Most of us are probably eager to move on to basketball season after experienceing the pleasing aroma of Texas' 90-84 sacrifice compared to the burnt offering of baboon stool offered by Mack Brown and his staff this season. I'm a verbal processor though, and I can't get past the tremendous disconnect between the staff's alleged plan for the season (as well as my own prescribed strategy in "The Eyes of Texas" 2010 annual), and what has played out over the course of the season.
At times against Ok. St., we were treated to what was esentially the offense we ran for Colt in 2006 minus Limas Sweed, Selvin Young, or Jamaal Charles who would all start on this team. We also saw some of the 2-back/motion offense that the team emphasized in spring drills using Chris Whaley as the H-back rear its head in the Red Zone in the 2nd half.
This is the formation that Texas learned from Boise St. and it is, unless my memory fails me, the 2nd game in which we have used it after it failed in the Red Zone against Rice in our season's inaugural offensive drive to nowhere. Davis apparently took this power-run heavy formation that serves as the basis of the Boise St. system and has made it into a Red Zone formation that has advanced just behind throwing to defended Kirkendoll on the list of short-field offensive options.
These facts very well encapsulate what I believe to be the damning criticism of Greg Davis, his attitude towards running the ball.
In a given football game, Greg Davis will select a running play series from his bag of tricks that is supposed to match up to that team's weaknesses, and then use it maybe 5-7 times over the course of the game. He will also run Play-action about 5-7 times a game. Anything about those numbers seem off to you?
Against Baylor, Greg Davis reasoned that the Bears' fat interior would be best handled by running the Colt's outside stretch play that pulls linemen to the edge and making them chase us to the perimeter. This proved ineffective, as our game-specific running schemes virtualy always do, because we did not run it very often or very well.
This hardly bothers Davis though because he views the running game as a probe or constraint to set up "explosive" passing plays. It is my opinion that he has either no comfort or no interest in consistently moving the ball on the ground. Or maybe both, I would hate to overestimate his mastery of a concept that encapsulates roughly 50% of offensive football.
Last week I mentioned that having a consistently good running game year in and out is a tremendous luxury afforded to programs that can recruit top-tier linemen and consistently field dominant trenchmen on either side of the line. Texas should always have an advantage in the Big 12 in acquiring the defensive linemen that make for dominant defense as well and consistently good defense is properly aided by an offense with a running game.
With the defenses Muschamp can trot out every year along with the level of special teams that can be afforded by having 4 and 5 star freshmen with nothing else to do while waiting for position spots to open up, all it takes on offense is a running game that keeps you in games, runs clock and protects the ball. That formula can guarantee 10 games a year and the best chance at conference championships and title shots every single season. This is why we repeatedly see OU and Ohio St. in the BCS Final even in years without loaded rosters. Yet, this is not our system.
Our vaunted jack'n'jill 2-back scheme that was going to be unleashed this season and developed for Malcolm Brown threatened us with the following doomsday scenario: teams stuffing our run with honest or even loaded fronts and then ignoring guys like Greg Smith on 3rd and long while flying around Britt Mitchell and Kyle Hix in pass protection.
In other words, we could have done no worse than we are doing now and probably been considerably safer and time-consuming while doing it. Taking stock of our resources for the millionth time we have:
Cody/Fozzy/Tre/Monroe/Shead: These were the main running back options this fall. Nothing terrifying here but enough talent to mount a credible running-based attack if it were matched with Gilbert running on occassional run/pass options, zone reads or draws. He is currently our leading rusher, btw.
Smith/Matthews/Roberson/Whaley/Jones: These are the guys on the roster that can play the fullback/H-back or Tight End position. Notice that they are really not much worse than what we see on the receiver depth chart. Jones has as many or more TD receptions as any receiver on the roster (yeah, 1) save for Mike Davis, and he also blocks. Chris Whaley looked surprisingly willing and excited to be a blocker and sharing the field against Okie Lite with fellow big back Cody Johnson. Kafka must have wet himself. I must admit, I was eager to see more of it myself.
It wasn't at all difficult heading into the season to see that our strengths and weaknesses as a team demanded a conservative run-based approach with occassional deep-lobs to Goodwin, Davis, Malcolm or whomever. We should have been last year's Nebraska, a team that could hang close with anyone and beat high-level opponents with a few breaks. None of you will convince me we couldn't have won 10 games this year with the talent we have had it been competently deployed.
Alright. Let's move on.
Basketball...the other house:
I experienced some truly horrendous service from the Cedar Park Pluckers as I viewed the Texas-Illinois semifinal with a Fighting Illini enthusiast I've enjoyed friendship with since Chris Mihm's final season (I lived near him in a dorm freshman year of college and watched the Deron Williams Illini team win about 15 games), failing to receive refills of either my drink nor the bottomless bonless wing basket that is undoubtedly shortening my life span.
Nevertheless, this was an enjoyable viewing experience.
The perceived weakness of the team is in the frontcourt and I believe Gary Johnson's line is particularly revealing of both why that could be the case, and why it wasn't against Weber's squad: 6-15, 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover.
Our most tenacious interior player struggled to shoot a strong percentage and couldn't hit the 10 rebound mark but managed to protect the ball and make numerous contributions in a game in which Texas only turned the ball over 10 times and matched a larger team in rebounding totals.
Tristan Thompson's game was absolutely phenomenal and we haven't seen a shotblocker like him here since Chris Owens. Obviously his 4-12 free throw shooting was frustrating and a powerful factor in Illinois even staying competitive but his 8-11 field goal shooting, 5 blocks, 4 assists, 3 steals and only 1 turnover stats were remarkable as he throughouly outplayed his 7 foot counterpart and the rest of the Illini frontcourt.
Clearly Hamilton is our most skilled offensive player, besides his 6 turnovers in this contest, and a good go-to player but I was also immensely proud of Turkish Delight for the first time in about a year as he eliminated McCamey as an offensive option down the stretch while stuffing the stat sheet with 5 pts, 8 rebs, 5 assists and...1 turnover.
Our ability to run offense can improve considerably as we catch on to the new system but the low turnover totals are going to be life for this team when they continue to shock teams this season with their defense, toughness, and improved shot creation.
My only complaint is that we didn't do this sooner, can you imagine if we had adopted this offense while Pittman was here? Any successfully complete entry pass to a fronted Pittman would have guaranteed a foul, at least, if not also a dunk.
Nevertheless, we seem fairly potent in creating good shots for Johnson, Hamilton and Thompson in the half-court and those are all 3 pretty good options.