On the heels of three offensive slogs and an SJSU seal clubbing, the Longhorn offense finally put on a show against a legitimate opponent that was as fun to watch as it was effective.
So let’s watch it again, shall we?
The Longhorn ground game was a mixed bag in this one, but it becomes a much more interesting mixed bag with Sam Ehlinger at the helm. 40 carries at 4.2 yards a pop feels fairly pedestrian, but when you consider that:
- It doesn’t account for a pair of “passes” to Reggie Hemphill-Mapps that totaled 16 yards on this week’s Jet Sweep wrinkle
- We had a ton of short yardage/red zone carries against stacked boxes, and
- We were playing the Purple Wizard
It was definitely Texas’ best opponent-adjusted ground game on the season and offers plenty of stuff to build on against the Sooners and the rest of the Big XII slate.
Texas’ most effective runs were the QB Power/Inverted Read looks that we ran several times with Toneil Carter and once with Chris Warren. It’s not something you’d run 20 times a game, but it’s the foundation of a solid identity running the ball out of 10 personnel - particularly if your receivers are up to the task of blocking out wide, where our guys turned in their best work of the season to date. We’re still having trouble getting our tackles up to the Mike linebacker (which usually means he gets effectively double teamed as the pulling guard has to pick him up,) but we’re not screwed on numbers because the playside defensive end is unblocked by design and read by Ehlinger. If he gets too wide chasing the back, Ehlinger can pull and head up the gut - something that should encourage a little indecision from the Mike after a time or two.
The QB Counter game also shows some promise, and it was nice to see both Kyle Porter and Chris Warren throw effective blocks from that look. Vahe in particular is excellent nailing his guy on the pull, and Ehlinger has the patience to let the play develop along with the power to get through arm tackles - or put a forearm shiver in the safety’s face.
Our Jet Sweep game looks a lot nicer with Reggie Hemphill-Mapps getting the ball, and it’s timed up well with the pop pass variant to get him around the initial corner while freezing the DE with a little head fake from the H-back. Brewer has impressed as a guy who’ll hit his targets on the move, Porter is obviously a bad MF as a lead blocker and Lil’Jordan is getting nastier by the game as a blocker in his own right. It’s also a play that sets up a ton of wrinkles depending on how the defense responds, from play action passing to running some counter action against a fast-flowing D:
Our QB Draw game will be a major pain in the ass, and should keep DT’s from attacking our guards’ outside shoulders with abandon while ensuring that the D needs to keep a guy home in the middle.
Our base zone game is still very much a work in progress, though it feels a lot better when the left tackle isn’t consistently getting beat across his face. Our work on point-of-attack double teams feels like it’s taken a step back from last season and it’s hopefully something Warehime spends time on this week.
Sam Ehlinger may be the straw that stirs the drink, but it helps when the drink has the right ingredients - AKA 10 personnel with Collin Johnson, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and Lil’Jordan Humphrey on the field sans a liability at left tackle.
The most stirring component of Ehlinger’s game on Saturday was his poise in the pocket. Some of that is between the ears, and some of it is below the waist - a set of brass balls combined with confidence in his legs to make him escapable. From subtle slides and half-rolls away from pressure, to scrambling with his eyes downfield to make a play, to showing a great take-off sense when the middle vacated to simply pulling some Houdini shit when the rush got home, that’s not the kind of game you expect from a true freshman making his third career start.
Ehlinger’s ability to be accurate on the move on both designed rollouts and scrambles could be his most important attribute on Saturday. Denzel Okafor played admirably at a new position following a trip to the bench, but he’s still opening up too quickly against an upfield rush and Ogbo Okoronkwo is the kind of edge player who can make him pay for it. We’ll probably be moving the pocket a good bit against the Land Thieves and Sam will need to keep thriving on the move.
The other big offshoot of Ehlinger’s addition to the offense is the impact of 10 personnel - and specifically, a second receiver in the boundary - on Collin Johnson. While Reggie Hemphill-Mapps has been tremendously productive and several other guys have had their moments, #9 still defines this offense’s ceiling. When he’s the lone threat to the boundary (or we have a non-threatening TE or H-back aligned to the boundary side,) the league’s safeties get to swipe over and double-team Johnson with impunity while still having license to get downhill and get involved in the run game. Slide Lil’Jordan Humphrey out there, though, and the calculus changes. With Humphrey able to threaten the seam or wheel up the sideline, Johnson finds himself with a ton of room to work inside on slants, screens, skinny posts and dig routes. As corners are forced to play him more honestly without reliance on deep help, we should start seeing more nine routes and the sophomore superstud can finally come into full flower.
What we saw on Saturday night felt like the foundation - finally - of a winning offensive identity, and Ehlinger’s ability to key 10 personnel is at the very heart of it. There will be plenty of bumps in the road as DC’s look for ways to bamboozle a true frosh...but as Denzel Goolsby found out in overtime, those bumps go both ways.
It’s 12:13 PM, and OU still sucks.