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Filling in the gaps

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Green Bay won, or so I heard on the Radio whilst identifying a Wandering Atrial Pacemaker rhythm and cursing my weekend schedule.

I thought the Packers were a fairly close approximation of the 2009 Texas Longhorn Runner-ups. They operated at their best when Rodgers made most of the plays, nominally assisted with a running game, throwing into tight windows and dodging pressure in spread-sets.

Similarly to Muschamp, their defense was at it's best with 3 corners on the field moving the best and most physical (Woodson) inside and relying on Matthews operating in space with Raji at NT to handle the running game. Sure Pittsburgh could run the ball against it, but an early lead combined with a few turnovers made oodles of power-running yardage useless in securing championship number 6 for the terrible towel.
This is more or less what a Texas upset in the 2009 Rose Bowl would have looked like had Colt not been injured and the early special teams plays by Texas had thereby resulted in early touchdowns rather than the meltdown that actually occurred before Gilbert-to-Shipley nearly brought us back.

Texas Staffing:

I reviewed the strategic changes we saw on offense and defense already, and there are plenty of Mack's own thoughts worth parsing through amongst his thoughts on the recruiting class we'll get to in a moment, so I'm just going to give some grades on the hirings.

Major Applewhite: A

We kept the only young staff talent on the Mack Brown Tree and consequently kept our recruiting class together. What's more, we've paired him with another talented offensive mind to further develop him into a future star for us.

Bryan Harsin: A

The Pittsburgh Steelers won games without necessarily dominating teams by virtue of a stat most of us are intimately familiar with, Bill Walsh's "explosive plays" philosophy.

I learned slowly in NCAA Sports, and I blame Greg Davis for this, that completing 3 yard stick routes and curls can rack up some impressive yardage without actually resulting in any points at all whatsoever and resulting in some embarrassing defeats. Eventually I started choosing plays where I read the safeties and made decisions downfield based on their position, crushing victories immediately ensued.

The Steelers demonstrated a mastery of this concept beyond what any other team in the NFL accomplished. The top 5 teams in the NFL in producing 20+ yard pass plays are as follows:

5). The Bears, with 54
4). The Jets with 58
3). The Packers with 61
2). The Patriots with 63
1). The Steelers with 77
Pretty impressive no? Especially for a team whose starting tackles both went down this season. This is where Roethlisberger deserves the hype for being impossible to bring down and making the big plays that carry the Steelers. It's legit, that's how they win and they've winning a lot recently.
Now, the teams who are giving up the least amount of 20+yard pass plays.
5). The Packers with 58
4). The Raens with 57
3). The Jets with 56
2). The Falcons with 50
1). The Steelers with 40.

The Steelers held 10+ margins in both categories and I will die believing that with a healthy Polamalu or playing in the cotton bowl rather than JerryWorld they win that game. Not taking anything away from the packers, everyone needs breaks in a playoff system.

Anyways Harsin gets this. If I may quote Mack quoting our directionally unchallenged new coordinator:

I heard Bryan Harsin say the other day to one of the coaches, "You have to work just as much on a short pass as you do a long one, so why not spend that time on the long one and have a chance to score with it?"


Manny Diaz: B

In terms of being able to coach college kids to execute a scheme, Diaz sounds like a star. In terms of implementing cutting edge schemes that are adapted to the modern game, he's great. However, his philosophies don't reflect an understanding of Walsh's ancient wisdom. I reviewed a few Miss. St. games thanks to a tip from tdiddle and found a very solid defense that was, however, prone to giving up huge plays and relying on a run-based offense that ran tons of clock in games like the Auburn contest where the defense has received much credit.

I don't much much about who their free safety is, either than that he's pretty good, but his coverages would obviously benefit more than a little from an All-Conference Safety with range in the Ed Reed, Polamalu, Earl Thomas-mold. And when I say benefit I really mean rely upon.

I can't help but think that his schemes are going to make Blake Gideon and Christian Scott look even worse than in 2010. Of course, once we rebuild that position with rangy athletes such as we're bringing in we'll be in pretty good shape.

Benny Wylie: B+

Someone correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like we've replaced lazy Mad Dog with an energetic and involved Mad Dog. That alone is worth Madden's weight in gold but I'm not sure we are going to focus on functional strength so much as we are going to increase the volume of enormous monsters produced. From what I've heard though, much of the stiffness we see in our OL and other upperclassmen has as much to do with Mad Dog's inattentiveness as it does his methods. When guys worked hard in the Mad Dog system, like Orakpo, his "build loads of muscle mass" strategies were effective enough.

Jerry Gray: A+

He's basically over-qualifed for this job. If he can evaluate and put forth effort on the recruiting trail while adding the ability to teach zone to our players (all of which I think is more than likely) then this is the best hire Mack made, the difference is that he's replacing a strength rather than a weakness. Still, be excited.

Stacy Searels: B

Didn't land us Westerman but there seem to have been other factor$ at play in that story. What's important here is that we remove lethargy and find a guy who can install the protections and running schemes necessary to run a close approximation of the Boise offense. I think we've done that. He is more of a zone-guy than a power or trap man but there is nowhere to go but up in our execution here.

Darrell Wyatt: A

I'm suspicious of the fact that the 2 best receivers in the last 3 years at Texas were both over 23 years old when they had major success here. Good job Kennedy, you successfully taught a wizard to dominate within 6 years of teaching and got the most out of a particularly mature 26 year old professional in co-op clothing. I'm expecting major improvement at this position over the next 2 years whereas I would have been nervous about whom we had entrusted our 2010 WR recruiting haul.

Bo Davis: ?

Don't know anything about him. He coached Dareus and Cody under I think Wylie makes the biggest difference here where we can load up on the state's premium talent and simply overwhelm foes so long as they don't balloon out of control.

Overall Mack Brown did an amazing job here. Kirk Bohls claims Mack had Charlie Weiss as his no. 1 target for offensive coordinator but Kaiser Fatthelm opted to follow Muschamp to Florida. Blessing in disguise, imo.

Nickel Rover: If you know of anyone looking for entry-level workers in the Dallas area let me know and I'll shoot you an email, I'll be moving there with my then wife in the 2nd half of this year.

Recruiting 2011:

Recruiting has been better the last 2 years. We are replacing a senior class that produced 5 invitees to the NFL combine with more than a few NFL caliber prospects. I'm betting on the following order in 40 times from our reps: Cu. Brown, Williams, Ch. Brown, Acho...............Hix.

Really, all of them are athletic enough to find roster spots in the NFL and I think Ocho Uno and AJ could be stars. I wouldn't be shocked if Hix and Curtis were able to find jobs as role players while I suspect Chykie's mental weaknesses hold him back. I also have it on solid authority that we shouldn't expect any member of the postal service to do much better than 6 feet tall, if even that, in the measurements.

Anyways, here are my favorite recruits from the new class:

10). Chet Moss: A fellow Cedar Park Timberwolf, helped hold the class together. If he's even a Dustin Earnest I'll be pleased.

9). David Ash: This sounds like the kind of guy that Harsin and Peterson made a habit of turning into Heisman Candidates with superior attacks against inferior defenses. Strong arm, strong work ethic. There is a lot here on campus now if Gilbert stumbles. If you believe in the Lake Travis golden boy as I do, you believe this is a good thing.

8). Josh Cochran: We need tackles like Obama needs good news from anywhere. Flowers may be one of the superior prospects we've pulled in on OL but we should always be well-stocked inside with athletic mashers who didn't have the feet to keep up on the edge, so finding the tackles that actually remain on the edge is invaluable.

7). Malcolm Brown: Really we should be pulling in a guy like this once a year or every 2 years. He sounds great, a workhorse back that you know an improved running game could effectively utilize, but I'm with the other 3 million Texas pundits calling this a small part of the solution. I'd be happier if we could pair him with a game-breaker, which hopefully we will.

6). Jaxon Shipley: Some prospects you can judge simply by what they do on the football field. Larry Fitzgerald runs a 4.6 but on the football field he looks plenty fast. Jerry Rice, same story. Jaxon Shipley is good at the actual football skills that translate to success, I think he's a sure-fire starter and possible difference-maker.

5). Sheroid Evans: We should probably get back to the 4 corners philosophy with Manny Diaz cause our safeties are going to need range to patrol in the 3-deep coverages Diaz likes to use in creating post-snap 8-man fronts and pressure.

4). Kendall Thompson: Manny Diaz knows how to terrible things with 250 pound guys who can destroy on the edge or shoot gaps inside.

3). Garrett Greenlea: I'm buying his pass-protection skills and think he projects to Right Tackle early in his career here with the potential to move to the left side as an upperclassmen. Harsin likes to protect his tackles, being unused to having 4 star talent there, with play-action and max protection so having tackle prospects who made their name in the running game is a perfect formula for success in transplanting Boise to Austin.

2). Steve Edmonds: See Kendall Thompson.

1). Quandre Diggs: First of all, his speed and athletic abilities are everything you would want from in your corner. Second, it's far easier to exploit a 6'2" guy who poor hips on a double move then a 5'10" speedster on a go or fade. Plus, we are talking about a relative of Quentin Jammer here, I don't think he'll lack for physicality and using leverage.

Finally, he's a clear leader who brought this class together for the purpose of excelling at the University of Texas when excellence had been lost. Combine that kind of leadership and drive with those genes and skills and I think you have found an equation for another Thorpe Award. I'm not sure when he sees the field as he's probably starting behind Byndom, Barnett and White but it won't be long I'm sure.