This is a bad offense and it's not getting better anytime soon unless we can shore up center, both OT spots, move Perkins inside to replace #66, get Daje Johnson on the field and see significantly more progress from Tyrone Swoopes. That's a long post-it note To Do list. Texas couldn't get push against the KU front and the plays that presented themselves in the passing game downfield were blown, largely because Swoopes can't function in the pocket. When it's there, that is.
Wickson tried to turn the Playbook to page 2 and Swoopes wasn't quite ready to flip the page. I don't blame him a bit - he's just not ready. We had more play action, single read max protect, which I predicted we'd see last week and it looked good at times, but no conversions. We also installed an ineffectual option play (it's actually meant to be an extended toss sweep - we're using Swoopes to try to neutralize the play side DE or LB to allow fits outside) but the one time it was blocked well, Swoopes didn't pull the trigger on the pitch. The others were awful looking and blown up from the start. I'm not sure why the coaches think the play side LB or DE will honor Tyrone's running ability.
We largely avoided the HUNH because if we're trying to expand the playbook and get Swoopes a diversity of throws, those are currently mutually exclusive notions given our QB and OL experience level. I have mixed feelings about this - Swoopes has to grow into a real offense and we need to figure out what we have in him, but the HUNH is also where he demonstrates the most comfort. Unfortunately, figuring out our current HUNH variety would take about a quarter of observation.
We schemed 2-3 wide open deep throws - one of them to Johnson that was easy money, the other a medium difficulty shot to Shipley on the sideline, but Swoopes demonstrated little feel. If we'd hit them, perhaps everything opens up. But we didn't - so we're left looking at 3 yards and a cloud of rust.
The idea that we can keep rolling Swoopes to the same side all season throwing 8 yard stop routes intermixed with the slant/run package is pretty delusional - growth is the only real option. An ugly, painful one.
Swoopes made some very nice throws on the short roll and puts great zip on short routes outside the hash that allowed his receivers to turn and run. He put the ball on John Harris and Shipley beautifully several times- NFL throws, really. He also took care of the ball. That fits the profile of what he's already shown against BYU and UCLA and we want to build on.
He didn't show much ability to hang in the pocket when he did get protection (the Case McCoy self-pressure was in full effect) and he tends to drop his eyes when he feels any defender around him - even when they're blocked or their momentum is just allowing a passing hand to graze him. Instead of taking a step forward and scanning, he's trying to "create" by breaking the pocket. He can't create in that context. He still hasn't come to grips with his actual athletic ability level vis a vis college competition.
He also didn't show much touch outside of his established comfort zone. Predicting when and if Swoopes progresses to the next level is tough to do. It could happen against Baylor. It may never. Until then, this offense is on training wheels and devoid of any explosive elements.
I thought Doyle played the best of the group. He makes contact and keeps his feet moving. Flowers got schooled by penetration on a half dozen snaps, Raulerson has to have a double team to hang in and had an errant snap that caused a turnover, Perkins is not a natural tackle yet and James and Hutchins struggled outside, though I have to credit Marcus with rapid improvement. I believe these guys are trying their best. I also noticed that when they did a nice job of protection or run blocking, the skill players did little to reward it. That's an ugly Catch 22 in any offense.
Gray put the ball on the carpet again and had a motion penalty. No broken tackles. Brown had as many YAC as I did.
I judge our backs within the context of what's available to them on the play. So I may applaud them for getting a hard 2 when everyone else is angry at them and I will excoriate them if they have a clean hole and one man to beat and go down easily to a leg graze. I don't just look at their stat line - good or bad. Or generalize: "Well, our OL is bad so anything they do is fine." I just watch the play. What was available to them? Did they add value, detract or break even?
Right now our RBs aren't maximizing anything. The few times there was something there, they did zero to make KU pay. Special or even pretty good RBs turn 7 into 17 and sometimes 70.
As long as I've written about football, I've been of the "Few Backs Are Special, Most Are Commodities Reliant On Other Factors" camp. Over time, I think most NFL GMs have come over to my camp (and learned the hard way). I've seen special backs at Texas mind you - Campbell, Metcalf, Williams, Charles...maybe Cedric Benson - and I can assure you that our guys are safely outside of that category, no matter how bad the OL is from play to play. We don't have bell cows we can build an offense around.
I think they're the brightest spot on the offense, but they have so many governors on their engine, it's tough to assess their true value. Harris, Johnson and Shipley are a pretty good college trio and it's clear we're trying to bring Joe and Foreman along. The value we extract here will be in direct relationship to how the QB and OL develop.
In terms of pure importance and replacement value, the four most important players on our offense were Ash, Espinosa, Estelle and Harrison. Daje Johnson was our biggest X factor. Losing all five pretty much guarantees what we're seeing now.
The way out of it is going to be a brutal hard slog. And it's not guaranteed.