The first concept I want to point out to the casual lobo fan is the method that larger BCS schools go about when they're hiring assistant coaches. The Texas offense will be one that hinges on a person that came from our non-AQ past. BCS programs (formerly BCS, power conference, playoff schools, whatever) have a steady means of coming and going in the assistant coach racket, whether it be assistants being hired away to head positions, like McElwain at Colorado State, or upgrading program prestige/salary from inside the system. Monolithic college football figureheads are constantly replacing their chiefs-in-waiting and have brand new assistant skeletons almost every other year...if they're very successful anyway.
In Texas' case the voluntary coaching camps in the off-season plus networking sprouting from W-L records, hype, and the four letter sports networks (what? I like ROOT sports ) resulted in the hiring of Boise State's old 06'-10' OC Bryan Harsin coming into the Longhorns family.
One could take that as a semi-plus when it comes to interpreting what the lobos might face on Saturday, but it seems like a double edged sword at times. Possibly a rusted sword with a very pointy hilt to hold on to while you swing it. We know Boise's offense from 06'-10' "the BCS buster" years and there will probably be a few more things that will ring true when we face the Longhorns as well.
What we do with that schematic and how useful it might be is the big question.
Boise was known for its balanced attack. They were a pure coin flip in how they were going to come at you any given series. Once the game went on, they threw in a few screw ball trick plays when you thought you adjusted to their rhythm, shifting momentum at the most advantageous moments late in the game. Judging from Texas' game last week with Wyoming, a whole lot of run-throughs from the Texas vanilla playbook translates over to some Fiesta bowl '07 and Oregon in 08' and 09' contests.
Texas is capable of lining up with two tight ends with a power running game, pulling guards and using multiple backs, or spreading the field with a pure four or five receiver spread. Wide receiver bunches lined up right next to the tight end and in unconventional groups is probable to confuse assignments.
They have a wide variety of looks to throw at you in a "best of the best" type of way. They pieced together what they can do best and run down their own top 10 until they find something that works. They have the depth for most versions they cherry pick and if you read my last post on their defense, it should come as no surprise.
The practically permanent Mack Brown has casually suggested that Texas needs to open up big passing plays in the UNM game in early week press questionnaires. Even though coach Davie has echoed some of that notion in his own initial press conferences...I have my own suspicious tendencies. These notions will come to light in a minute, while I take a look at what Texas has tucked away in their depth chart.
You can take an abundance of any given noun a lot of different directions: confusion, celebration, horror, panic, or astonishment to name a few. When it comes to football rosters though, it's usually time for reaction from your leadership if they're worth their salt. I imagine the Texas roster gets a lot of "reaction" from the UNM coaching staff this week.
In a word: Loaded. In two words: Frickin' Loaded
L-O-A-D-E-D and then reloaded some more to shove stragglers on board on the way to the stadium. Loaded as in freshman shoved in the bus baggage compartment, loaded.
The Texas O-line has a strong argument for the top of the Big 12 with four returning starters on the verge of losing their green underclassmen composure and topping off the roster with former freshman all-Americans turned sophomores. What else can I say really? They're probably one of the toughest lines that our D-line will face, but paper doesn't win football games. The center position is the point where Texas has the highest youngster/depth issue ratio but that's minimal to exploit if exploitable at all.
UNM's line is arguably better suited to handle Texas' power running game than WYO did last week but that's only because of senior leadership and help at linebacker in the our defensive scheme. We have to show up and fight them for sixty minutes with limited help. This will be our D-line's platform to show what they can do, and consistency coupled with pressure will be important to help out our other departments (secondary, offense, sanity).
Get your money's worth...this might be one of the lone points of interest that get an eyebrow fluttering. Texas has potential talent waiting in the wings at this position but their mostly unproven.
When Colt McCoy went to the NFL, David Ash was the last QB to sift through the crater it left on the roster. Eventually he emerged the starter for the Wyoming game. Several other QB's transferred out to other programs with McCoy's little brother Case McCoy sitting on the roster (now a Junior). Sophomore David Ash has taken the starts however thus far and Case (geez, why do some mothers insist on name alliteration for multiple children?) McCoy took a grand total of eleven snaps in 2010 and played in 11 games last year. Although we could hypothetically see Mack Brown pull McCoy out for a personnel rope-a-dope, we'll most likely see Ash get another start since he's more of a dual threat type than Case.
Ash's biggest problem in his freshman season was his consistency in the passing game. He completed 98 of 173 passing (56%) and threw 8 INTs against 4 TD passes for a 106.9 quarterback rating. Although not terrible, if you quarterback rating is rivaling local FM radio stations you have some work left to do. The strongest benefit for him being plugged into the Texas' offense is one more method to stretch the defense with his scrambling threat.
In the WYO game Ash looked to show his improvement going 20-28 passing but doing it mainly in short to intermediate passes. He averaged 5.6yds a catch for 156yds. Not groundbreaking or overly volatile. If anything this only helped open up the play call for more running plays last Saturday and the running backs stole the show.
If UNM can limit the damage Ash can do with short outlets (or get to pocket passer McCoy if he gets the start), they can put themselves into a good position for doing something that were already pressed to do: trying to live in the backfield and stop the running game before it even develop. If we shake up the flow of the young (albeit it talented) Ash he may return to his inconsistent decision making ways. Even better if he gives up a few turnovers.
Wide receivers on the Texas roster could also be used as a cautionary plus for the UNM game thought they're very capable of burning our secondary if we leave them alone for too long. Although they return (Jaxon) Shipley, Davis, & Goodwin this season neither of them reached north of six hundred yards last season. Injuries and minor consistency issues came into play last year but don't get it twisted: They're tall (6'1"-6'3") and fast and have the capability to burn our safeties if we don't play good assignments. The main gun of this Texas offense is the running game and as odd as that is for a Big 12 team, this only flattered the WR's averages per catch when any given opponent gets a little too one-dimensional.
A hard shift in formation scheme will warrant UNM to match our formation with these receivers and we'll have to do a little more with less if we're going to make any headway in the number of approaches Texas can throw at us. We can't sell the farm every time, but a little help to the D-line might be able to throw them off guard in the right situation.
Texas' special teams are having a slight downturn in light of no true leader in this receiver core for returns and a generally young long snapper/kicking crew but their running backs pick up the slack. Both stars from the RB stable are involved with the kicking game. Speaking of which...
Pay attention...because if you don't read about them now you'll hear a lot about them on Saturday. The Texas' offense, with a former Boise OC at the helm and river of O-linemen to work with, wants to chisel down a defense over the course of a play and over the course of a game. Hopefully after matching up a couple blocks to the lobo D-line and LB's with power running game, they'll call their 215 & 230lb, 4.5 40 time, inter-rotating and occasional split back RB's to hit them one final time to break a big play.
If that doesn't work they'll try it again. And again. And again. And by the end of the game their RB's will look like supermen running over exhausted defensive players. Hopefully not the case, but bending (not breaking) will be much more important to stay in this game when facing a pseudo linebacker carrying a football in front of other big guys.
Texas' bread and butter will come from the running game, which involves a dual threat quarterback and a three deep of very talented skill positions. Malcolm Brown/Joe Bergeron/Johnathan Gray all have roles for power and speed runners, though Johnathan Gray has yet to live up to his highly anticipated capability. Gray is a freshman but the #1 RB at his position. Brown and Bergeron both ran up over 100yds (with a TD each) during WYO's game and spearheaded most of the scoring drives through creating 3rd and short situations and busting through as many players as they could on the way to the next play. This helped them keep the ball thirty five minutes and kept their defense off the field.
They're good and they're deep. They're coming and we should expect them whatever the coach says in the week prior. Period.
Given the information at our disposal you can't blame me for being a skeptic in Brown's pre-game thoughts and strategy. When I listen to coaches speaking coach speak about other coaches and teams, I keep these facts in the back of my mind. Coach Davie is no fool. Temporary bursts of maturity from a Sophomore QB against our secondary is better than Texas trying to flex their muscle and develop seams through our defense over the long haul on Saturday. Mack Brown does see this game as a warm up for conference, but I don't think he's willing to experiment with young Ash's passing and WR development so methodically and so abrasively.
The week after UNM the Longhorns face Mississippi. With Ole Miss (and their new head coach) they still have a bit of time to break into the WR core with SEC caliber D-Lines to match Texas' front five. I would expect them to adapt then.
I'm waving the BS flag on the "big play" air raid on offense. That wasn't Boise's bag and it's not really Texas' either. Here's to hoping Mack does try to sell pass more rather than keeping Ash under control and handing off the ball. They're at least familiar with our "type" of offense and will be trying to at least match our time of possession with their own brand of running.
I hope we get good use of our D-line depth (it'll hurt not having Davis for this game) our LB's will need to stick to good tackling technique to deal with UT's running backs and for lobo's sake, wear a chip on your shoulder with pride. All and all, if we don't give them good field position, make scoring even more easy for them with turnovers and keep the offense and clock moving, we'll have a method laid out that can help us win this game.
We're fighting the crowd, the home town cookin' (you know what I mean), and a talented team with a few trickeration plays to pull out of their hat when the offense gets stale.
You keep fighting lobos and believe in your coaches. They'll tell you to keep fighting on and at the end of the day, you just might have a new hat rack to hang your helmet on when the smoke clears.