Posted October 2nd, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Feature, Football

Cody Johnson runs against Arkansas

Cody Johnson runs against Arkansas

Saturday at 6pm on FSN the Longhorns will start Big 12 play against [tag]Colorado[/tag]. The Buffaloes are easily the Horns’ toughest opponent of the season so despite four blowout wins the team still hasn’t proven anything. Texas will lean on [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag] as they do every week, but Texas will also need these five other players to step up to take care of business:

[tag]Cody Johnson[/tag]

The Texas coaches and fans thought the running game would be led by the tandem of [tag]Vondrell McGee[/tag] and [tag]Foswhitt Whittaker[/tag]. While Whittaker has struggled to contribute as expected because of injuries to both knees, McGee has just struggled. Enter former fullback Cody Johnson. The big man has looked like the best ball carrier on the team not named [tag]Colt McCoy[/tag]. Mack Brown has preferred big, downhill runners throughout his career, a la Natrone Means and [tag]Ricky Williams[/tag]. And even though the UT running game doesn’t appear to suit Johnson’s strengths he has excelled. If Johnson can outperform McGee again, this time in a conference game, it seems likely that the combination of Johnson and Whittaker when he is healthy will lead the running game going forward into the season.

[tag]James Kirkendoll[/tag]

Texas has to find a third receiver. The physical appearance and upside of [tag]Malcolm Williams[/tag] and [tag]Dan Buckner[/tag] led many to anoint them the leaders for the position. But through four games it is clear that McCoy does not trust these two yet for whatever reason. Colt does seem to trust Kirkendoll, who made a nice run after the catch early in last week’s blowout of [tag]Arkansas[/tag]. The loss of [tag]Blaine Irby[/tag] allows defenses to key on [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] and [tag]Quan Cosby[/tag]. If Texas wants to continue their success through the air, one of the young receivers must step up. This week is Kirkendoll’s week to solidify himself as that guy.

[tag]Blake Gideon[/tag]

There is no doubt that the true freshman from nearby Leander High School has exceeded expectations. After only being out of high school for six months, Gideon finds himself leading a young but talented secondary for the Texas Longhorns. Most 18 year’olds would be overwhelmed, but the coach’s son appears to be taking to his new position like a duck to water. Gideon hasn’t made a whole lot of huge plays, but according to defensive coordinator [tag]Will Muschamp[/tag], Gideon is lining up the defense correctly. I think Muschamp, a former college safety, sees a lot of himself in Gideon and for UT fans that is assuredly a good thing. Teams are going to try and confuse the secondary to create big plays, if Gideon can limit these by being smart and aware, the Longhorn defense could become one of college football’s best this year.

[tag]Keenan Robinson[/tag]

If nobody else is running, I’d like to nominate myself as the President of the Keenan Robinson fan club. This may be premature but Robinson has looked like a star in the making every time he is on the field, albeit in cleanup duty. He has the speed and nose for the football that Muschamp craves in his line backing unit. Overall the group of [tag]Roddrick Muckelroy[/tag], [tag]Sergio Kindle[/tag], [tag]Rashad Bobino[/tag], and [tag]Jared Norton[/tag] has looked great, but Robinson gives this defense the ability to keep three linebackers on the field against three receiver sets. The other linebackers on the team struggle in space. With Robinson’s speed and ball skills, he is a prime candidate to get more time as the opposing offenses become faster. The problem is deciding whose snaps the talented freshman cuts into. The combination of Robinson and Muckelroy at linebacker with Kindle playing rush end appears to be the best combination for Texas on obvious passing downs.

[tag]Justin Tucker[/tag]

Historically, Texas has not done great on kick coverage. Don’t believe me? Watch the DVD of the first Rose Bowl Texas played in. With the talent on campus, it has appeared the Horns have struggled to find the types of players it takes to excel on special teams coverage. Kick coverage is more about willingness and want to than superior athletic ability. Kickoff specialist Justin Tucker is making this quandary obsolete. Tucker has been booming the ball, forcing touchbacks at a rate not seen on the 40 acres. It’s beginning to seam that on balls he doesn’t kick into the end zone come at the coach’s request in order to get a look at the coverage unit. Against teams like [tag]Oklahoma[/tag], [tag]Missouri[/tag], [tag]Oklahoma State[/tag], and [tag]Texas Tech[/tag] special teams could decide the game. A weapon like Tucker, and on the punt team with John Gold, gives Texas an advantage in every game.


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