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My Timely Spring Game Analysis: Offense

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My Betamax DVR finally managed to track down the 2010 Texas Spring Game.

Chris Applewhite and Minnesota Horn were kind enough to offer their perspectives a few days ago, and I wanted to join in as well. I'll write up the defense later tonight or tomorrow.

In other breaking news, did you guys hear about Tiger?

A Spring game doesn't tell you much for a number of reasons, but I try to judge all play in the context of when it happened, against which unit, with what supporting cast, and within the play itself. If a back runs through a gaping hole of walk-ons late, I'm not much impressed. If a QB has the 3rd team OL and he gets a ball batted, I'm not very concerned. You get the picture.

QB

Gilbert was strong in the play action game. He sells the fake, gets in his drop quickly, throws a nice ball, and he showed the ability to alter his release point and his velocity (no more 99 mph fastballs to a guy in the flat) to get it there. His set throws, particularly his touch on the Tre Newton wheel route, were nice. I anticipate the normal growing pains of a new young starter (the 3 turnover game on the road will happen, just deal with it), but we're in good hands. We're going to rediscover the play action deep ball and it will be a fun feature of the new offense.

Gilbert's health will be a priority in this offense. We'll see him run the ball on QB sneaks, near the goalline on play action rolls, and the occasional scramble. Our called QB runs are now gone from the playbook. Similarly, I'd expext max protection to make a comeback for us too.

I don't think Sherrod Harris (Shahh-rarrrrrhd according to Ahmad Brooks) was as bad as some of the internet write-ups suggested. Whether he's #2 will depend more on our approach philosophically than anything else. Do you want to prepare a young guy knowing that Sherrod is out of here or do you try to redshirt, create separation, and facilitate a three man succession competition with Wood, McCoy, Ash? I favor the latter, but Sherrod needs to show he can be trusted to play well enough to win a game against an inferior opponent if needed.

Connor Wood looks like a quarterback straight out of central casting. If he is Gilbert's successor, this current offense goes unchanged.

Case McCoy is very skinny, but he's already starting to fill out from when I last saw him. Koy Detmer reincarnate.

WR

Kirkendoll had a catch and run. To be honest, I still don't trust him yet.

Malcolm Williams looked great on the hoof and showed his athletic ability on the 21 yard end around, but didn't do much else. His development over the next four months will probably decide a game in Lincoln or Dallas. No pressure, Malcolm.

Desean Hales looks to be around 5-9 165 instead of his listed 5-11 175. I thought his touchdown catch was the least impressive of his three. On that play, he torched a walk-on safety (#28, Fisher) surrounded by green. If he couldn't do that, I'd be concerned about Rice. However, his other two catches showed something - a twist and adjustment to catch a Gilbert dart, and then a crossing pattern in traffic where he knew he would take a blow. Hales is gifted after the catch and I like him a lot in our rotation. Can't be a staple for us yet because of his size though.

John Chiles sat out the Spring so that I can't mock our coaches for hinting that he's now Anquan Boldin.

Mike Davis will come in and grab a place in the rotation by the UCLA game.

Marquise Goodwin is going to be very, very important to this offense.

TE

Greg Smith is moving better and you can tell he's dedicated himself to rediscovering his athletic ability post-weight loss He's still a threat liability in a two TE offense. I don't like him as a H-back as much as Matthews because he doesn't give you the play action threat and as a blocker, he's more of a screener than a guy that will explode into a defender in the hole and cancel him.

I liked Barrett Matthews out of North Shore and I like him even more now. He has punch at the point of attack when he blocks and he moves really well for a 230 pounder. If he continues to catch the ball well, we've got a Derek Lewis quality TE/HB with upgraded blocking capabilities.

Ahmard Howard certainly looks like a TE.

OL

Chris Applewhite covered what I saw there. I still don't think we have a good marriage between scheme/personnel/execution in the zone running schemes and I'll leave it at that. The encouraging news is that we're actually repping it now, so I expect to get better.

RB

In an ideal world, Tre Newton is my third down back with a reliable stud carrying the mail on 1st and 2nd. I really like Newton, but I don't think he's the every down solution at RB.

Fozzy looks the best of any our RBs running zone scheme, but he's a Faberge egg, limping off of the field late.
Again. I'm sympathetic, but our coaches have a real decision to make here - how much time and how many reps do you want to devote to someone that can't stay healthy, even if they have upside other backs do not?

I saw Chris Whaley's stat line and read some of the internet accounts in various Longhorn media and was eager to see what went down. I had a few eye rolls when I actually watched the game. On a play blocked for 12 yards, he got 12 yards. On a play blocked for -2, he got -2. He weighs 259 and likes to take the ball outside. When he dropped the hammer on AJ White, he had his shoulders squared, a ten yard head start, and a 85 pound weight advantage. And he went down, by the way. Some of our fans are very...excitable. His stat padding runs late were against Texas Pom. Great athlete though. He's basically Eddie Jones playing Halfback.

Jeremy Hills had an excellent 50+ yard TD catch from the flat that was immediately followed by a Mack Brown chat, the substance of which I guess went something like,"Jeremy you flash big play ability just enough to irritate us that you don't consistently do anything else."

When you consider that Hills and Newton have the same exact build and that Hills is more explosive, it's an interesting insight into football and the primacy of will and skill that one guy runs first team as a freshman while the tenured guy is running #5. Not a knock on Hills, just a musing on the nature of athletics.

Special Teams

John Gold has a big leg and we're going to be solid in the new commitment to a conventional punting game. He has a good chance at changing field position for us. He gets altitude as much as distance and he's not going to outkick his coverage often.

We have a half dozen guys that are quality return threats. I'm not sure about Hales returning punts as I question his ability to hold on to the rock in violence. DJ Monroe returning kick offs is obvious, but I'm not sure who we best pair him with.

Thoughts? Questions? Attacks?