randall with the double team and taking on Sacho I'm not sure but running right at Kindle was something that Muschamp did not allow to be executed with any kind of ease. While in the over (one of a few fronts in Muschamp's pocket) the odds were stacked against the defense. First of all Houston was on that side in a 3-tech, then Muck behind them, then Kindle in the aforementioned position.
A terrible combo to attack and Houston and Kindle's TFL totals indicate that. Even when not in the Over Houston and Kindle would be paired on the same side in most fronts. I'm not sure what the adjustment is next season but we consistently see Muschamp scheme to make things easy for his best players and it has produced an aroma pleasing to the Lord.
Magnus had some takes on spring developments including his thoughts on Chris "killa" whale, whom I also like as a power back to mix things up with Fig Newton and Fozzy bear. I'm not afraid of Greg Smith and Barrett Matthews on the field together. How exactly do opposing coordinators stop this?
If they can beat that blocking combo with an honest front that's trouble but I don't foresee that development. Even given the limitations of Matthews and Smith as receivers I don't think you want to face Gilbert with an 8-man front throwing to Williams and co. He has too much accuracy and power to give him a lot of favorable matchups on the outside and expect not to get burned. What reason would we think a 7 man front would stone this running game other the failures of yesteryear? If you think we are seeing the same ole basic running game I could understand but I'm buying in that this rushing attack will be significantly different. I also like the motion out of the TE set into a HB or FB by either Smith or Matthews that allows the offense to dictate matchups.
We should remember that this league is unused to dealing with power running games and isn't recruiting athletes to handle drive-blocking by Texas OL...except maybe OU, and if you want to try and throw the McCoy offense at them again...well I think this gives Texas the best chance against everyone. A 20 personnel offense might get the most talent on the field but the 21 is a good base to start from.
The Texas pro day went down roughly as you would expect. Earl Thomas running a sub 4.4 is not shocking to anyone that has seen him live. As another plug for the spring game, I went last year and witnessed the amazing athleticism of a few guys in person. My season tickets put me in the end zone below the Godzillatron in previous years while last year my seats were from the camera line. At the spring game I was on the 50 about 10 rows up and the difference is astounding.
Malcolm Williams returned a kick where his acceleration put almost the entire team in his dust, his size and speed up close is quite a sight to behold. Then Earl Thomas caught him at midfield and knocked him out of bounds. One fear I have for this season is an increase in long-td plays by opposing teams because Earl Thomas was an absolute eraser who could catch just about anyone and made the sure tackle. Someone is going to love him in the NFL. 4.35 at 205 pounds? This is the talent pool catching up to Troy Polamalu.
Shipley didn't run loads faster and it wasn't really surprising, I came to terms with his lack of top speed after the combine when I paired it with memories in my mind of Big 12 corners keeping up with him on the sideline if not first handled with a double move. Again, obviously he is going to excel in the NFL if he can play in the slot in an offense like Indy's or New England's running levels, stick, or other spread-oriented passing plays from the slot.
My plan is to catch Butler vs. Team Izzo before attending an Easter Vigil with the fam...I envy those of you who will watch Duke vs. West Virginia while I hear the litany of the 2 million saints.
Kevin Berger has his keys to the Bulldog v. Spartan death struggle which I expect to play out like Leonidas vs. the wolf. Butler has out-soundnessed teams all the way to this point but now they face a team with a similar strategy and better athletes. Berger thinks the lack of Kalin Lucas will be caught up to by the crafty Bulldogs and this is entirely possible.
Still it's hard to imagine the dawgs reaching the spartan throat without getting the spear through their own. I also expect a tough defensive battle with the Spartans wearing them down. Then again maybe Hickory prevails with more sure options for late possessions on offense...I just don't think I can pick a team that wins through physicality and toughness to take down Michigan St. in a tournament game without a big talent advantage (ala Texas in 2003).
His West Virginia/Duke writeup tells a story of another potentially fantastic game from this tournament that I can't even begin to pick. None of these teams have an element that I expect to just overwhelm everyone else in the tournament. The ability of WV to switch, described by Berger, and end up with a decent matchup for Duke's athletes makes them a compelling pick to me but I don't think it's enough to determine the game and I'm disinterested in picking against Scheyer and co. and the only good pick in my entire bracket (Duke to the championship). Whatever, who cares about being right, should be entertaining as hell if not Easter Vigil.