I suspect Saturday night’s Texas vs. Rice happenings made the Big Cigar’s evening rather satisfying. Just after David Ash and Jaxon Shipley took back-to-back Wildcat snaps I pictured El Cohiba Grande somewhere high up in the sky from his perch in a plush DKR box with his custom Lucchese’s kicked-up and a giant grin partially hidden by a newly lit Cuban. To borrow from parlin hall, there’s no doubt the ice in his Scotch felt good on his teeth.
This does not discount any of the golden information gleaned from The Asset who’s been nails throughout the off season. It's been overlooked, but we saw Desmond Jackson in a five-tech vs Rice as he predicted among a million other observations that he nailed, and we’ll have much more from The Asset on Thursday.
For now the Cigar gets center stage, so pull up a seat and enjoy some time in the humidor.
JS: So you have to be pretty satisfied with how everything turned out Saturday. Were you smiling from ear to ear when Ash played?
BC: (Chuckling) I told you we had an Ash package. I was smiling because it proved that there’s a new era on the 40. New offense, new defense, and even a new Mack Brown. He’s giving his coordinators more autonomy to not only call plays, but choose personnel, and even in recruiting. It’s exciting.
JS: So what have you heard about expanding the Ash package and what that will entail going forward? Of course we don’t want you to give away specifics but what can we expect as fans from a high level?
BC: Well certainly Ash will be throwing the ball more than he did Saturday. He’s probably the most accurate of the three QB’s, so there’s that. He’ll also keep the ball some because he’s got good speed and quickness, but more importantly he’s put in the work in the weight room to absorb the pounding. I predict he throws the ball 5 or more times vs. BYU and is more involved than he was Saturday in terms of numbers of snaps.
JS: I noticed Ash got out in front of one play and made a pretty physical block. He’s certainly not afraid of contact.
BC: Yep, which is why you’ll see him keep some especially in an option situation out of the spread look. As far as throwing the ball I was surprised we didn’t let him throw in some four wide situations, but we’re bringing him along slowly.
JS: The spread look would make sense against BYU considering their strength is in their linebacking corp. I would think we’d try to get them in nickel and dime and test their secondary depth and get those monster linebackers off the field so I hope we do spread them out. But what are you hearing about the rest of the offense? Start with the Oline.
BC: Searels was pleased with his tackle play for the most part. He knows he’s got to help Allen in pass pro when he can, but Hopkins played like a rock at RT. Espinosa and Walters graded out high as well. Searels pulled Snow in the second half and was pretty upset with his play I was told. Porter came in at guard and they pulled Sedrick Flowers’ redshirt as a guard for depth as well which was surprising. That’s the thing about this team though, you can’t get comfortable in your position even if you're a senior starter because some young kid is going to take your spot if you let down. I betcha David got that message and will be fine for BYU. But if not, they won’t hesitate to go to plan B.
As for running backs, your other guys had it exactly right (The Asset) when they said Malcolm Brown was showing signs of separating. He’ll get starters snaps Saturday while Fozzy and Bergeron will get their specialized roles. The coaches were vocal in meetings Sunday about how Brown was finishing runs, moving piles, and punishing tacklers. There’s a reason Rice wanted no part of tackling Fozzy Whitaker on that last screen pass for a TD. Brown and to an extent Bergeron just made them quit with the pounding.
JS: Yeah, a buddy of mine said they did exactly what hunting dogs do around a campfire—lay down. What about the QB situation? Any news you can share on how that’s going?
BC: Not really. They know how special Ash is but they don’t want to throw too much at him unless he’s ready. He’ll continue to get more and more snaps as the year wears on. As for Gilbert, they’re trying to get him to play like he did the last two weeks of August when he was scanning the field and going through his progressions. The coaches were really excited about his play towards the end of fall camp but they feel like he regressed a bit in the Rice game. Coach Harsin made it a point of showing Gilbert the difference in how he surveys the field from August practice to Saturday’s game so they’re addressing the issue--he just has to do it when the lights are on. Overall, Gilbert is still the guy unless he plays poorly.
The receivers played pretty well but for a couple of missed blocks in the run game and some bad drops. Shipley has been a pleasant surprise and he’ll be involved more in the Wildcat game because he’s got good decision making skills, a punt returner’s moves, and about the quickest feet on the team. But the best thing about being in the Wildcat is that we don’t tip our hand in the huddle based on personnel like we might with Fozzy and DJ in the game. The rumor is that there’s a triple option look with Shipley as the trigger man with DJ in the game, but that’s all I can say.
One other tidbit from the wide receiving corps is that the staff would like a jump ball guy to emerge—someone like Darius White. White can do some damage in the run game but they want a guy who can win physical battles. Look for Onyegbule to get more snaps in this role if White falters.
JS: Defensively, there was a lot of squawking about how poorly the front 7 played against Rice’s rushing attack. Have you heard anything about how the coaches are handling that issue?
BC: Manny Diaz was composed during the game being more of a teacher than a yeller, but in film study he was livid because guys were playing the wrong technique or the wrong gaps which lead to the few gashes the Owls had. I’m told Diaz is entirely confident in his personnel in the front 7, and that it’s just a matter of tightening up the assignment aspect of the game. As for DT's, Desmond Jackson had a great game. It wasn’t surprising that Rice struggled in the second half with Desmond getting most of the snaps alongside Randall. One of the coaches commented that, "If you want to double team our true freshman DT and leave an all-American like Randall one on one, be my guest."
JS: We also noticed Jackson lined up as a 5-tech on a third down or two. Any thoughts there?
BC: That’s just Diaz being Diaz. He’s a mad scientist.
JS: What about the secondary and the linebackers?
BC: Nothing much there. The coaches know that this is the game we’ll find out about our secondary. BYU is going to be more aggressive in their QB drops and pass pro than Rice, and to try to get the ball downfield. Our DE’s better come to play along with our young corners. Phillips probably won’t come off the field if we can help it, because he's that important.
As for the linebackers, Steve Edmond really impressed the staff. He owned the triangle inside and made one of the most impressive plays a freshman LB can make with the tackle on third and short in space against Rice’s tailback. The kid is just a pure football player and will get more snaps as the season goes. He’ll be really tough to keep off the field.
JS: Finally, our readers continue to ask about realignment. Do you have anything new on that front?
BC: I know that Bellmont is somewhat caught off guard by OU being in a big hurry to force things. Remember, I told you that if Boren starts doing the talking instead of Castiglione, then that would muck up the revamped Big 12 route that Texas wanted to take. Boren does not trust Texas and that’s the main reason there’s a rift between he and Castiglione—Boren doesn’t think Texas has OU’s best interests at heart so he’s asked Castiglione to sit this one out. Texas was pretty happy with their ability to get Baylor to stand down and allow A&M to leave, but just like a game of whack-a-mole, another problem popped up. Buckle your seat-belts.
I still don’t think the Pac 16 is a viable option unless they allow the LHN. We’d be leaving potentially billions on the table by jumping ship and giving up the Network if Larry Scott sticks to his guns on individual networks. We’d probably go independent before we scrap our TV deal.
JS: We appreciate you as always. Stop by the tailgate this weekend if you can.
BC: Thanks, I’ll try.