The big showpiece roll out yesterday was of the new run scheme, which as it turns out is not new at all.
They didn't run anything that we hadn't seen before. The lead draw was a staple up until we went one back, the jet sweep was installed last year, and everything else was just good old zone blocking.
The one wrinkle we saw was a front side pull on a zone play which is just another way to block outside zone. Instead of running up to the LB level, the guard will just pull and meet him outside. The Colts have done this for years, and it's been a staple in Dennis Erickson's playbook for just as long.
The good news is that the offense presented on Sunday wasn't just plays, it was focused. Texas wants to run, and almost all the passes were off of playaction. The ones that weren't attacked areas of the field left available by teams looking to stuff the run.
The real test of this offense will be twofold - can Greg Davis mesh this new identity with the passing game, and can the players make first downs on the ground against teams who don't overload the box.
I like Barrett Mathews, but the combination of him, Greg Smith, and James Kirkendoll is an invitation to press the one good receiver and have the other safety in the box. I prefer to think that DJ Grant will be healthy come fall and provide a Thunder/Lightning aspect to the TE position. Certain personnel packages leave us vulnerable and we won't know how good this team can be until they have to adjust to a defense that has them pegged.
We still saw plenty of three WR, plenty of they trey look Davis loves, and plenty of our old staples. The difference now is that we're seeing them all at once. If a team matches up with a particular look, they can give them others. They won't always, because that's not really how Davis rolls, but now instead of being stoned all game, the possibility exists that Texas only gets stoned for a drive or two before putting a different personnel package on the field.
So scheme-wise, there isn't much to get excited about. But there is direction, there is purpose, there is order to the proceedings. The last time Texas had that they won the MNC. Granted, they had the best QB to ever play the game. This team doesn't have that . . . or does it?
I really want to hold my tongue until we know, lest Garrett Gilbert display Fozzy Whitaker's durability, making my praise for him hilariously premature, but good holy lord is he going to be good. That's all on him for now, but not for long.
DeSean Hales had a big day, scoring a very nice TD on a perfect hash read. The route is designed to go vertical up the seam until the deep safety gives him a reason to break inside, and he and Gilbert nailed it. Get used to that play, because Davis loves it and it's great against the centerfield safety look that Texas will get a lot of.
The others stars, to me, were Barrett Mathews and Kenny Vacarro. Mathews is a good blocker already, with potential to dominate. That he has quickness to get yardage on DBs is a bonus. He could be a Martellus Bennett with good teammates.
Anyone who saw the game knows why Vaccaro stuck out. He and Scott have LB hips and will punish anyone who dares look back for the football. Blake Gideon will still play and lose many a jockstrap to young men his parents told him under their breath to avoid on the street. And, of course, there is no guarantee either Vaccaro or Christian Scott can cover anyone. Earl Thomas did all of that last year better than any Texas safety ever has, including Michael Huff.
The possibility exists, though, that one of the two can learn to make the coverage and alignment calls, and one can cover the slot WR. It could even be the same guy. If that happens, and they get chances to play together, then we will lead the league in forced fumbles, passes broken up after seemingly being completed, brains concussed, and crowds guffawing in disbelief. That last one is not a stat but it will be, just like the NBA had to add blocks because of Bill Russell.
Other than that I didn't see much that we don't already know, plus the tiny internet feed precluded me from seeing any line play with enough clarity to talk about it. The secondary is still good, Fozzy and Tre can win games, and I like the young guys pretty much across the board.
The main thing I wanted to see was some direction from the offense and we got it. Texas won't get first downs the way we are all used to, but this team will be able to chew up yardage way faster. Our old friends 3rd-and-8 and 15-second-TD-drive will make a comeback. The run game looked encouragingly good, though, so there is a lot to like about this coming team.
PS - Garrett Gilbert will be better than Colt McCoy by November 2011. It will probably happen before this season is done (If Texas can run the ball at all they won't lose one game this season and Gilbert will be magnificent). There I said it.