Tag Archives: D.J. Monroe

Week 1 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Rice Owls

It’s finally time for the start of the 2010 Texas Longhorn football season, and Mack Brown’s team is looking to avenge their disappointing loss in last year’s BCS National Championship. Honestly, it’s time to put it behind us. EyesOfTX will say it, though: if QB Colt McCoy hadn’t gotten hurt in Pasadena, Calif., the ‘Horns would’ve beat Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide going away. That stupid ESPN “College Gameday” commercial would have Brown bragging about his two championship rings getting in the way during Jenga. OK, done with it. For now.

A few quick notes before jumping in to week one. The 2010 off-season held a lot of question marks for this Longhorns team, as several team leaders and experience took their talents to the next level, including QB Colt McCoy (Cleveland), WR Jordan Shipley (Cincinnati), DE Sergio Kindle (Baltimore), LB Rodderick Muckelroy (Cincinnati) and S Earl Thomas (Seattle; watch this video!) to name a few. That left offensive coordinator Greg Davis (EyesOfTX’s favorite coach to hate) and defensive coordinator / future head coach / crazy man Will Muschamp with some big holes to fill. Luckily, Brown’s recruiting prowess year-in and year-out has the ‘Horns filling out the roster nicely this fall. Some of the key positions will be filled with viable young talent that has learned from watching their elders, and they will only improve as the season progresses. Isn’t that cliche and catchy? Thought so. Worked all summer on it.

Key aspects to watch in September and October will be Gilbert’s progression at quarterback (does his name remind anyone else of the movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”), the “007” martini-like offensive line changes, filling the gaps in the defensive line – specifically at defensive tackle, and the using our former-star-QB-turned-running-backs-coach to find the ever-elusive running game. Who’s calling former UT great RB Ricky Williams to push grad school classes?

On a serious note, the ‘Horns are stacked with a mix of experienced talent and young hot shots that will make this season interesting – they could go undefeated, or lose up to three games. How’s that for not being decisive? The team opens the season as the #4 team in the nation according to USA Today, with some select powerhouses – Alabama, Ohio State, and Florida – ahead of them in the race to Glendale, Ariz., and the 2011 National Championship. Watch out for #5 Boise State – if they win on the road against #10 Virginia Tech in week one, and beat #24 Oregon State at home late in the season, have no one stopping them from getting on the national championship ballot come December. Hooray for small schools with blue football turf everywhere!

Texas Longhorns v. Rice Owls
2:30 p.m. CT (ESPN & ESPN HD)

Prediction:
Texas 48, Rice 10

Rice’s Keys To The Game:
The Owls and head coach David Bailiff (of Texas State fame) had a tough year in 2009 (Bailiff’s third season), going 2-10. While they run a spread offense – with no notable wide receivers to speak of – if they have any chance of beating Texas on Saturday, it starts with the running game and Michigan transfer and current RB Sam McGuffie. Name sound familiar? Yes, it’s the McGuffie of YouTube fame – the top RB prospect in the country a few short years ago. Haven’t seen him on film? Take 6 minutes, it’s worth it. EyesOfTX will be here when you get back. [Pause] Told you so. Unfortunately, McGuffie won’t get 100 touches in this game, which means Rice is still up a creek without a paddle, but don’t be surprised if McGuffie makes the fans gasp a time or two at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

Rice RB Sam McGuffie

Outside of McGuffie, the Owls don’t even know who their starting quarterback will be. Junior Nick Fanuzzi is the incumbent, a dual-threat QB, but he struggled last year throwing the ball accurately. They could start Miami QB transfer Taylor Cook, a 6’7” 240-pound behemoth with a monster arm but cement for feet. Or, how about true frosh Tyler McHargue, the better of the dual-threat QBs on the roster? It’s like picking lotto numbers out of tumbler – you don’t know what you’re going to get. Surely, Muschamp had fun writing out this week’s defensive schemes.

If the Owls offense is anemic without a running game, then the defense isn’t much better. They were 117th out of 120 teams last year in total defense, and gave up the most points per game – 43 – of any team in the country in 2009. In a 4-2-5 scheme, with four down lineman, two linebackers, and five defensive backs, they’ll play to Texas strength (passing game), but get brutalized by Texas’ punishing ground attack. Like how that was set up?


Texas’ Keys To The Game:
Let’s be clear – Texas can drop way more than 48 points on Rice. But, they won’t. On purpose. Per the commentary the fans have heard all off-season, this game is all about clock control and the to-date-non-existent Texas running game. Stop messing with you, right? Honestly, prepare to be David-ized – “is this real life?” You won’t believe what you see. Rumors have it that Cody Johnson will start at RB for the ‘Horns after dropping virtually no weight, but changing that fat to muscle and becoming a fast as all get-out, extremely conditioned athlete in the off-season. Texas rolls for more than 200 yards rushing on Saturday.

Texas QB Garrett Gilbert

Expect to see “experienced” QB Garrett Gilbert come out firing too, though. Reports have it that he threw only one interception in all of fall ball. Against what is being touted as the best defensive backfield in the country in 2010. Plus, he’s able to make throws that McCoy just couldn’t – I’m referring to downfield, of course. You’ll see more (gasp!) I-formation, with (gasp!) Gilbert under center, and (gasp!) a fullback…er, H-back. Promise. Although the offensive line was juggled around in the off-season, the starters are solid contributors with some experience under their belt. And, they’re finally being asked to fire off the ball in run blocking schemes, so they shouldn’t be a bunch of gigantic pansies blocking for the zone read as in year’s past. They want to go knock someone over. Preferably two.

The wide receiving core is re-tooled as well, but Brown has recruited well at the position, and after 7-on-7 drills this summer it sounds like WR Malcolm Williams found some consistency. He’ll be the scoring threat, with cohorts John Chiles and James Kirkendoll holding down the fort, and the quickness of D.J. Monroe or Marquis Goodwin adding sub-4.4 speed. Expect to see youth get some playing time here – the ‘Horns are deep on talent on the edge.

Defensively, this could be the year that no one forgets. Brown is already saying this could be his best unit ever at Texas. When you had the #1, #3, #4, and #8 defenses in the country in the last few years under Greg Robinson, Gene Chizik, and Will Muschamp, that’s hard to believe. We do know this – the secondary will be lights out…a perfect compliment to the offensive schemes of most Big 12 teams they’ll play. The defensive ends stay the same, with All-American talent and a lot of young studs to add depth. The tackle spot is a question mark, but some guys have stepped up this fall to fill the void. Linebackers will be lethal again this year too, although you’ll see one new name at starter on the weak side – Dravannti Johnson.

Let’s start the season off on the right foot – go get ‘em ‘Horns! Hook ‘em!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Owls

Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Kansas Jayhawks

November 21, 2009
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC (regional)

It has been a week of distractions for both these teams heading in to their late-season match-up, although the situation for Kansas coach Mark Mangino is much more dire. This week, several players – both current and former – have come forward and said Mangino is verbally abusive and had inappropriate physical contact during practices. To that end, Kansas’ athletic director has launched an investigation in to the accusations, and it remains to be seen whether Mangino will remain the Jayhawks coach after the season, only two years removed from being named the AP’s coach of the year.

For Texas, the distraction was different, as kick returner D.J. Monroe – only 20 years old – was arrested for a DWI last Saturday night after the Baylor game. Monroe has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Mack Brown, and might not play again until the bowl game, assuming his legal issues are resolved by that time.

For both teams, the key this week will be focus and preparation, and Texas seems to have the clear advantage in those two categories, if you disregard pure talent and this season’s success – which you can’t. Texas is three games away from playing for the national title, and they need to maintain their composure, play to their level, and help QB Colt McCoy get his 43rd win as the starter – an NCAA record for the winningest QB in history.

Let’s take a look at the details.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 55, Kansas 17

Kansas Jayhawks (5-5)
Kansas had big expectations this year, despite the loss of two offensive lineman and their stout linebacker core to graduation. With the return of QB Todd Reesing, as well as WRs Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, they had the offensive firepower to compete in the Big 12’s North division. Unfortunately, after a 5-0 start taking them as high as #15 in the rankings, they fell apart, and have lost five straight games in conference play. Now, they’re scratching to simply become bowl eligible.

This will be a homecoming game for senior QB Todd Reesing, who played his high school football right down the road at Lake Travis High School outside Austin. That high school coach should be proud, as he’s produced some big name QB recruits in recent years with Reesing, Gilbert (Texas), and potential Texas recruit Michael Brewer. Reesing has been the heart and soul of the Jayhawks during his tenure as a starter, but this year he has been nagged by injuries and tension with Mangino, who has pulled him during games in favor of his back-up. Reesing’s numbers are still stellar – 2,862 yards passing, 18 TDs, and only eight INTs with a 62 percent completion rate – but he hasn’t looked as comfortable or efficient as year’s past. There are rumors Reesing is still recovering from a nagging injury, and his lack of mobility is a liability, so a trip back home could prove disappointing in his last year in Lawrence.

The wide receiving corps for Kansas is as good as Texas will see all year. Starters Briscoe and Meier (the former QB turned WR) are both legit NFL draftees come April, and they are Reesing’s top targets in the passing game. Briscoe leads the team in receiving, with 994 yards, and TDs with seven. His 6’3” 202-pound frame makes him a big target downfield, and he is Kansas’ deep threat. Meier, on the other hand, is the big possession receiver at 6’3” 221-pounds, and has accounted for 885 yards and six TDs on a team-leading 83 catches. Both players have big play ability, will be the focal point of the KU passing game on Saturday, and will challenge the young but stout Texas defensive backs.

The Jayhawks running game is similar to Texas’ in that they have two backs who are complete opposites. The starter, Jake Sharp, is 5’10” 195-pounds and quick, with good hands out of the backfield (185 yards receiving and three TDs), accounting for 398 yards and three TDs on the ground this season. His complement is freshman Toben Opurum, a 6’2” 235-pound beast who moves the pile similar to Texas’ RB Cody Johnson. Opurum leads the running attack with 543 yards rushing on the season. Both backs offer different looks for opposing defenses, and given field to work with, they can be dangerous weapons to complement the KU passing game.

The Jayhawks’ offensive woes live in the line, where they start two freshman. Potentially the reason for Reesing’s on-going injuries is the inability to keep him upright, as the o-line has given up 24 sacks on the year. But, if the offensive line can open some holes for the running game, and give Reesing time to throw in the pocket – particularly if Kansas picks up on the weakness they saw in Texas’ defense of the bubble screen last week in Waco – then they have a chance to be very productive on the day. Against Texas’ front seven, though, it seems like a long-shot on Senior Day in Austin.

The defense is solid, but not outstanding, and their defensive line headlines that side of the ball. Overall, the defense gives up 351 yards of offense, 241 yards through the air, and an average of 24.9 points per game. They’ve also given up 32 opposing TDs this season, good for ninth-best in the Big 12. The defensive line’s success comes from the ends, namely Jake Laptad and Maxwell Onyegbule. While the defense s a whole has combined for a respectable 26 sacks on the season, Laptad and Onyegbule have accounted for 11.5 of them – so, that is where McCoy will see pressure on Saturday. As noted above, the weakness in the KU defense is the secondary – despite future NFL safety Darrell Stuckey – and they have only hawked seven INTs on the year. While the secondary steps up in the red zone, the defensive line has given up 18 rushing TDs on the season. Expect the secondary to get torched by McCoy and his receiving core on Saturday.

Finally, the special teams for the Jayhawks are mediocre at best. Their kicker, Jacob Brandstetter has a big leg, but has only made 10-of-15 field goals on the year. Their return game is horrid (6.1 yards per punt, and 20 yards per kickoff), and they give up big chunks of yards to opposing kick returners (11.4 yards per punt, and 22 yards per kickoff). Expect some big plays from the Texas return game, even without Monroe.

#3 Texas Longhorns (10-0)
The game plan for Texas needs to be balanced, both offensively and defensively this week. On defense, the ‘Horns need to put pressure on Reesing and make him scramble or make quick decisions. The secondary will have to keep both Briscoe and Meier in front of them and hold their coverage as long as possible to give the defensive line time to get to Reesing. By the same token, the safeties – Blake Gideon and Earl Thomas – will have to keep an eye on the backfield, as Sharp and Opurum both have the potential to make some big plays running or catching screen passes. If the defense plays up to their potential, they could tack up another non-offensive TD – something the Texas fans have come to expect this season. Another solid game from LB/DE Sergio Kindle also wouldn’t hurt his chances to win this year’s Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker, as he was named one of five finalists for the award on Friday (along with the Big 12’s Sean Weatherspoon).

On offense, the ‘Horns should continue to hone their running game as they wind down the season, and last week’s production from Johnson and the return of RB Tre Newton, produced a balanced attack in Waco. Expect Johnson to get the start again, and to once again try to lead a balanced Longhorns attack. Of course, McCoy and Shipley will be keys to the offensive game plan, and both will want to go out on a high note in their last game in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Expect to see John Chiles or Malcolm Williams join Shipley on kickoff returns this week, with the suspension of Monroe. With the Jayhawks porous kick coverage, anything is possible, including some quick fireworks to change the atmosphere inside the stadium.

Something to keep an eye out for: could this be the week the ‘Horns don the new Nike Pro Combat uniforms? If not, fans will seem them at least once before season’s end. While they sound cool in theory, there are some things in college football you just don’t mess with – one of those is the Longhorns’ classic uniforms. Let’s leave the weekly uni-watch to the folks in Oregon.

Another big win and another step closer to Pasadena are easily possible if the ‘Horns stay focused and keep taking one game at a time. This is the time in the season when any team can lose its edge by looking too far ahead, but this team and the senior leadership seem to have the ‘Horns headed in the right direction. Besides, who doesn’t love Pasadena in January?

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Kansas Jayhawks Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

Hook ‘em!

1 Comment

Filed under Big 12, Jayhawks, Longhorns, NCAA Football

Week 11 Follow-Up: Texas Longhorns Football

Some highlights and lowlights from week 11 in the Texas Longhorns football locker room.

Colt McCoy Ties Record for Wins
In Saturday’s win over Baylor, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy tied the NCAA record for the most wins by a college quarterback. He ties former Georgia quarterback David Greene with 42 wins in his college tenure, and with two more regular season games, the Big 12 Championship game, and a post-season bowl, McCoy has the chance to set the NCAA record next week with a win against Kansas in Austin.

D.J. Monroe Arrested for DWI
Texas freshman kick returner D. J. Monroe, who has scored two TDs on returns this season and been a spark plug for the ‘Horns special teams, was arrested overnight for driving while intoxicated. There is no doubt head coach Mack Brown will have strong disciplinary actions for Monroe, as he has become less and less lenient with player’s antics or missteps over the years. Expect Monroe to be suspended for at least a game or two, if Brown lets him come back and play this season at all. The last thing this Texas team needs is negative distractions, and you can bet Brown will do everything in his power to make sure nothing gets in the way of a trip to Pasadena.

1 Comment

Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football

Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Central Florida Knights

November 7, 2009
11:00 a.m. Central
FSN / Comcast Sports Net

If you keep an eye on Mack Brown’s words of wisdom throughout the year, you know the ‘Horns have already completed two seasons in 2009. Brown has a knack for breaking a 12-game season down in to three segments to help keep the team focused on short-term goals, building momentum until it crescendos in a post-season bowl game. To-date, the Longhorns are undefeated in two of their four-game stretches (to be 8-0), with the previous four games – Colorado, oklahoma, Missouri, and Oklahoma State – being their toughest stretch this season.

It’s true that the reminder of Texas’ schedule doesn’t pose much of threat – even the Big 12 Championship game, should they get that far – but, those can be the most dangerous games of all for a team that thrives on big games year-in and year-out.

This week, the ‘Horns face a fiery Central Florida team who almost knocked off Texas in Orlando in 2007 behind future NFL running back Kevin Smith. While this Knights team poses less of a threat, they shouldn’t be overlooked in Austin this weekend. As Eyes Of TX favorite UT guru Trey McLean says, “a game on the schedule is a game on schedule,” and the team still has to show up to play. There are no “gimme” games, and some of top teams in the BCS have already flirted with season-ending disasters this season. Brown and the ‘Horns need to maintain their focus, use Saturday to gain some “style points” with the BCS voters, and stay healthy.

Let’s get to the game preview for Texas v. Central Florida.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 56, Central Florida 10

Central Florida Knights (5-3)
Head coach George O’Leary brings his Knights to Austin for the first time on Saturday, and while his team is 5-3 and vying for position in the middle of Conference USA, they have had some gutsy performances – most recently on Sunday night when they came back from more than 10 points down to Marshall to win at the wire, 21-20.

The strength of the Knights team is not the offense, and in fact, they rank poorly in all offensive categories, other than being from a city with a lot of humidity. They rank 98th in total offense (336 yards/game), including 47th in pass efficiency, in the 70-range for passing (215 yards/game), and in the 80-range for rushing (120 yards/game) and scoring offense (24.1 points/game). Those are signs of 11 players struggling to find their rhythm against Conference USA opponents. Unfortunately, this weekend’s game is not against a Conference USA team.

The offense is led, however, by quarterback Brett Hodges and running back Brynn Harvey. Hodges is solid, but not great – throwing for 10 TDs and seven INTs while hitting 57 percent of his passes – and he is capable of moving the team down the field methodically when necessary. Ask Marshall. Harvey is the workhorse in the backfield, and standing at 6’1” 215-pounds, he is capable of moving the pile through the middle the field to get his yards, and he averages 84 yards per game, and has seven TDs on the season. The problem this week will be the near-invisible Knights offensive line – while the UCF fans might point to turnovers or lack of total yardage to lead to points, the truth is that the offensive line probably won’t make the ‘Horns defense break a sweat and that will cause Hodges to make mistakes that will take the Knights out of the game by halftime if not sooner.

The surprise out of Orlando is the UCF defense, which has played inspired football all season and given the offense ample opportunities to stay in games, and/or win them in the end. Where their offense is incompetent on the national scene, their defense ranks in the top 10 in both rush defense (87 yards/game) and sacks (27) – those are impressive stats, although against inferior teams from Conference USA. While Eyes Of TX is certain the Knights rush defense statistics will only improve after playing Texas’ “we’ll-kind-of-try-to-run-until-we-give-up-and-pass-all-over-you” attack, UCF’s sack total does pose some concern for Texas’ offensive line and coach Mac McWhorter.

The defense is led by defensive end Bruce Miller, who has totaled nine sacks on the year and as an undersized lineman, plays more like a linebacker at 6’2” 253-pounds. His colleague up front is NFL-sized Torrell Troup, with two sacks and 26 tackles on the year, will take up all space between the hash marks Shaun Rogers-style with his 6’3” 314-pound frame. If Texas has any chance running the ball on Saturday, it won’t be up the middle the field. The opportunity for Texas on Saturday, assuming they can calm the pass rush from UCF’s defensive line and linebackers, will be to take advantage of the secondary with the plethora of bigger, stronger, faster wide outs roaming the burnt orange side of the DKR-Memorial Stadium sidelines. The Knight’s linebackers, while solid in run support, are ripe for taking advantage of in coverage, and the secondary is giving up 243 yards passing per game (90th nationally). How do they solve their coverage woes? They play Texas and Houston back-to-back weeks. Ouch.

On special teams, it’s a mixed bag. The kicking game for the Knights is an absolute debacle for a Division I school, as UCF’s field goal kicker is only 9-for-16, and their punter averages 36 yards per punt. Where it gets interesting is UCF’s ability to cover those short punts – allowing only 3.4 yards per return – as well as kick-offs, allowing 16.3 yards per return. In addition, they are capable of big plays in the kick return game, averaging 25.4 yards per kickoff with a TD on the season, and 12.5 yards per punt. Expect to see the Knights trying to cause some trouble for Texas on specials, and to keep that field goal kicker on the bench when it comes to red-zone situations. Let’s face it, UCF will need TDs – not FGs – to stay in this one.

#2 Texas Longhorns (8-0)
Simple. The ‘Horns need to play the game, and play it to the level they’re capable of – especially as the #2 team in the land. There are already doubters amongst the BCS voters, and if Alabama wins this weekend they get big momentum, so don’t give those ballot-casters another reason to question why Texas should be in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday, January 7 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time. Got it?

Texas will likely do what they’ve done all year – keep QB Colt McCoy upright in the pocket, and picking apart the opposing defense with 3-8 yard dink-and-dunk passes. The difference in the passing game this week might be the Texas wide outs ability to break something on Eyes Of TX’s favorite play to hate, the bubble screen. Expect to WR Jordan Shipley to have a career day, especially if he’s matched up on the linebackers, and let’s continue to see the emergence of WR Malcolm Williams who had a nice game in Stillwater last week. The running game should be…well, honestly…non-existent on Saturday for two reasons: 1) Texas doesn’t have a running back or a running game consistent enough to be a threat outside of Cody Johnson rumbling, stumbling, bumbling from the 1-yard line; and, 2) UCF’s rush defense is no joke.

On defense, the ‘Horns front seven must be salivating for Saturday’s match-up. UCF’s Hodges, whose jersey was pretty dirty after the Marshall game, will be sore until 2010 after this game, as there is no way the Knights offensive line can stop Texas’ self-proclaimed “Goon Squad.” With constant pressure on Hodges, and what is expected to be an early deficit, the running game will disappear and the UCF offense will become one dimensional. Oh, why hello Earl Thomas, Blake Gideon, and Curtis Brown – how may we help you? After an epic week against the ‘Pokes, expect a near-repeat performance (it’s scary to think that’s even possible) from the Texas secondary…they are on fire, showing confidence, and have no fear. It will be a self-serve night for the ‘Horns, and Aaron Williams should be back after being injured last week.

Expect some fireworks on special teams – Texas has the athletes to make something big happen…kick or punt return, block? Eyes Of TX expects one of each – who’s up for it this week? Shipley, Marquise Goodwin, D.J. Monroe?

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Central Florida Knights Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

Hook ‘em!

Leave a comment

Filed under Big 12, Conference USA, Longhorns, NCAA Football