Posted June 30th, 2009 by BT
Filed under: Feature, Football

Can Texas make it through their schedule and back to the Rose Bowl for another MNC?

Can Texas make it through their schedule and back to the Rose Bowl for another MNC?

It’s about that time to start sizing up the college football season, so here’s my rundown of games on the Longhorns schedule, in order from easiest to hardest. These rankings take each team’s projected strength, plus the location and timing of the game.

12. [tag]Louisiana-Monroe[/tag] (Sept 5)

Why they’re here: Because this is a gimmie game. Don’t kid yourself; this is the Glass Joe on our schedule. In their two games versus big-time teams last year (Auburn and Ole Miss) the Warhawks were outscored 93-0. Best of luck fellas!

Why they’re not higher: Because they finished 4-7 last year and the game is at home. Seriously, the Christians walking into the Coliseum to face Lions had more of a chance. On the bright side, this may be our first glimpse at the QB of the future Garret Gilbert.

11. At [tag]Wyoming[/tag] (Sept 12)

Why they’re not here: Okay, this team is also Glass Joe… but playing at home in what should be the biggest game in their history. Sorry that’s all I got.

Why they’re not higher: Because the got pounded by the “big boys” in the WAC last year (TCU, Utah, BYU) by a combined score of 129-14. Bite the curb, and tell us how it tastes. We’ll try and not make you look too bad in front of your parents.

10. [tag]UTEP[/tag] (Sept 26)

Why they’re here: Yes, they are a small conference school, but they have a coach who guided his previous team to two Rose Bowls. Don’t underestimate the importance of coaching in college football.

Why they’re not higher: Because when you move past the coach, this is still the same team we beat 42-13 in El Paso last year. And there won’t be any chicks giving their boyfriends hand favors on the mountain to distract our defense this year.

9. [tag]Central Florida[/tag] (Nov 7)

Why they’re here: They gave us a hell of a tussle in their place a couple of years ago. More than any “gimme” in the schedule, they probably believe they can beat us. Plus, given where they fall on the schedule (between Oklahoma State and Baylor) our boys could be due for a letdown.

Why they’re not higher: Because they lost to UTEP by 45 points last year. THE END.

8. Colorado (Oct 10)

Why they’re here: Because their coach is pretty damn good, and they play division one football there. Not intramurals brother…

Why they’re not higher: Because we smoked their ass last year, and this team traditionally is not great away from Boulder. Seriously, look it up: the school’s biggest three wins since joining the Big 12 have either come at home or on the a neutral site. Danger Dan Hawkins, danger!!!

7. At [tag]Missouri[/tag] (Oct 24)

Why they’re here: Because last year at this time, people were picking them as a National title contender. Sure they lost a bunch of talent, but I’m sure Pinkle has a bunch of talent ready to shine, right?

Why they’re not higher: Wrong. Sorry, but Chase Daniels was special (for Missouri at least) and Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman are NFL talents. So far, Missouri hasn’t shown the ability to reload and keep pace in the Big 12.

6. [tag]Texas Tech[/tag] (Sept 19)

Why they’re here: Because they beat us last year, and are always a tough out. Tech is the most hit-or-miss team in the country: when they’re off they can lose to SMU, when they’re on they can beat Oklahoma or Texas…

Why they’re not higher: at home. Sorry, I should have finished that thought. Look it up, Tech’s biggest wins in the last few years have come in Lubbock. Factor in that they will be working in a new starting quarterback, and the timing of this game is the final nail in the Red Raiders coffin. Don’t underestimate the “revenge” factor working in Texas’ favor.

5. At Texas A&M (Nov 26)

Why they’re here: It’s the Aggies; they have one good game in them a year and they always seem to save it for “t.u.”. They also will be playing at home and have the benefit of the 12th Man, plus they have a former NFL coach at the helm and a better-than-you-think reservoir of talent.

Why they’re not higher: Because the reservoir doesn’t run THAT deep. Look at the rankings, the Ags recruiting fell off mightily during the Fran tenure (or as they call it on Texags.com “the Dark Ages”). Plus the fact that the Horns seniors are 1-2 versus the Ags will provide a little extra motivation. A+M will really need the 12th Man… hell, they might even need to grab a 13th and 14th while they’re at it.

4. At [tag]Baylor[/tag] (Nov 11)

Why they’re here: Because the Bears have the fastest collection of skill players in the Big 12 (no really!), and now their Freshman All-American QB Robert Griffin has a full year starting under his belt. If you recall, the Bears battled back to tie the score at 14 in Austin last year before Texas pulled away. I just have the feeling that Art Briles has one major upset in him next year… and A&M doesn’t count.

Why they’re not higher: Because playing Baylor on the road is only slightly more difficult than playing them at home. Waco is basically a stone’s throw from Austin, relatively speaking, so the crowd will be 40% Horn fans at worst. Plus, Colt McCoy’s girlfriend will be in attendance, so he’ll be extra motivated. Wouldn’t you be?

3. [tag]Kansas[/tag] (Nov 21)

Why they’re here: Because Kansas is good, that’s why… potentially REALLY good. Todd Ressing is a top 10 quarterback nationally, and Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe form the conference’s best 1-2 punch on the outside. The Jayhawks’ falloff last year can directly be attributed to the defense, which should be much improved this fall.

Why they’re not higher: Because the game is in Austin and an improved Kansas squad is still a notch below what the Horns will line up with. The Texas D, playing without All-American Brian Orakpo, shut down the Jayhawks last season holding them to a season-low 7 points. Plus the timing of this game likely means the Horns will either be locked in on a BCS berth, or at the very worst trying to salvage the Cotton Bowl; regardless, it is unlikely they will have their guard down coming into this game.

2. [tag]Oklahoma[/tag] (Oct 17)

Why they’re here: This is always the game of the year in the Big 12 conference, but with all the late season debate and hoopla last year, this game’s intensity has been ratcheted up to another level. The Sooners are they only team quite in UT’s weight class on the schedule, and like it or not, they’re won the last three conference championships. The offense is manned by Heisman winner Sam Bradford and All-American Jermaine Gresham (who’s caught three touchdowns in his career versus the Horns), and their defense looks both deep and talented. Plus they have Ryan Reynolds back, who’s like the greatest football player ever!

Why they’re not higher: No, really he’s not. This is still the same defense that Colt hung 38 on last season, and Greg Davis seems to have Brent Venerables’ number. The Sooners’ also lost four starters on the offensive line along with their top two receivers, so Bradford won’t likely duplicate his numbers from last year. And to be honest, all the extra motivation is on Texas’ side: they beat OU, OU gets the BCS title shot and Bob Stoops crows and taunts by taking some less-so-subtle shots at Mack Brown. It’ll be a battle, but Texas looks to be a little stronger than 08, whereas OU looks to have taken a slight step back.

1. [tag]Oklahoma State[/tag] (Oct 31)

Why they’re here: 26. That’s the combined halftime deficits the Horns have faced their last two trips to Stillwater. I don’t know if it’s something in the water or what, but our boys always seem to stumble through the first half, only setting the stage for a thrilling comeback. This team is too good for us to spot double digits in the first half, plus the Horns will be coming off one huge game (Oklahoma) and one somewhat tough road game (Missouri) the two previous weeks; can they be at their best three weeks in a row?

A lot of things about this scenario bring back memories from Lubbock last year.

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Heisman runner-up [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag], friend of the working man and enemy to Sooners everywhere, finished 2nd on ESPN’s rankings for top 40 players in the Big 12. Colt was joined by teammates [tag]Sergio Kindle[/tag] (13), [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] (18), [tag]Adam Ulatoski[/tag] (27), [tag]Earl Thomas[/tag] (32) and [tag]Chris Hall[/tag] (37).

Predictably, Oklahoma leads the list with 10 players, 5 of which are in the top 11.

Now I know this list is just opinion and is designed to create discussion, but I see this list as just another example of the seemingly eternal well of respect in which Oklahoma draws. Really?? Travis Lewis and DeMarco Murray are better than Sergio Kindle‚Ķreally? Keenan Clayton makes the top 40 and Roderick Muckleroy doesn’t… really?

Just like last year, OU had 8 All-Big 12 first teamers while Texas had just 4. Texas beats Oklahoma, so which team has the better head coach? Oklahoma of course!

Really?

I’m really hoping that this year is the one that finally turns the tide of respect our way permanently. I can’t speak for everyone, but I for one am damn sick and tired of the team that has done the most damage to our conference’s national reputation getting the benefit of the doubt every time.

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Posted May 6th, 2009 by BT
Filed under: Feature, Football

Do the Longhorns need Vondrell McGee and the rest of the running backs to step up?

Do the Longhorns need Vondrell McGee and the rest of the running backs to step up?

Not that I’m breaking any news when I say this, but it bears repeating: this could be a special year for our Longhorns. A majority of our starters return, our coaching staff is arguably the strongest in Mack’s tenure and they have an understandably large chip on their shoulders after getting rooked out of the National Championship last year to a team they beat. Coming out of the spring game, here is #1 concern I’ve heard/read from Horn fans: what about the running game? Who’s the go-to running back? WHAT ABOUT THE RUN GAME??!?!??!

To that I say… play it cool Superman, play it cool.

Look I know that a run game is important, but is it vital? Ehhhh… not sure. The run game last year was subpar (by Texas standards) and it would be nice to be able to just run, run, run on anyone we damn well please because, in all honesty, nothing emasculates your opponent more than just cramming the ball down their collective throat. I get it, what I don’t get is the panic-stricken nature that us fans are treating this.

Conventional wisdom says you need to be able to run the ball to win championships; however, conventional wisdom also said that a team couldn’t win a National Title either running the spread (until we did) or if your leading rusher was a quarterback (again, until we did). The point is, teams that obey “conventional wisdom” rarely make history.

Looking at it, what makes our offense more imposing; forcing one of our unproven tight ends out on the field and lining up out of the I, or getting [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag], [tag]Malcolm Williams[/tag], [tag]Brandon Collins[/tag], and [tag]James Kirkendoll[/tag] out on the field at the same time? In my view, that’s the difference between asking someone which they would rather juggle, water balloons or grenades. A mistake with one leaves you mildly inconvenienced, while the other leaves you totally destroyed.

Let’s be honest, it’s not like any of the guys in the backfield are [tag]Jamaal Charles[/tag] quality; they each have their strengths and weaknesses, and none of them are a complete back. On the other hand, our receiving core is the deepest and most talented group of the [tag]Mack Brown[/tag] era. Jordan Shipley is nails, Brandon Collins is smooth route runner and great after the catch, Kirkendoll seems to be scratching the surface and the ceiling for Malcolm Williams seems to be Limas Sweed at worst! Not trying to be dramatic, but this set of receivers is a gift, we should use them as much as we can.

Most importantly, we have (by the numbers) the most accurate quarterback in the history of college football back for his senior year. Is our offense better served forcing the ball to our stable of good not nearly great running backs, or letting the most precise passer we’ve ever had in burnt orange throw darts to our studs out wide?? Our run game last year worked this way: run a little in the first half to keep the defense honest, but most of the damage was done with quick passes to the wideouts, which not only gained us yards but also served to sap the strength out of the opposing defenses legs. In the second half, the creases became bigger and the holes came more frequently (see the [tag]Oklahoma[/tag] game for a perfect illustration).

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Posted April 30th, 2009 by BT
Filed under: Feature, Football

Chris Ogbonnaya scores against the Sooners.

Chris Ogbonnaya scores against the Sooners.

Sometimes, I love ESPN Classic. Usually when they replay college football during the “dog days” of the season (May-July) that keeps my ever-present desire for college football that much sharper. One such occasion occurred last week, as ESPNC replayed the Texas/OU 2008 game in all its glory, unless you’re a Sooner. So, with pen and paper in hand, I decided to cue up my DVR and record some observations in hindsight (i.e. when I’m not shot gunning Modello’s and cursing whatever evil demon Bob Stoops sold his soul to). Enjoy!

1. Our offensive line got whipped in the first half.

Colt was running for his life in the 1st half, and our passing game was relegated to quick passes out of necessity. I forgot how badly we got worked in this area early on. The three first half sacks really could have been six were Colt not so mobile.

2. The Ryan Reynolds myth.

I have officially had enough of this crap; YOU know what I’m talking about, cause we’ve all heard this excuse since about five minutes after the final gun in the RRS. We only began to move the ball once Oklahoma’s leader Ryan Reynolds left the game with a knee injury, and IF he stays healthy it would have been a different story. If you need a refresher, just read this OU stooge or check the game recap at Red Dirt Kings.

Funny thing about it… Reynolds wasn’t even on the preseason All Big-12 team; after he tears his ACL every Sooner fan will tell you he’s the best MLB in the country. Let’s look at some hard data:

For the game, in which he lasted about 2 1/2 quarters, Reynolds registered 3 tackles. What’s more, two of them game on his first series (he stuck [tag]Chris Ogbonnaya[/tag] for no gain, and then limited him to a 3 yard run). So, for those of you math majors, in the remaining 2 quarters he played (which translates to five series) he made ONE TACKLE!! Why the drop off in production? Simple once we went to the 4 WR formations, Reynolds became obsolete. He’s your typical OU linebacker, he plays the run aggressively and rushes the passer, but if you get him in coverage he is vulnerable. Three separate times in the first half, [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] either shook him loose or made him miss badly on a tackle. It was a totally mismatch, and St. Reynolds became Donnie from The Big Lebowski…totally out of his element. The longer he would have stayed in the game, the worse he would have looked.

So, why did we start to move the ball better in the second half? Because their defensive line wore down, giving Colt more time to find holes in the zone defense Oklahoma was playing. Reynolds being in there would have lead to him having to cover someone down the field, and we’ve seen that movie (go cue up [tag]Jermichael Finley[/tag] career highlight video, I swear half the plays are against Oklahoma. Where he was covered by… drumroll please… Ryan Reynolds).

One more thing, Reynolds’ replacement Brandon Crow, who OU fans blame solely for the loss to us, registered five tackles in barely over a quarter of action. That’s right, Reynolds’s replacement logged almost twice as many tackles than he did. So, that’s it, Ryan Reynolds is good not great and his injury didn’t hurt OU all that much. The next time snotty dirt burglar fans try to use his injury as an excuse, drop the hammer of knowledge on them.

3. Our “calls”

You know, cause between the refs screwing them AND losing the greatest linebacker every to step put on a pair of shoulder pads, what chance did OU have to win the game? This might be beating a dead horse, but I decided to look into this for the record. There were three main calls that drew criticism: the two roughing the passer calls and the “fumbled” interception in the end zone that was ruled an incomplete pass.

  • The first roughing the passer call was a BAD call that went in our favor, no question about it. This call bailed us out of a 3rd and 14 and probably resulted in a “free” 3 points for us. No excuses.
  • The second RTP penalty was correct. It wasn’t malicious, but Colt was a good four steps out of bound when Travis Lewis shoves him in the back and jerks his jersey. It looked to be one of those “I’ll hit you late, but not hard enough to get a flag” shenanigans that OU seems to specialize in. Keep your hands to yourself Mr. Lewis!
  • The dropped interception…I don’t even know what to say. It’s like trying to explain to a grownup why water is wet; you don’t even know how to begin because the point is so blatantly obvious that any explanation feels asinine. Anyway, here goes… IF a player catches the ball, maintains possession, but when he hits the ground the ball gets jarred loose, IT IS NOT A CATCH!! Invariably there is always some moron who chimes in (usually very know-it-allish) “The ground can’t cause a fumble!” No, it can’t, but it damn sure can cause an incompletion. Learn it, live it, love it.

4. OU’s tomfoolery

Before I can get into this, I think everyone out there that supports the Burnt Orange can agree that Oklahoma cheats worse than a meth-addicted three card Monte dealer. However, that seems to be a common theme in ANY heated rivalry; the Haggys and Red Faders swear that the refs give us every call. The difference is, in this case it is totally true (see Big Red Auto Imports and any game film of an Oklahoma). But instead of making random claims, I decided to game to the game film:

  • 1st drive of the game (that didn’t take long, did it?), [tag]Lamarr Houston[/tag] beats Duke Robinson off the ball and has a beeline to sack Bradford. Robinson grabs Houston’s jersey and spins him (blatant holding) and Bradford has time to let the play develop and hit the running back for a 34-yard gain. There is no way that WASN’T holding! So instead of a third and long (if Houston makes the sack) or 2nd and 20 (if the refs could have found their flags), OU had a 1st down in Texas territory.
  • In the second quarter, 2nd and 19, Oklahoma runs that jailbreak screen and Manual Johnson is a good yard past the line of scrimmage when he catches the ball. That would have been okay, except for the three OU linemen downfield. Instead of a 2nd and 24, they get 3rd and 6.
  • In the third quarter, same situation that I just described, only this time Johnson is a good two yards past the line of scrimmage when he catches the ball. Instead of 3rd and 15, they score a touchdown.

That’s three infractions calls that OU got away with, all which lead to touchdowns. And don’t even get me started on Loadholt; he grabbed Orakpo so often I think he wanted to date him. Don’t be shy Phil, tell him how you feel!

  • In the sake of fairness, there were a couple of plays I thought OU got away with something turned out to be legit. A few of their jailbreak screens WERE behind the line of scrimmage (nullifying the illegal man downfield) and the first touchdown where I thought Manual Johnson never broke the plane (he clearly did).
  • You want proof of the Big 12 media bias for the Sooners? Trent Williams, the All-Big 12 first team and winner of the lineman of the year award, was absolutely destroyed by [tag]Sergio Kindle[/tag]. Sergio beat him for a sack, two QB pressures and drew a holding penalty against Williams. DeMarcco Murray, who was a repeat selection on the All-Big 12 team first team, did absolutely nothing against us, gaining seven yards on six carries. And the Big 12 coach of the year Bob Stoops? He spent the entire second half taking turns looking confused, and then constipated.

In closing, now that I have watched this game for the third time, this was Oklahoma’s best shot. Seriously. DeMarcco Murray was healthy (for all the good he did), Oklahoma busted out their maddeningly effective jailbreak screen for this game (which we had no time to prepare for, as opposed to Florida) and they converted all their opportunities inside the red zone. For all the smoke being blown about how OU was a different team at the end of the season, with all due respect, so were we. Our freshman safeties had grown up, the young receivers had emerged and our defense was playing lights out (allowing 16 points combined it its last 2 regular season games). We could have played them again and the result would have been the same.

God, I can’t wait for October 17th!

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Posted April 22nd, 2009 by BT
Filed under: Draft, Feature, Football

Name: [tag]Brian Orakpo[/tag]
Position: Defensive End
Height: 6-3
Weight: 263 pounds
Hometown: Houston, TX

Strengths: Chiseled athlete with explosive first step, he is the best pure pass rusher in the draft. Uses his hands to fight off blocks and tries to stripe the ball on every sack. Not great versus the run, but not a liability either. Tireless worker in the weight room. Absolutely destroyed OU’s Phil Loadholt when they played, who at the time was considered a first day pick.

Weaknesses: Can get swallowed by bigger tackles, maybe he is too reliant on his speed rush? Has had knee injuries for the past two years, and he tends to play high which leaves him susceptible to re-injury. Originally weighed 215, Orakpo is now up to 263; so his frame may be maxed out. Will give up several inches to NFL tackles, which really hampers his leverage. Despite all his impressive measurables, could stand to gain some lower body strength so he can drive through blockers that engage him.

Overall: Elite pass rushing talent, teams would be better served letting him be a speed rusher than trying to make him an OLB. The knee is troubling, but none of his injuries were really serious. Might get swallowed by tackles at the next level in the run game, but his burst will give him a chance to get to the QB. May not be Mario Williams, but could be Dwight Freeney.

Projection: 1st round, pick 8-15

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Posted April 21st, 2009 by BT
Filed under: Draft, Feature, Football

Name: [tag]Roy Miller[/tag]
Position: Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-1
Weight: 310 pounds
Hometown: Killeen, TX

Strengths: A classic plugger, he mans the middle and controls it. For a big guy he makes a lot of plays in the backfield and was impossible to single-block for basically the entire season. Tireless motor, Miller never seems to stop driving up the field. Very underrated in his career, he could step in and start for a lot of 4-3 teams his first year.

Weaknesses: Short, he’ll give up inches basically every play at the next level. Less than great burst, so don’t look for him to generate much of a rush. Could be a tweener, he’s not heavy enough to be an absorber (takes on two blocks every play) nor is he explosive enough to be a consistent pass rusher.

Overall: Doesn’t jump out of the gym or pass the eyeball test, but he always seemed to be around the ball. May not be cut out to be a 3-4 nose, but could be very good as a 4-3 DT. You can find prospects with better numbers, but I bet you they don’t work as hard. Miller will be a steal for someone.

Projection: Late 2nd/Early 3rd round

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Posted April 20th, 2009 by BT
Filed under: Draft, Feature, Football

Name: [tag]Henry Melton[/tag]
Position: Defensive End
Height: 6-4
Weight: 269 pounds
Hometown: Grapevine, TX

Strengths: Taller, heavier and boasting a faster 40 time than [tag]Brian Orakpo[/tag], Melton is an intriguing prospect. Holds his ground well against the run and is can get up the field well against the pass. Has great feet for a big guy, which comes from his history as a running back. May just be scratching the surface of his potential.

Weaknesses: For all his measurables, only had four sacks in his only season as a full-time starter. Doesn’t have a lot of pass rushing moves, basically just relies on his athleticism. His initial burst is not nearly elite, so it’s totally possible he could wind up running into piles at the next level. In his former life as a running back, he seemed to prefer to use his athleticism to avoid contact rather than use his size to overpower tacklers; that sure doesn’t bode well for teams drafting him to crack heads in the trenches.

Overall: More of a prospect rather than product, Melton is simply just a talent at this point. His impressive numbers will probably get some team to reach for him, but whoever gets him will have to be patient with his development. Might be best served as in the “other guy” role, playing opposite an elite rusher like Mario Williams or Jared Allen.

Projection: 4th or 5th round

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Posted April 18th, 2009 by BT
Filed under: Draft, Feature, Football

Name: [tag]Quan Cosby[/tag]
Position: Wide Receiver
Height: 5-9
Weight: 196 pounds
Hometown: Mart, TX

Strengths: With his Superglue fingers and disciplined routes, the Quan probably was the Horns’ second most valuable offensive player. Adjusts well when his quarterback in on the move, catches the ball in traffic and is a very enthusiastic downfield blocker. Quick enough to get initial separation and makes both the routine and the acrobatic catches, rarely suffering a concentration lapse. Very mature player who leads by example. Strong enough to consistently beat jams, and can go up and get the ball over taller corners. All things considered, he was one of the most clutch players in the [tag]Mack Brown[/tag] era.

Weaknesses: Small, only 5-9 and seems to have short arms. Quicker than he is fast, he couldn’t consistently get deep in college. Played in the spread, so he saw lots of single coverage. Just okay after the catch, if a DB wraps up he can’t power through. May be vulnerable to press coverage at the next level. Age (2926) is a concern to some.

Overall: Due to the long careers many receivers have, age should not be a determining factor. Probably will be a #3 receiver early in his career, but with his discipline and effort he should be able to beat nickel backs and find soft spots in zone. Teams that employ the 3 WR sets would be well served to give him a look. Same size and speed of Wes Welker… just saying.

Projection: 4th or 5th round

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