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Dealing with Pests: Pt. II

I was searching around the interwebs for some opinions to aid me in a planned ranking of the best offensive systems of the Big 12 in the 00's (FanTakers, still open to insights if you have them) when I encountered Beergut's preseason offensive rankings.

Responding to the work of others always makes for easy writing material and appeals to my argumentative side so I used it to inspire my own preseason rankings.

Then last night while trying to find the player quotes I vaguely referenced in "Nickel Rover of the year" I found this:

to which Sailor Ripley also drew my attention. A line by line rebuttal by the Gut. Yes, it's on.

Rover's big beef appears to be with my ranking of texas' offense at #6; in his own rankings, Rover has them ranked #3 in conference.

That's fair. I'm like most Texas homers, I'll get riled up over a perceived injustice to my team quicker than a feminist at an Adam Corolla stand-up show.

On Texas having a weak running game:

I'm not sure what is specious about this argument: texas was weak running the ball last season and the season before, therefore making the rushing game the focus of your offense is a bad idea. What is deceptive about this argument?

Like many opinions you hear from Aggies or even really from fans of opposing teams (and I'm sure I apply here) the deception comes from an oversimplification. If you have a run-defense that's weak for two years and then you change from a nickel base to a 3-4 and add Casey Hampton as your Nose-tackle and Dat Nguyen as an inside backer will your run defense be weak again? Maybe, but probably not.

Obviously the changes in the UT running game aren't going to be that dramatic but when the personnel and approach change it's way too simple to expect that the results will be the same as in the Colt-offense.

In my "Eyes of Texas" article and in this space I've made the argument that Texas' personnel calls for an emphasis in the running game. I won't do so here again.

If the problem was simply the formation which texas runs out of, Rover would have a point here, but the formation isn't the problem. Texas A&M averaged 184 yards per game rushing last season, primarily running out of the shotgun. Oregon, TCU, Florida, and Mississippi State all ran the ball primarily out of the shotgun, and all averaged over 200 yards per game rushing. The problem here isn't merely running the ball out of the shotgun, and changing the formation isn't going to suddenly fix the problem.

True, but that isn't the only thing that's changing. Players and coaches have talked about emphasizing double teams and the planned point of attack in running from under center. The backs insist that they are more comfortable and have better vision running under center. I'm not sure how the double teams element changes in your typical inside-zone but I've seen OU and OSU run the inside zone from under-center better than Texas from the shotgun.

That plus a higher commitment to mastering the teamwork and movement needed to execute the zone-running game should make a big difference. Davis adopted the zone cause the Colts do it and it seemed to match his desired spread sets but if you look at the college and NFL game, the zone is for teams that want to emphasize the run. If you don't sell out to it in practice time and allocation it's not going to work.

Plus we've seen Texas practicing power, counter and the draw in practices. No zone-plays.

Just a clarification here: If you run inside zone, and the QB reads the backside DE and makes a decision to keep the ball, that is zone read, not inside zone.

This is the kind of distinction Beergut is known for and which makes him an occasionally obnoxious commentator, even if he is often right and understands X's and O's better than most. In this instance he's not really right. Here in an excellent read in which Chip Kelly breaks down the Oregon running game (probably the most worthwhile thing you'll read in this column) he refers to their zone-read as the inside zone.

Sure from under center it's inside zone and there is no read to make but if Chip Kelly calls it the same thing I have no qualms with doing the same. Really you could call it the love potion no. 9 and it wouldn't matter. Plus you'd be referencing the greatest song ever written.

Listing Hix as the only starter on my preview was a mistake; with Huey returning, texas has two starters coming back on the offensive line that couldn't run block last season, not one. It should also be noted that those two players on the right side of the line that texas couldn't run behind in 2009 are going to be moved to the left side of the line to protect the QB's blindside. The health of Garrett Gilbert is going to rest on Hix and Huey this season; I'm sure this hasn't caused Greg Davis any sleepless night yet. Rover misses the fact that it isn't Tray Allen's presence on the line that would represent failure, it is his presence at an OT position that would represent failure. Allen was one of the top OT recruits in the nation coming out of high school, and might have been considered the top LT recruit in the State of Texas that year. At texas he has been a bust, spending some time at backup guard; when you go from not being good enough to break the depth chart at backup tackle to a spot on the starting line as an OT, that is a reason for concern.

So close to a good point. While Greggy has certainly been tweaking the offense with Hix as an inferior LT to Ulatoski in mind, I don't think Huey and Hix together on the left side is his biggest fear for the season. We aren't going to see Allen at an OT position so I'm not alarmed by the possibility. He's been a bust as the elite LT prospect he was sold as but he'll be at right guard this season assuming he holds off Ashcraft the entire year. I believe much of his failure has been due to playing out of position (despite his athleticism he belongs at guard) and a lack of a redshirt year to adjust to the college game. At any rate here Beergut is just misinformed. Mitchell and Hix are the projected tackles.

I didn't mention our offensive line in my preview because our offensive line isn't a concern for me. We return both of our starting guards, and in a conference where 10 of the 12 teams run an even front, talent and experience at the guard position is what matters. As for our starting tackles, I will take Matt Joeckel over any offensive tackle on texas' roster right now, straight up. At right tackle, we'll be looking at a battle between Stephen Barrera, Rhontae Scales, and Jake Matthews for the position; no matter who we end up with, we'll be fine. One of Barrera and Scales could end up backing up Joeckel at LT, too.Rover wants you to downgrade A&M's offensive line because we might start two freshman at the tackle positions, but we should upgrade texas' OL, simply because they are starting an experienced tackle (Hix) who sucks at one position? I think that would meet the definition of specious logic.

Matt Joeckel may one day be a stellar Left Tackle. I'm sure practicing against Von Miller doesn't hurt, but he's a freshman and he didn't block Aldon Smith or Alex Okafor in high school. Right now I'll take Hix, who doesn't even approach sucking, and maybe Mason Walters or another guy with college experience over Joeckel.

I recall giving A&M a 3 for OL and Texas a 3.5, not a huge disparity. I also gave Sherman credit for the job he has done with an empty cupboard there. However, I believe in Snow-Huey-and Allen/Ashcraft at least as much as I do the Aggy interior while I don't see how you don't give 2 seniors (one of whom has often been on the cusp of stardom, albeit at right tackle) the edge over 2 freshman.

In the words of dedfischer, if your center isn't a weakness, he's a strength. I think Snow can be even more than that and that's worth a lot. As is, of course, experience in the trenches at the collegiate level. Matthews and Joeckel may look physically ready but being mentally ready is a whole different story. Jerrod Johnson and co. are going to simplify the offense so the freshmen can catch up? Sherman will risk that when he desperately needs at least eight victories? Expect some mental miscues. Maybe in a year or two they'll have the best tackles in the league.

So, when I downgrade texas' offense because of what I see as a poor decision to change schemes and holes in their offensive line, it is specious logic, but when he downgrades Oklahoma for similar reasons, it is sound logic? Methinks he is just angry I ranked the hated Sooners above his beloved 'sips, no matter what the rationale is.

I don't remember downgrading the Sooners for changing their scheme. I don't think they have the pieces on OL to build the kind of running game they need for their system, and Landry Jones, to survive. On the other side I think Texas has just enough to make a similar approach work. I also think Gilbert is far better than Jones.

I'll admit though, I just hate to think of being inferior to A&M or Oklahoma. After all, we generally aren't.