Vondrell McGee gets the opening week start, is he the answer at running back?

Vondrell McGee gets the opening week start, is he the answer at running back?

So we know what we know about this year’s team (channeling my inner Aflac commercial). Texas has a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, experience at every position excluding tight end and Will Muschamp is a deity. We got it.

But what don’t we know? Even with the high expectations, there are some unanswered questions that could grow into concerns as the season moves forward.

1. Will a running back step up?

The same question was raised prior to last season. The question went unanswered all season, and Texas still was one second away from playing for a national title. Heading into the offseason, and into spring practice, the word was Cody Johnson had stepped up and was ready for 20+ carries a game.

That was four months ago. The week of the game, it appears the team is exactly where they were one year ago. Vondrell McGee will get the first look, Fozzy Whittaker is showing flashes of talent when he isn’t hanging out with the training staff and Cody Johnson is great in short yardage but not in shape enough to handle the load.

The loan difference is new comer Chris Whaley. The true freshman was given every opportunity to take the starting spot, but his weight and the adjustment to big time D-1 football is proving tough.

Texas may not have to run the ball to be successful, but Mack Brown sure wants to. If this team can establish a run game in Lubbock who knows what would have happened. McGee has the talent to be the lead back. The question is will Greg Davis stick with him consistently enough for him to prove it. I’m not sure Davis, or Brown, know the answer.

2. Can Texas play without a tight end?

If a team is going to have a string of tough injuries, it might as well all happen at one position. Especially at a position that last year’s group proved they didn’t need for the majority of snaps. But the loss of Blaine Irby, DJ Grant, etc., etc. may give Texas no choice but to play without a tight end.

Despite the success of last season’s offense, the Longhorns need to be able to line up with a tight end in passing and rushing situations. Without the option teams will know what kind of play is coming by the personnel that are on the field. Texas is too good for most teams on its schedule to compete either way, but in the big games the Longhorns need the flexibility. Especially with an offensive line that has proven to be road graders in the run game.

Dan Buckner has stepped up. And Greg Smith is still around to block and deflect balls to the other team. But neither is an all around tight end that can block and stretch the defense. The Longhorns offense works best with a pass catching tight end, so Buckner is the odds on favorite to win the job. But he has never had to block at this level, and it hasn’t been proven he can stay healthy while taking on defensive ends and linebackers on a play to play basis.

Texas will field a good offense either way, but without the threat of a tight end they simply can’t be one of the best two teams in the country.

3. Is the lack of depth at defensive tackle a real concern?

For most teams in the country this would be an easy yes, but in the Big 12 I’m not so sure. And how bad can the depth really be when you’re Texas? Most fans, and coaches, around the country would kill for Lamarr Houston, Ben Alexander and a couple of big time recruits to enter the season at defensive tackle.

Texas has been spoiled at the position over the last decade. It seems like every year Texas has two or three big guys in the middle that are sure fire NFL guys. The difference this year is the fans aren’t aware of the other two yet. Meet Kheeston Randall and Calvin Howell. These two young guys have the talent, and Randall has the years in the program to make a splash. Howell isn’t ready to compete every down, but he can help out in spots. That is four guys right there that can give you snaps, and one of them is an all-conference caliber player in a conference where maybe two teams try to run up the middle on a consistent basis.

If that is the biggest question mark for the defense, Big 12 coaches are in trouble.

4. Are Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho ready?

Roddrick Muckelroy won’t leave the field. Jared Norton is a senior, and will anchor the middle, but what about the other outside linebacker spot? And maybe more importantly, who will play in nickel packages?

The answer to both questions is either Robinson or Acho. It may be both. The two sophomores are battling for the starting spot with Robinson slightly out in front. Robinson is an aggressive player with the athleticism to play the pass as well as anyone in the linebacking unit. That strength may make him the starter because of the types of offenses Texas faces on a consistent basis. Acho is a smart player with the ability to blitz. Sounds like a Muschamp guy to me.

Norton has struggled on passing downs. He has also struggled with injuries this preseason. If one, or both, of these guys step up when the real games begin the Longhorns will be in excellent shape.

5. Can Texas replace the leadership of Brian Orakpo, Quan Cosby and Roy Miller?

Yes, Texas has Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley on offense, but what about defense? Sergio Kindle is the best defensive lineman, but he is admittedly not the public speaking type. Muckelroy leads the linebacking unit, but he does it quietly. And the guys in the secondary are finally comfortable with the layout of the campus.

So who is the guy? Muschamp says Lamarr Houston and Earl Thomas. I think Houston emerges this season as one of the best players in the conference. And I think Thomas plays so well the chatter of leaving early starts, well early. And both of those predictions are based on Muschamp’s perceived leadership out of the two.

It is hard to be a great player without being a great leader. It is not impossible, but I think it is hard. Houston has the ability when he is healthy. Thomas has improved a ton from last year to right now. The talent is there, if the leadership competes with what the Longhorns have on the offensive side of the ball then the comparisons to the 2005 championship team may be fair. If no one steps up, Texas will drop a game they shouldn’t.

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Posted July 14th, 2009 by Mike
Filed under: Feature, Football

Will Keenan Robison blow up at linebacker in 2009?

Will Keenan Robison blow up at linebacker in 2009?

Football has become a 24/7, 365 days a year sport. We talk about football in the fall. We watch the spring games in April. And we even follow recruiting with the fervor of a Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

But the one aspect of college football that is overlooked is the work done in the summer with 7-on-7 workouts. Vince Young and the 2005 Championship team proved that chemistry and timing built in the summer can propel a team to the top. After a near perfect season in 2008 Colt McCoy and the Texas football team are looking to duplicate the blue print of the last team to make it to the Rose Bowl and win.

The similarities of this year’s team to the 2005 squad are alarming and are sure to be talked about like McCoy and Jordan Shipley’s fishing plans.

Not all aspects of the game can be worked on over the summer without pads, but plenty can be accomplished. Even with more answers than questions lingering to enter this season there is room for improvement. And here are five questions that could be answered over the summer?

1. What will be the base offensive formation?

The lack of a viable tight end may force Greg Davis’ hand when it comes to “go to” formations. In the biggest games of the year, and when Texas needed to move the ball, they abandoned the tight end set for a four wide receiver spread. With McCoy’s accuracy and the depth at the receiver position having a tight end on the field may be a detriment to the team.

From a skill stand point there is no question the fourth receiver will be more talented than any healthy tight end on the roster, unless we assume DJ Grant can emerge as a catcher and a blocker in his first year at the position. Frankly, it would be unfair to ask that of Grant so the question becomes – is it more important to disguise your play calls by being multiple on offense with a tight end or is the talent difference so great that putting a tight end on the field is holding the team back?

I don’t know the answer, maybe Davis and McCoy don’t either, but a huge summer by the receivers combined with no progress from the tight ends might equal a wide open spread attack for the majority of the snaps.

2. Can Garrett Gilbert handle being the backup quarterback right away?

Anyone who has seen or followed the career of the incoming freshman from Lake Travis knows that all signs point to a successful career at Texas and beyond. But all the skill, and smarts, in the world don’t necessarily spell success as a true freshman. In a perfect world Gilbert will only see the field in controlled situations. The plan is to bring him along slowly at the end of games that Texas has in the bag.

The problem is Texas cannot be comfortable with Sherrod Harris as the primary backup. The coaches and the players love Harris but he has never shown he could carry the team if needed. And with the junior recovering from surgery Gilbert has the chance to secure the backup spot if he can prove he has what it takes on the field, in his head, and in the huddle.

Like it or not Texas is one freak play away from starting a quarterback with no experience. With Chiles at receiver the only real hope is Gilbert. There is no doubt the pressure and expectations will not be fair or realistic for the prodigy, but he should have never expected them to be. This is Texas; he’ll learn that soon enough.

3. Who will be the running back?

Realistically this could be a question that isn’t answered at all this season. Mack Brown and Major Applewhite have proven they’ll mix backs in and out as much as they deem necessary. And while they’ll do it again this year, one has to think the staff wants a “go to” guy. A lot of the inconsistencies last year can be attributed to the lack of familiarity with the backs and the offensive line. The running game can be about timing as much as anything and UT had none last year.

It is true that the full running game cannot be featured without pads, but Applewhite has shown he values pass protection and ball security over big play ability. Vondrell McGee, maybe the most complete runner in the backfield, learned this lesson the hard way when he was benched for the entire Fiesta Bowl.

McGee may be the best runner, but it is Foswhitt Whittaker that can excel in 7-on-7 drills because of his ability to catch the ball and run in space. If he can stay healthy and prove he is willing to block Whittaker may finally break out this season.

The other option is freshman Chris Whaley. All reports have the physical freak as being impressive. The coaching staff has all but said he’ll get his shot to compete, so if he can pick up the small things this summer he’ll have a huge chance this fall.

4. Who will start as the third linebacker?

Roddrick Muckelroy and Jared Norton have starting jobs locked up in the 4-3 alignment, but with Sergio moving to defensive end one of the outside linebacker spots are open. The two candidates for the position are Keenan Robinson Emmanuel Acho. Both can rush the passer and both can make plays.

The skill that may separate them, and determine who plays more, will likely who can play in pass coverage the best. This is where 7-on-7 comes into play. With the Big 12 becoming football version of the Blue Angels air show finding linebackers that can stop the run and cover the pass is invaluable. In his short time on campus Robinson has shown the ability to play the pass and that’ what puts him at the top of the depth chart at strong side linebacker.

Texas will play with five defensive backs a lot this season, and that means only two linebackers on the field. Norton, who is a prototypical middle linebacker in the 4-3, has struggled in the nickel formation so if Robinson plays well enough he may be alongside Muckelroy when teams are spread out.

5. Is the work ethic there?

For the first time in a long time Texas overachieved last season. It had more to do with expectations, but the Longhorns had a workman like feel that wasn’t the norm in the last decade. Will Muschamp has gotten a lot of credit for the attitude change, but more credit needs to go to the players and especially the leaders on the team. More than talent, UT lost some big time leaders in Quan Cosby, Roy Miller, and Brian Orakpo.

Those guys kept the young guys in check in practice, off the field, and in the locker room. Texas still has established leaders in Colt McCoy and Sergio Kindle and new leaders are stepping up like Earl Thomas. But until the team faces some adversity no one will know if the team has the backbone they showed in games against Oklahoma and Ohio State last year.

The 2005 team established that ethic in the summer with many players pointing out that they had worked too hard in June and July to let anyone beat them. If this year’s team comes out of the summer with the same feeling another special year could be on the horizon.

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Posted April 26th, 2009 by Brian
Filed under: Feature, Football, Live

Follow along below with our live thoughts and analysis during today’s second day of the NFL Draft that will take place starting at 9:00am on ESPN and the NFL Network. You can catch our live thoughts by tuning into this page and you can also participate in the conversation.

We’ll also be embedding Twitter posts from @40AcresSports and with the hashtag #UTdraft right in with the other notes. Feel free to leave comments and questions using the live tool, but not all comments will be published. Read below for more notes on comments and how the live blog will work. Hook ’em!

Notes: Comments on the article itself will be turned off till after the game. The Writer can view all comments sent to them but only they can publish your comments for everyone to see. The “autoscroll” feature ensures you’re always shown the newest content without having to refresh or scroll your screen. Subtle sound effects alert you to new content as the writer publishes it. You can turn these features on or off by using the controls at the bottom of the Live Blog.

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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 January 7th, 2009 by Mike
Filed under: Bowls, Feature, Football

Senior WR Quan Cosby had the biggest game of his career in the Fiesta Bowl

Senior receiver Quan Cosby had the biggest game of his career in the Fiesta Bowl

Texas came up big in the [tag]Fiesta Bowl[/tag] to finish the season 12-1 and move to 3-0 in BCS bowl games. A good mixture of older guys and younger guys stepped up to give this Longhorn team a win that was fitting for this team and season. Nothing came easy for Texas against [tag]Ohio State[/tag], but the leadership of this team ended up being too much for the Buckeyes.

  1. [tag]Quan Cosby[/tag] – I know Colt McCoy won the Offensive MVP award and it easy to give the top spot to the quarterback with the big numbers, but when Texas needed plays on third down and at the end of the game it was Cosby who stepped up and won the game. Cosby played inside more than normal to avoid Thorpe award winner Malcolm Jenkins and it paid off. Cosby had a career night in his last game as a Longhorn finishing with a career best 14 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
  2. [tag]Roy Miller[/tag] – The Defensive MVP came up huge in the second half of his last game at Texas. The Longhorn defense struggled to slow down the Ohio State run game and Beanie Wells in the first half but did a much better job in the last 30 minutes. Miller was dominant, he demanded double teams and plugged the inside holes allowing the Longhorn linebackers to run free. The big senior finished with three tackles, a sack, and a devastating block on fourth and short on a drive in the third quarter.
  3. [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag] – What can be said about Colt that hasn’t already been said? He should have won the Heisman, he should be playing for the National Championship, he has all the Texas passing records, he’s as clutch as you get, and he has a smoking hot girlfriend. Am I missing anything? In a game that appeared to be an inconsistent one for McCoy he still finished with a career best 414 yards on 41 of 58 including a pair of touchdowns. Ohio State bottled him up in the run game minus one 14 yard touchdown score.
  4. [tag]Brian Orakpo[/tag] – The best defensive player in college football was the focus of the Ohio State blocking scheme. The Buckeyes were able to keep him out of the stat book for the most part, but they weren’t able to keep him from making an impact on the game. All night Ohio State kept a tight end and sometimes even a running back in to help block Orakpo. When they didn’t he got pressure on the outside on both Buckeye quarterbacks, obliterating Todd Boeckman late in the game. It took until the second to last play for ‘Rak’ to get his sack, but the play iced the game.
  5. [tag]Earl Thomas[/tag] – Thomas has quietly become one of the better players on the Texas defense. The red-shirt freshman has been the most consistent player in the secondary this year for Will Muschamp’s group. Thomas flies around the field and appears to be around the ball at all times. He also brings an attitude and swagger to a young secondary that needs it. Thomas led the team with nine tackles and two pass breakups.
  6. [tag]Chris Ogbonnaya[/tag] – The Texas run game was nonexistent for most of the game, and it seemed to be more about play calling than anything else. On the first play for the Texas offense Ogbonnaya got the edge and picked up eight yards before fumbling out of bounds. For the rest of the half Texas abandoned the run. In the second half the senior running back was able to make an impact on the ground, and maybe even more so through the air. McCoy was able to check down to Ogbonnaya on many occasions to set up manageable downs and distance and to pick up first downs. He also caught the longest pass of the game, a 37 yarder. Chris ‘O’ has been the most consistent back all year for Texas and his leadership has been immeasurable.
  7. [tag]Roddrick Muckelroy[/tag] – I’m not for celebrating an injury, but the hit that Muckelroy delivered on Beanie Wells ended the game for one of the best backs in the nation. Wells had run for over 100 yards on only 16 carries when the two met in the hole early in the fourth quarter. Muckelroy has led the team in tackles all year and continued to be all over the field Monday night. The junior finished with six tackles on the night.
  8. [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] – The attention has gone to Cosby because of his performance, but Jordan Shipley played a great game as well. It was clear that Ohio State spent a lot of time attempting to take away Shipley’s plays over the middle of the field. Colt’s roommate, lifelong friend, and hunting buddy (in case you hadn’t heard) finished with 10 catches for 76 yards. It appeared that Cosby’s first touchdown reception was actually on a pass attended for Shipley. The NCAA granting the medical red-shirt for Shipley next year is huge for this offense.
  9. [tag]Henry Melton[/tag] – It is amazing how far Melton has come. The Fiesta Bowl was a great showcase of Melton’s talent. The former running back is not as good of a pass rusher as Orakpo and Sergio Kindle, but he may be as good as an overall defensive end than both of those. Melton has a future in the NFL and he proved it Monday night against the Buckeyes. Melton was the best end at the point of attack all night, and took a lot of snaps away from Kindle. The senior finished with three tackles including a team leading two for a loss.
  10. [tag]Chykie Brown[/tag] – Chykie has become Texas’ lockdown corner. Ohio State tried to go to his side early but quickly abandoned that strategy. Brown has come a long way from the times when coaches worried about his practice habits and focus. Coming into the season some were wondering if the sophomore would ever live up to his athletic ability, now heading into the offseason the program will look for Brown to be a shutdown corner like Ohio State’s Malcolm Williams. The Ohio State passing attack struggled all night, and a lot of it had to do with Brown occupying the entire right side of the field.
  11. [tag]James Kirkendoll[/tag] – Brandon Collins had more receptions and yards, but it was Kirkendoll that came up with the fourth down grab that kept the Longhorns alive. On the play Kirkendoll came in motion to the inside before running an arrow to the sideline. Texas caught the Buckeyes in man coverage and took advantage of the matchup. It says a lot about McCoy and the coaching staff that they trusted one of the younger receivers on such a crucial play. The sophomore from Round Rock just got the first down and a few plays later Texas was celebrating the winning score.
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Our live stream of consciousness posted from @40acressports on Twitter from during the Fiesta Bowl is posted below:

  • It was cool when they let blind guys sing the national anthem, but wasn’t letting a blind man design the Fiesta Bowl trophy enough? #UT 25 minutes ago
  • @springnet 77 is Luke Poehlmann, a very promising true freshman lineman. He deserves to start in 09 just due to his sweet mullet. 31 minutes ago
  • @HookEmSarah as Mack said this week, gatorade baths are for 7-5 coaches. 😉 plus I’m sure there nothing but whining on #UT msg boards. 37 minutes ago
  • What a game. Congrats Horns on the big tough win. Congrats to the seniors. #UT 40 minutes ago
  • I heart Quan and Brian Orakpo. Huge sack (and good job tackling QB too.) #UT 42 minutes ago
  • ANnouncers are acting like this thing is over. #UT 44 minutes ago
  • Unsportsmanlike could be huge. OSU kicker has big leg. Come on kickoff team. #UT 45 minutes ago
  • Tressel’s challenge gives #UT much needed timeout. Horns should actually gain yards with review. 49 minutes ago
  • That was a terrible initial spot. Clearly got first down. Replay will give it to #UT if spot doesn’t. 51 minutes ago
  • #UT needs to be in bigger hurry. 56 minutes ago
  • Not sure who #77 for #UT is but that mullet deserves playing time. 57 minutes ago
  • There’s no such thing as double pass interference, whoevere initiated contact deserves the flag. #UT 58 minutes ago
  • @joneke defense has been fantastic all game long. about an hour ago
  • Absolutely terrible pass interference call. Beasley has right to ball and ball was way short. F***! #UT about an hour ago
  • Well defended? Malcolm Williams was wide open and Colt just put it too wide. #UT about an hour ago
  • 4th quarter! Wrap this thing up boys. #UT about an hour ago
  • Attaboy Colt! You too Coach Davis. All three drives this half have been good ones (sans 20 yd sack.) #UT about an hour ago
  • Matt Hasselback is the NFL qb you reference? Weird. Is Tim announcing the game? #UT about an hour ago
  • When do you think we’ll see screen and go to Shipley? Looks set up well. #UT about an hour ago
  • 4th and 36 and we can’t even punt for first down yardage. Momentum squandered. #UT about an hour ago
  • Terrible play by Colt. Has to expect pressure on RB screen call. Drive killer. #UT about an hour ago
  • Dear Greg Davis, finally a designed run for Colt and you get a beauty of a TD run for #UT. Let’s go defense!! about 2 hours ago
  • #90 for Ohio St is dirty POS. 2nd time he clearly and intentionly went high with his hands on Colt. Hit was fine, hands to helmet isn’t. #UT about 2 hours ago
  • Very good effort by R Bobino to get first down when there wasn’t much room on fake punt. #UT about 2 hours ago
  • Fiesta Bowl trophy is one of the ugliest things on the planet. #UT about 2 hours ago
  • Crap. Holding call turns 2nd and inches into 2nd and long. #UT about 2 hours ago
  • Set your feet Colt. #UT about 2 hours ago
  • @kbohls you have to be able to trust you junior QB not to take bad risk. That one is on Colt. #UT about 2 hours ago
  • Bad underthrow by Colt costs #UT chance at at least tying FG. Huge mistake and momentum killer into halftime. about 2 hours ago
  • False starts on wide receivers drive me bats***. #UT about 3 hours ago
  • @kbohls blame out of position linebackers (due to play and blitzes) more than D-line for long runs. Agree about QB contain. #UT about 3 hours ago
  • Getting the awful feeling opposing fans felt when VY was at quarterback. Glad Pryor has no clue about watching for 1st down markers. #UT about 3 hours ago
  • 2nd and goal from 17 and we run a draw to Chris O? WTF? #UT about 3 hours ago
  • Speaking of running, where’s Fozzy? #UT about 3 hours ago
  • No attempts to get Colt McCoy running yet. Turn him loose Greg! #UT about 3 hours ago
  • Better drive by #UT offense but inability to get positive yards on 2nd & short is killing us. about 3 hours ago
  • Apparently that was a token holding call earlier, some pretty blatant ones on this series but we get pressure and S Kindle gets sack. #UT about 3 hours ago
  • 1st freshman mistake for Pryor. Good run but stepped out before first down with no one about to hit him. Melton rushing out of control. #UT about 4 hours ago
  • Woot!!!! Apparently holding still exists outside the Big 12! Good sign for Rak! #UT about 4 hours ago
  • Chris Hall is playing. Retweeting @suzhalliburton: @40acressports They used the depth chart from A&M about 4 hours ago
  • Chris Hall wasn’t on official depth chart for the game but #71 is in uniform at least for the Horns. Hope he’s 100% and starting. #UT about 4 hours ago
  • RT @CedGolden: Is it me or is Barry Switzer wearing a burnt orange tie with a matching hanky? #UT about 4 hours ago
  • Score predictions for #UT vs Ohio State: http://is.gd/eEb5 All three of us have the Horns winning a pretty close game. about 4 hours ago
  • RT @bevobeat: Blaine Irby up and about. Horns’ injured tight end was out tossing the ball around in pregame. http://twitpic.com/100fd about 4 hours ago
  • Ah oh: No Chris Hall on the 3 deep at center for Fiesta Bowl depth chart: http://is.gd/eDRj True frosh D Snow gets start. about 5 hours ago

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(Side note: This is the site’s 2,500th post. Kind of cool.)

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Posted December 1st, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Feature, Football

Colt McCoy once again carried the Horns on his back

Colt McCoy once again carried the Horns on his back

Texas did everything they could on Thanksgiving night beating the Aggies 49-9. The defense was dominant and [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag] may have secured the Heisman Trophy. The Longhorns wait to see how the BCS situation shakes out while we look at the top 11 performers from Thursday night.

1. [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag] – McCoy bounced back from a turnover filled sophomore season with arguably the best season a Texas quarterback has ever experienced. Texas A&M had been the bugaboo for the junior star until Thursday night. McCoy did everything once again for the Longhorns accounting for four total touchdowns and over 300 yards passing. He continued to be Texas’ number one running threat while completing his passes at a record breaking clip. Texas needed to impress the voters and their quarterback made sure they did.

2. [tag]Sergio Kindle[/tag] – There are a lot of players that deserved the top spot on Texas’ defense but Sergio is going to get the nod. Kindle was everywhere on the night showing off his unfair athletic ability. Kindle has found his home coming off the edge for the Longhorn defense but showed Thursday night the ability to play in space. The former Dallas prep star finished with five tackles, three of which were for losses, and a sack against the overmatched Aggies. Aggie quarterback Stephen McGee thought he had something to say after Kindle’s sack but quickly realized it would have been a very bad idea.

3. [tag]Brian Orakpo[/tag] – The soon to be first round pick made a huge impact in his first extended game action since the injury he suffered in the Texas Tech game. Orakpo is the most physically dominating player on the field every time he steps on the field. Even facing double teams and chips from running backs and tight ends, Orakpo is able to disrupt seemingly every play. He finished with a sack and a half and added four more recorded quarterback hits. The pressure the front four produces allows the secondary to get better each week.

4. [tag]Brandon Collins[/tag] – Seemingly all year long the young receivers have taken turns making an impact as the third receiver for the Longhorn offense. It was Collins’ turn this week. Collins had a team high 103 yards on a tied for team high six receptions. The sophomore did most of his damage on middle screens out of the spread set. His 20 yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave the Longhorn offense the momentum it needed to get the scoring rolling. Texas would score a touchdown on the next four possessions.

5. [tag]Earl Thomas[/tag] – There will be no more questions on Earl Thomas’ speed. The freshman safety made two jaw dropping plays on the night, one being when he caught speedy Mike Goodson on what appeared to be a 90+ yard touchdown reception. Despite a bad angle Thomas caught Goodson and let him know about it. Thomas gives the secondary an edge and was in on a number plays on Thursday night in both the run and pass game. Thomas has bounced back from the end of the Texas Tech game with three outstanding performances from his safety position.

6. [tag]Quan Cosby[/tag] – The senior made his last game in DKR a memorable one by catching one of McCoy’s two touchdown passes. Cosby was one of the few players on this team that got on the field in the win over USC in 2005, so I’m sure he was happy to see the team back on top. Cosby has been McCoy’s rock all season and continued to come up with key third down and red zone completions. Cosby finished with six catches and 80 yards to go along with the touchdown.

7. [tag]Cody Johnson[/tag] – It is hard to account for two touchdowns and over 100 yards on the ground and not earn top five ranking but the truth of the matter is that Johnson’s yards came mostly when the game was out of reach. The big guy in the backfield did show some impressive speed on his 61 yard run late in the game. Johnson has continued to be excellent in his role as short yardage back, but could be so much more for this team moving forward if he can get his weight down 10 pounds or so. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff uses the red-shirt freshman in the bowl workouts and in the Spring.

8. [tag]Roddrick Muckelroy[/tag] – Texas A&M managed to gain -24 yards rushing on the night. Texas’ run defense has been ranked in the top five all season in yards given up per game and while a lot of that may be attributed to the offenses that are ran in the Big 12 the man playing the best week in and week out against the run has been Roddrick Muckelroy. The junior is becoming one of the best linebackers in the [tag]Mack Brown[/tag] era. He leads the team in tackles on the year and seems to do so in every game. Muckelroy finished with a tie for the team lead with six tackles, including one for a loss.

9. [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] – Shipley had a quiet day by his standards for most of the game against the Aggies, but was able to come up with the highlight of the game on a 68 yard catch over the middle to set up a first and goal. Colt McCoy’s roommate, in case you didn’t know, caught for balls for 85 yards. Shipley seemed to be the focal point for the A&M defense which allowed other players, such as Collins, to step up. Did you know Shipley and McCoy go fishing and hunting together?

10. [tag]Roy Miller[/tag] – Roy Miller has played great in the middle all season for Texas. His impact cannot be measured by looking at the box score, but he finished with two tackles, a pass breakup, and two quarterback hits. Texas A&M could get nothing going up the middle from the run or screen game for the entire 60 minutes. Miller must be given credit for his lead blocking on short yardage situations for the offense as well.

11. [tag]David Snow[/tag] – Didn’t hear his name on Thursday? That is a good thing. With no fanfare at all the true freshman has stepped in to play center for a potential national championship team and nobody has even noticed. Texas continues to struggle in the run game and has not protected McCoy as well as they would like but Snow has stepped up tremendously with [tag]Chris Hall[/tag] injured. It is likely Hall will be back for the bowl game, and in that case Snow will get snaps at guard on top of backup center.

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Posted November 18th, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Feature, Football

Sergio Kindle made like Superman against KU

Sergio Kindle made like Superman against KU

Texas’ defense stepped up big posting a shutout in the first half and only seven points in the whole game. [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag] played another good game keeping the teams championship hopes as well as his Heisman hopes alive. Texas did what they had to do, but it may not be enough as they do not control their own destiny to either the conference or national title game.

  1. [tag]Sergio Kindle[/tag] – It just makes sense to have a defensive player at the top of the big board. When the game was in doubt the defense was suffocating. On three straight drives in the first half [tag]Kansas[/tag] turned the ball over twice on downs and fumbled. The reason for the success was the pressure on quarterback Todd Reesing. Sergio Kindle led the way off the edge with [tag]Brian Orakpo[/tag] limited in what he could do. Kindle managed a sack and a half but put pressure on Kansas all game.
  2. [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag] – McCoy just continues to perform at a level that none could have predicted. Most onlookers have probably waited for the Heisman candidate to come back to earth, but McCoy has done no such thing. He played good in the passing game, especially considering the conditions, and provided yards on the ground when the running backs struggled to do so. McCoy has been invaluable to this team. He controls everything the Longhorn offense does. He finished 24 of 34 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. McCoy added 83 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
  3. [tag]Quan Cosby[/tag] – For all of the pub that McCoy and [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] get for being roommates and child hood friends, it is Cosby that makes the Longhorn passing offense go. When Cosby went down in the Tech game it was obvious that the passing game struggled to find a new identity. Cosby puts Texas in consistent second and third and shorts and is the guy that stretches the field. He scored a touchdown in the second half while grabbing six balls for 70 yards.
  4. [tag]Roy Miller[/tag] – The senior defensive tackle is going to be the hardest Longhorn to replace next year. Miller has become a monster in the middle with the ability to play the run and the pass. He has become a leader on the team, and seemingly shows up with his “A” game every week. He recorded a half sack early in the game and made it impossible for Kansas to get anything going in the run game. The Texas defense has survived with Brian Orakpo so far, I’m not sure it would without Miller right now.
  5. [tag]Henry Melton[/tag] – Too bad Melton is a senior because he is a year or so away from becoming a dominant defensive end. His athleticism, especially his footwork, allows him to make plays despite being behind in his technique at the position. The former running back gets better every time he steps on the field as he has finally seemed to embrace being a defensive player. He finished with three tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss in the win.
  6. [tag]David Snow[/tag] – It is hard to measure the play of the individual offensive lineman without knowing their assignments. But when a true freshman that has been splitting his time between two different positions steps in to play center on three days notice and you barely think about it the whole game somebody is playing well. Snow had one bad snap, on a short yardage play. It was hard to tell if it was a bad snap, a miscommunication, or if McCoy simply dropped it. With [tag]Chris Hall[/tag] coming back next year it is hard to see where Snow will fit in to the starting lineup. But one thing is for sure, he will get snaps somewhere.
  7. [tag]Eddie Jones[/tag] – The best thing that can come out of an injury to a key player is the emergence of the next star. It may be premature to call Jones a star, but the talent is there and a performance like his against Kansas can give everyone some hope moving forward. The former five star recruit showed his athleticism on a pitch play in the first half. He tracked down the running back in space and forced a fourth down play. His stat sheet doesn’t wow you, only two tackles, one being for a loss, and one quarterback hit. But with Melton and Orakpo being gone next year, it was nice to see Jones make an impact.
  8. [tag]Christian Scott[/tag] – It took one play for Scott to make an impact from his safety position. On the snap after Kansas running back Angus Quigley knocked starter Blake Gideon out of the game Scott came in and violently sent a message back. For the rest of the game Scott was all over the field. [tag]Will Muschamp[/tag] has said Scott possesses the most physical upside of any of the young safeties. Scott is going to have to be more than just a Saturday performer to get consistent snaps however. Muschamp wants hard work in the film room and on the practice field, and if Scott can put that work in Gideon and Earl Thomas may have some competition in the secondary.
  9. [tag]Blake Gideon[/tag] – Before the injury in the third quarter Gideon was playing one of his best games all season. He was making plays in the secondary as well as putting pressure on the quarterback in key situations. The true freshman is just a solid football player that puts his nose in any and everything he can. He flies around the field and always appears to be in the right place at the right time. Gideon appeared to suffer a concussion, so it will be interesting to see how cautious the staff is moving forward.
  10. [tag]Foswhitt Whittaker[/tag] – The Texas game struggled on the day, but Whittaker found a way to contribute in the passing game. In the first half he recorded all his receptions, a total of five for 42 yards. Whittaker is the one back on the roster that can put a defense on their heels and it was important for the red-shirt freshman to show he can block and catch out of the backfield. The staff needs to find better ways to get him the ball on handoffs, but the fact he was able to play as much as he did is a good sign for the Longhorn offense.
  11. [tag]Roddrick Muckelroy[/tag] – Muckelroy has been Texas’ most consistent linebacker all year long. He leads the team in tackles on the season and finished tied for second on the team against Kansas with six tackles. Kansas’ offense puts more pressure on the corners than the linebackers, but Muckelroy consistently showed up on plays. He swarms to the ball and provides support in both the run game and the middle passing game. The junior’s value, opposed to say a Jared Norton, is that he can play on every down in distance. He is no longer a liability in the passing game.
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Posted November 9th, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Feature, Football

Fozzy Whittaker rushed 15 times for 77 yards

Fozzy Whittaker rushed 15 times for 77 yards

The Longhorns bounced back with a solid win against an improved [tag]Baylor[/tag] team on Saturday in front of a lackluster crowd at DKR Memorial Stadium. The student section was empty for the beginning of the game and the blue hair section emptied pretty early in the second half. Luckily the football team doesn’t front run like the fans seem to and showed up to play. With a couple of key guys down with injury some of the usual suspects and a few under the radar guys stepped up in the win.

  1. [tag]Quan Cosby[/tag] – Coming into the game the thought was that Cosby wouldn’t even play. The Waco native felt good enough to go against his home town team and didn’t disappoint. Cosby got the scoring going on a touchdown pass from [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag] on Texas’ first drive. When Cosby and [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] are on the field together this offense is on a different level. The senior finished the game with 111 yards on eight catches including two touchdowns.
  2. [tag]Ryan Palmer[/tag] – The smallish senior cornerback gets overlooked in Texas’ secondary because of the perceived ability of the younger guys at his position, but Palmer is a leader on this team and continues to perform better than anyone could have ever imagined. Baylor had tied up the score at 14 in the second quarter when Palmer made the biggest play of the game on a 23 yard interception return for a touchdown. It was the catalyst for the 31 point run UT would go on to put the game away. Palmer added a sack and a pass breakup to his stat line later in the game.
  3. [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag] – It says something about this season’s play of Colt McCoy and the expectations of the UT fan base when the junior signal caller can throw for five touchdowns and 300 yards and many still feel like he under performed. McCoy didn’t have his best game of the year but he was solid while completing 26 of 37 attempts. The Heisman contender has relied less on his legs to make yards only gaining 22 yards on the game. But he is buying more time in the pocket and keeping plays alive for his receivers. Yes he threw two interceptions, but it was a big win and a good day for McCoy.
  4. [tag]Roy Miller[/tag] – The big guy in the middle made his two tackles on the day count by recording both of them as sacks on Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin. [tag]Brian Orakpo[/tag] gets all the press clippings, but the loss of Miller after this season will be the most costly for the Texas program. The senior dominates his gap on nearly every play and has the ability to go from run stopping to pass rushing at will. His play at defensive tackle may not even be what he does best. When Miller lines up at fullback and lead blocks on short yardage situation he is devastating.
  5. [tag]Earl Thomas[/tag] – After a rough week last week Thomas rebounded to play his best game of his career. He didn’t record any interceptions or sacks but he was all over the field and made sure tackles all game. The freshman safety made a good play in the end zone on an early Baylor drive and showed how valuable he is when Baylor scored on a long pass on the first play Thomas missed with an injury. It was the only big play the Bears would get in the passing game because Thomas came back in on the next possession. It was important for Thomas to rebound and get some confidence back and he did with a team leading five tackles, with three coming for losses.
  6. [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] – Shipley makes catches when he has to. It is that simple. He is a third down catching machine. Every time McCoy needs to make a play or convert a first down it is obvious Shipley is the first progression on the route. Shipley is a senior who will most likely be back next year because of a medical redshirt that will surely be rewarded. His chemistry with McCoy is better than any receiver-quarterback combination to ever play at Texas. He finished the game with six catches for 81 yards and another touchdown. Shipley has scored a touchdown in every game this year.
  7. [tag]Foswhitt Whittaker[/tag] – I think Texas has found their running back. The staff knew they had one all along, but it was nice to see the speedy freshman be able to carry the load and get over 15 touches. Whittaker possesses a burst that no one else on the roster has, and with the type of offense Texas has moved to his ability would figure to go best with the schemes. Fozzy has struggled with nagging knee injuries all year, but appeared to make it through the game without any problems. With [tag]Chris Ogbonnaya[/tag] figuring to come back next week it will be interesting to see how Greg Davis and Major Applewhite distribute the snaps. Ogbonnaya will get the third down snaps, but Whittaker should begin to get more and more on first and second down.
  8. [tag]Roddrick Muckelroy[/tag] – Despite what the numbers show, Texas’ run defense was solid throughout the night. Baylor finished with 201 yards of total rushing, but 130 of those yards came on three runs (two on options by Robert Griffin and one late in the game by a running back). For the most part the front seven (six for most of the game) played extremely well. Muckelroy lead the team in tackles again, tied with Earl Thomas with five, but showed his speed when he chased down Robert Griffin on one of the speedy quarterbacks long runs. Muckelroy has turned into the best linebacker of the group because he has finally been able to stay healthy.
  9. [tag]Henry Melton[/tag] – Quietly Henry Melton is becoming an above average defensive end. After struggling at running back for his first few years at Texas, Melton was finally convinced to move to defense by pointing out that is where he would make money at the next level. It might not be the most noble reason to agree to move positions, but however it happen it has helped both Melton and the Longhorns. With Brian Orakpo out Melton was allowed to stay on the field on third downs, and he responded with three quarterback pressures to go along with his two tackles. The light has finally come on for the big guy out of Grapevine.
  10. [tag]Justin Tucker[/tag] – Throughout the season Tucker has done a good job on kickoffs by getting good height and distance on his kicks. Beginning last week Texas began going to the “rugby” style punts with Tucker being the man executing the duty. This style of kicking doesn’t allow for returns and also provides for opportunities to fake the punt if the opposing team doesn’t cover the edge. Texas hasn’t tried to fake off of it yet, but Tucker does have the athleticism to pull it off when they do call it. He only had to punt once, but it went for 53 yards and forced Baylor to go the length of the field.
  11. [tag]Ryan Bailey[/tag] – Somehow Bailey lost his job to [tag]Hunter Lawrence[/tag] during preseason practices. No one had mentioned it because up until the Baylor game Lawrence had been perfect on his extra points and perfect on his field goals. Against Baylor Lawrence missed both of his field goal attempts, one being a chip shot, and was replaced for the last kick by last year’s starter Ryan Bailey. Mack Brown said Lawrence’s leg was “sore”, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bailey trot out for Texas’ next field goal attempt.
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Posted November 8th, 2008 by Brian
Filed under: Feature, Football, Live

Follow along below with our live thoughts and analysis during today’s Texas Longhorns game versus [tag]Baylor[/tag] on FSN. Participate in the discussion by following 40acressports on Twitter or by refreshing and commenting on this post.

Texas vs. Baylor tweets

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