Archive for July, 2017

2017 Longhorns Fall Camp: Top Storylines

Posted by    |    July 31st, 2017 at 1:16 pm

The Longhorns aren’t back in pads just yet, but as of today they’re back in action.

Thank God.

This season brings a sense of quivery anticipation probably not equaled since Colt McCoy was under center. If July excitement from Longhorn Nation is to translate into November elation, though, this year’s squad has some significant questions to answer – answers that we’ll keep a keen eye on over the next few weeks.

Here are five of the most compelling storylines that figure to play out over the course of camp.

Serving Youth At Safety

Todd Orlando’s scheme demands a ton of its safeties, and demands are mental as well as physical. The Longhorns are tee’d up with a pair of youngsters (relative to their total college snaps played, at least) in DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones who should have no trouble with the physical component. Both guys have the range to patrol center field, the muscle to punish people over the middle and the feet to at least survive in one on one coverage. A dynamic duo who can handle quarters coverage, disguise who might be dropping down and who’s rolling to center field pre-snap and lock up interior receivers behind P.J. Locke blitzes can key a ton of opponent-frustrating, pre-snap read-busting options for Orlando. The more experienced veterans behind them – jack-of-all-trades John Bonney and box enforcer Jason Hall – could be more limiting if they’re playing heavy snaps.

Per the inside scoop at Inside Texas, Elliott and Jones ran with the 1’s on Day One just as they did in the Spring Game. If their respective light bulbs stay on throughout Fall camp, the Longhorns secondary could start a quintet of future NFL draft picks for the first time since the ‘05 glory days of Ced Griffin, Tarrell Brown, Aaron Ross, Michael Huff and Michael Griffin.

The Shape of the Run Game

We may not get a bunch of detailed X-and-O leakage over the next 30 days as Herman figures to run a pretty tight ship, but some tidbits that could inform what we’ll see this fall may include:

  • The key run schemes complementing our foundational components like Inside Zone and Power
  • Which runners seem to be thriving in which roles
  • Our respective uses of Buechele and Ehlinger in the ground game (with black-jersey caveats, of course)
  • How frequently and effectively we attach a run-pass option component to our core runs
  • Our preferred formations between the 20’s as well as for red zone and short yardage work

Not including “which damn back(s) will carry the ball the most” may seem like burying the lede for this topic. Unfortunately, sustained health from our top two RB options is one area where I’m not beer-bonging the Burnt Orange Kool-Aid at this stage. Health questions for Chris Warren and Kirk Johnson may be answered in the negative over the next few weeks, but I’ll exhale on their late-November availability in…late November.

Of course, the shape of the run game will depend on…

The Search For Starters: Right Tackle and Tight End

Provided Zack Shackelford’s ankle feels cooperative this season…hang on a sec.

* Bloodies knuckles knocking on a piece of wood *

Ok, sorry about that. If The Hate Shack gets some love from his ligaments this season, right tackle and tight end feel like the only two spots on the starting roster where Texas could struggle to find a guy who can express league-average physical ability. Tackle looks like a battle between senior Tristan Nickelson (who has the frame but may lack the feet and functional coordination) and sophomore* Denzel Okafor (who’s athletic as all get-out but wants for seasoning). My early guess is that Nickelson holds the job through camp but cedes it some time around the OU game to Okafor, with the ability to keep DE’s from teeing off on Shane Buechele as the deciding factor.

At tight end you’ve got a holdover in Andrew Beck alongside new faces in Syracuse grad transfer Kendall Moore and true freshmen Reese Leitao and Cade Brewer. If Beck can stay healthy while upping his batting average when it comes to hitting moving targets, he’s likely to earn the bulk of the snaps this Fall. If he falters, things get a bit cloudy

D-Line Depth

Everyone outside of OU would swap their front-line D-line starters for the trio of Malcolm Roach, Chris Nelson and the Poonatrator in a New York minute. The demands on big men facing up-tempo attacks over the course of 80+ offensive snaps are cruel and relentless, though, so no position on the field requires more functional depth to avoid a sharp fall-off in production. Charles Omenihu should be ready for 40-50 snaps per game of super-sub duty across both 4i spots at a newly rocked-up 270, but beyond that things get hazy in a hurry.

Can a slimmed-down Gerald Wilbon offer some movement skills while retaining his ability to drop anchor?

Can D’Andre Christmas translate his own summer fitness gains and a clean bill of health into the consistent disruption he showed on his high school tape?

Can Andrew Fitzgerald show improved off-the-ball quickness and functional power?

Can Chris Daniels’ tremendous transformation (340+ to right around 300 as of late July) turn around a trajectory that was headed in the wrong direction throughout his redshirt season?

Texas needs at least one of those guys to answer his question in the affirmative in order to feel good about hanging with the Big XII’s top offenses for four quarters – and the more yeses, the better.

Linebacker Tango

While right tackle and tight end search for league-average athletes, linebacker is awash in junior and senior athleticism that would be the envy of the conference – or just about anyone in the nation – if any of them had shown the slightest inkling of putting it all together. Fall camp could be as much about finding fit as testing instincts and physicality, and Todd Orlando’s ability to mix and match his way to a functional Rover, Mac and B-Backer feels like the biggest open question when it comes to determining this team’s floor and ceiling.

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What are you looking to learn about the Longhorns’ fortunes as Fall Camp gets underway? And have you done your offseason homework with the best Longhorn preview on the market by your side?

*Courtesy of about ten snaps in 2016 – aaaauuuugggghhh.

July 31st Camp opening: Football happened this morning

Posted by    |    July 31st, 2017 at 11:00 am

Sort of.

Helmets and shorts.

Practice. Day 1. Live. https://t.co/N78vZ9YYAQ

— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) July 31, 2017

It’s fun to see the Longhorns out there doing their thing.

Quick intel gleaned from Inside Texas.

1st team D

DL – Roach-Ford-Nelson

LB – Hughes-Wheeler-Jefferson

DB – Boyd-Locke-Jones-Elliott-Hill

No surprises. Hager is 2nd team MLB. Jason Hall is 2nd team safety.

1st team O

OL – Williams-Vahe-McMillon-Rodriguez-Nickelson

QB – Buechele

RB – Porter

WR – Johnson-Duvernay-Heard

TE – Beck

Shackleford is on the 2nd team and will cross/train C/G. Need to see what happens when pads come on. Same for Okafor/Delance competing with Nickelson.

I wouldn’t worry about starter designations at RB.

WR should be fluid as well, outside of CJ and probably Duvernay.

**

You’ve got just over a month to figure out the 2017 Horns. We can help.

BC Unplugged Podcast: Fall Camp Preview

Posted by    |    July 31st, 2017 at 10:16 am

Our long national nightmare is almost over.

Longhorn players reported for Fall Camp yesterday and took the field for the first time this morning. And the Barking Carnival Unplugged Podcast is on the case:

KipsBigBoy, W.W. McClyde and I take a run at the top Longhorn storylines as camp kicks off – how Herman’s approach figures to differ from seasons past, key storylines and position battles and how we’ll know if Texas is really ready to rock and roll once Maryland comes to town.

Give it a listen – and for even more all-encompassing Longhorn storyline goodness, don’t miss out on the best Texas football preview on the market.

Time to start a new era: players report today, practice starts tomorrow

Posted by    |    July 30th, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Don’t worry, it’s coming. #ThisIsTexas #HookEm pic.twitter.com/hh670ircSq

— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) July 29, 2017

Texas football players officially report today between 1-4 pm and the team will have its first Fall practice tomorrow.

The first few practices will be shorts and shells with pads coming on Friday.

With the elimination of two-a-days, summer practice will extend for nearly a full month before a normal practice week preparing for Maryland.

Should be fun.

This staff will do all it can to get this team ready for the 2017 season.

Have you prepared?

If you haven’t read Thinking Texas Football yet, you haven’t.

So glad talkin’ season ends tonight, and strikin’ season opens tomorrow #GetSome #ThisIsTexas pic.twitter.com/sveUCqyHrg

— Craig Naivar (@Coach_Naivar) July 30, 2017

Big 12 Free Agency: Five Big 12 players that would guarantee Texas a conference title…

Posted by    |    July 29th, 2017 at 8:30 am

…and a nice playoff run.

The last of the 10 commandments warns us not to covet, but a six week long summer deep dive on every Big 12 roster in preparation for the Thinking Texas Football Texas Longhorn and Big 12 football preview has made me even more of a sinner.

I’ll repent after this post. For a lot of things. As you’ll learn soon enough.

The premise is simple.

If college football had conference wide free agency and the richest bidders with the deepest pockets (ahem…us) could sign the league’s best with a generous salary cap, which five players on opposing rosters would you money whip that would guarantee us a conference title. And a little playoff run to boot.

The choices are determined by Longhorn need as much as individual excellence, but like the NFL draft, sometimes you need to take the best player available even when you like your current guy.

Warning: there are Sooners.

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Oklahoma v Texas
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

OT Orlando Brown – Oklahoma Sooners. Meet our new junior right tackle. All 6-8, 345 pounds of him. The 2nd best offensive tackle in the league is a dominant run blocker and high level pass protector by simple virtue of the fact that he can’t be bull rushed and he knows how to use his length and wingspan in his pass set to make edge rushers take routes to the passer that Waze could never endorse. He has started for Oklahoma since his freshman year (26 starts) and surrendered only a single sack last year.

Impact: His addition means the Longhorns now have the best OL in the league by a mile and quite arguably the best in college football if Shack is healthy and Vahe progresses. It also strengthens the interior by allowing Denzel Okafor to cross train at guard. Our QB will set his pocket time by sundial.

Kansas v West Virginia
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

DE Dorance Armstrong – Kansas. Did I just covet a lowly Jayhawk? Yes, I did. The Longhorn killers boast the Big 12’s best edge pass rusher and the 6-4, 245 pound Houston native racked up 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last year for a Jayhawks defense that didn’t offer him much help. Armstrong played DE in Lawrence, but he’ll play B-Backer for Todd Orlando, who will turn him into a Tyrus Bowser clone off of the edge and a disruptive presence in the flats on zone blitz looks. Armstrong has a knack for quick, disruptive pressure.

Impact: With Roach on the backside, Ford and Nelson inside and Armstrong coming off of the edge with a cadre of adept blitzing linebackers and safeties, the Horns now boast the best pass rush in the league. They’ll be able to get solid pressure with honest numbers and withering pressure with dishonest numbers.

We’re only two players in and Texas has dramatically improved at rushing the passer and preventing our passer from being rushed. Kind of crucial in the ‘ol Big 12.

The next three are really just piling on in hope of having an offense that can average 50 points per game…

Capital One Orange Bowl - Clemson v Oklahoma
Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

TE Mark Andrews – Oklahoma. The league’s best (flex) TE is a 6-5, 255 long strider with great hands and excellent ability to separate downfield (he averages over 16 yards per catch in his career). He’s too fast for LBs and too big for DBs. Our staff knows exactly who he is – he hit Houston with a 64 yard touchdown catch before they started paying special attention to him. He played most of last year with an injured AC joint in his shoulder and it seriously hampered his production. Still, he has 14 touchdown catches in only 50 career receptions – a remarkable 28% of his catches cue up Boomer Sooner. Hearing the Eyes of Texas will be more like it.

Impact: A healthy Andrews will be a 700 yard, 10 td TE. Think Tyler Eifert for the Bengals. While he isn’t a physical in-line blocker, he’s effective blocking against smaller personnel that defenses are forced to play to cover him and he’s athletic enough to do some H-back stuff. His added dimension in the Longhorn offense would be a force multiplier and watching Andrews and Collin Johnson in the red zone would be amusing to say the least.

Valero Alamo Bowl - Oklahoma State v Colorado
Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

WR James Washington – Oklahoma State. The Wortham, TX native is a stud, but why on earth would I ink a WR to an existing Longhorn team strength? Because overkill is fun. The league’s preeminent deep threat has already exceeded 1,000+ yards twice in Stillwater, racking up an impressive 1380 yards on nearly 20 yards per catch in 2016. He’s a powerful receiver (6-0, 205) who can’t be knocked off of his stride in coverage and routinely puts corners on his hip and owns them in tight quarters. He’s a fantastic skill complement to Collin Johnson and Mark Andrews and the Bad Choice-Worse Choice options he’d present in coverage to opposing defenses would be enthralling.

Impact: Lining him up in a set along side Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay with our new shiny TE guaranteed linebacker or single safety coverage is patently unfair. Don’t forget about Connor Williams and Orlando Brown guaranteeing a clean pocket.

I’m trying to put 70 on the scoreboard and let the strength of my defense – the pass rush – take over.

The last player is…

Oklahoma v Texas
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

QB Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma. I’m such an asshole sometimes. Stop it. Hear me out. The native Austinite has accumulated 76 touchdown passes and only 15 interceptions in his last two years as a starter. He’s also mobile enough to punish defenses with his feet the way Herman likes, even if he’s unable to avoid 40 year old cops when he’s shit-faced. Was he propped up by Westbrook, Mixon, Perrine? Sure. And he’ll now have better talent at Texas.

Is he douchey? Deeply. But he can be our douche.

You have no idea of the power of the dark side. Take my hand. Join me. We will rule together.

Disney XD's 'Star Wars Rebels' Season 2 Finale Event - Arrivals
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

I can’t defend this on an emotional level. And you can argue for Jesse Ertz (we could run option and limit the value of our amazing receivers!) or Will Grier (he played six games at Florida!) or Mason Rudolph (he’s really good, but do you really want to see him in zone read? Also, he won’t elicit the unhinged reader comments Mayfield will), but you’re just rationalizing.

Impact: Texas now has a legitimate QB three deep, Ehlinger redshirts, Buechele becomes the most competent back-up QB in college football and Mayfield throws for nine million yards to a ridiculous group of receivers behind an OL made of granite.

The Texas running game is also made effective simply by virtue of the quality of the OL and threats outside. Everyone on the internet pronounces our RBs special for their ability to run through massive holes against six men in the box and the LA Rams GM drafts all of them in the 1st round.

**

Who wants to play?