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Two Weeks From Rice: Here’s An Appetizer

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Here's some stuff from a couple of sources I spoke with yesterday; neither is The Asset. Shuttlesworth has him in witness protection and I don't have security clearance.

These guys talk to people in the program and have also seen a practice or three. My takes are provided after the info.

Offense

- Joe Bergeron is the most flexible RB on the team and the coaches feel comfortable employing him as a primary ball carrier, as a fullback in split backs, the I, The Pistol, and as a third down back blitz protector and in the screen game. He's also good in short yardage, both as a blocker and a runner. He's physical, skilled, and easily coached. There's no backfield function in which he isn't a Top 3 guy.

My take: #24 = Swiss Army Knife. I like that he is being used to threaten the job security of guys like Cody Johnson (short yardage, thunder back), Fozzy (3rd down back, primary ball carrier), and Brown (primary ball carrier) and has made each raise their respective games. The only function he can't match is DJ Monroe and that has to do with 60 pounds and basic physics.

- Garrett Gilbert is the starter written in pencil as of August 21st, 2011. The QB competition is real and the coaches rank the QBs daily. That won't stop when the season starts. Had Gilbert performed poorly Friday and struggled in practice early this week, would have prepped McCoy and Ash for Rice with the 1s.

My take: We've held that Gilbert will start against Rice with a short leash for some time now. No evidence to change that opinion yet. And JS was reporting months ago that Ash will play in packages when most assumed a redshirt. The bigger question is how Ash and McCoy are handled. Expect to see AND/OR on the depth chart at #2, but the coaches will disguise the actual order of ascension until the moment requires.

We all understand how important the QB position is, but Texas fans are particularly oversensitive on the issue because they've been taught that offensive success can only occur with dominant QB play. There are numerous counter-examples in the wider world of college football. Be open to the idea.

- Connor Wood is clearly on the outside looking in. If he wants to stay, the coaches are happy to have him because he's a great guy with upside, but he'll have to accept his role.

My take: Yup. And if it doesn't pan at QB, Connor would be an intriguing TE prospect.

- We have our starting 5 OL. Allen - Snow - Espinosa - Walters - Hopkins. Paden Kelley has moved from likely starter in Spring to possibly #4 or #5 OT. Ashcraft first guard off of the bench. Think #3 tackle may be our starting guard. Coaches want Greenlea to rally from mono and knee to create mid-season depth.

My take: Scheme and optimal talent utilization will give us better OL play than anticipated, but straight up pass protection downs like 3rd and long will be hard for us. There's nothing to be done about it until we get high level, experienced offensive tackles. Fans will whine, but this won't be a coaching issue. So please, in advance, shut up. New management is trying their hardest.

Injuries would be devastating here and despite what the depth chart says, they won't result in a simple ascension if the injuries occur at tackle or center. We'll reshuffle again to get the best OL on the field.

- The receivers are too unreliable right now. They're not catching the ball consistently. There's no consistent offender, it's a unit issue.

My take: Our best receivers are all sophomores and freshmen. This is part of the natural growing pains at the position. Expect to see a lot of easy throws early to build unit and QB confidence.

- DJ Grant and Blaine Irby are our best pass catchers, but subpar blockers. Barrett Matthews is an effective blocker on LBs and smalls, but not DEs, and he has a mental block catching. Dom Jones is the best blocker, but eligibility is pending and unlikely. Ahmard Howard dropped 20 pounds in order to move better, but results are mixed. MJ McFarland is a pup.

My take: I think Grant is our best TE right now. Young Bo Scaife in terms of skill set and multiple knee blow outs.

Defense

- Team depth charts will come out this week. As early as Thursday, as late as Sunday. Expect some surprises.

My take: Jamison Berryhill starting Halfback, IMO.

- Taylor Bible made progress, but the coaches are going with better motors in the DT rotation.

My take: Expect a steady rotation of Howell, Jackson, Dorsey, Daniels at #2 DT and spelling Randall. We're going to try to get it done with waves of bodies playing with maximum effort. We will revisit Bible when it's cooler weather after six more weeks of conditioning. Terrible weight just can't be redistributed quickly and Bible dug a huge hole. Fat guys get frisky in Fall weather.

- Adrian Phillips will be the primary backup at every position in the secondary and will see the field in nickel and dime packages, despite whatever the depth chart says. Coaches like the freshmen DB class.

My take: I like Phillips and this pleases me. We'll see him on the field a lot. Good to hear about the freshman DB class, though I doubt any of us are surprised.

- Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs have bright futures at cornerback, but it will be rocky early. Byndom's athleticism has really responded to college S&C. Compared favorably to Taje Allen. Quandre Diggs rivals Joe Bergeron for Freshman Who Showed Up Most Grown Ass Man. Good at rerouting WRs in press coverage, aggressive, and loves to hit. Can be suckered though.

My take: We have some talent, but unit cohesion, inexperience, and learning new schemes will be our primary issue. Let's have some patience with these guys. Their best football is very much ahead of them. Young DBs are burned DBs. They build up fire retardant layers over time.

- Positive development from Tevin Jackson, Aaron Benson, impressiveness of Steve Edmond and DeMarco Cobbs, has created rock solid two deep behind LB starters.

My take: It has been 25 years + since we could say that. I think the coaches may have a dilemma in that Jordan Hicks is better attitudinally suited to MLB than Keenan Robinson, but Keenan gives you so much in coverage with deep drops over the middle. We're going to start three natural OLBs and that presents both advantages and challenges.

Won't be surprised if our LB corps totals 6-7 interceptions and 10 sacks on the year.

**

That's all I got. I didn't find anything particularly earth shattering, but any glimpse through the key hole is fun.

Happy to answer any questions you may have.