Tag Archives: Will Muschamp

Gypsies and SEC Talent Headed For DKR

It’s been less than a month since it began, thankfully for most, and yet the hemorrhaging from the University of Texas football program continues. In the short time since the Longhorns ended their disastrous 5-7 season, head coach Mack Brown has gone from an in-control-of-the-program CEO to looking like Scotty Smalls trying to make friends and play backyard baseball in The Sandlot. In other words, he’s got some work to do…and fast.

Up until last week, the Longhorns had seen four coaches depart since November – offensive coordinator Greg Davis, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, and defensive line coach Mike Tolleson. But, to put a wrapper on 2010, wide receiver coach Bobby Kennedy expectedly resigned on Dec. 30 to make a lateral move to be the University of Colorado’s wide receiver coach. Make that five.

Throughout a tumultuous December, Longhorn fans across the country spread coaching hire rumors as fast as they could drink a bottle of Salt Lick BBQ sauce. They threw around more names than Santa Claus could rattle off reindeer names. And yet the New Year passed with nothing from the halls Belmont. What exactly was Mack Brown doing over there? Had we been naughty and not nice?

Darrell Wyatt

On Monday and Tuesday this week, fans began to get some answers – albeit not quite the names or coordinator-level titles fans were expecting. The first presser of 2011 brought us Darrell Wyatt as the new wide receiver coach and co-recruiting coordinator, and you can watch Wyatt’s introductory press conference here. Wyatt is a Texas-born Kansas State alumnus who is a get-to-the-point coach with credible Big 12 Conference experience and has been both a wide receiver coach, offensive coordinator, not to mention recruiting extraordinaire. The problem might be, he’s a gypsy of sorts – making his rounds year-after-year – to different schools around the country, including Kansas (most recently), Baylor, oklahoma, and Oklahoma State…and those are just his Big 12 Conference stops. In fact, he’s coached at 14 different universities in his 21 years of coaching. That said, Wyatt can downright get kids to come play for him and turn them in to top-tier talent – see also Adrian Peterson (oklahoma), Mark Clayton (oklahoma), Rashaun Woods (Oklahoma State), and Mike Thomas (Arizona). He’s recruited from Texas for most of his coaching tenure, including the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, Houston and East Texas, and Central Texas. It’s an exciting addition, and ‘Horns fans can be assured that Wyatt will turn out as much talent to the next level as former offensive coordinator Greg Davis ruined. Another positive for Wyatt – his youth and energy. Brown’s talked about it, and now it’s coming to fruition – a much-needed addition to the retirement home-bound staff that had been residing in Austin the past few seasons.

Bo Davis

In addition to Wyatt, Mack Brown also announced Bo Davis, who has served as a Nick Saban disciple at LSU, the Miami Dolphins, and Alabama, is joining the Texas Longhorns staff, making a lateral move to become the ‘Horns defensive line coach. During his tenure with the Crimson Tide, Davis has had a top-10 defense year-in and year-out in one of the toughest conferences in the country, and he has had several defensive lineman become all-conference or all-American players. Prior to joining the ranks of Saban’s various staffs across the southeast, Davis spent several years coaching at Galena Park North Shore High School in Texas, including coaching former Longhorn DE Cory Redding, and has relationships with high schools across the state. Given his background as an LSU alumnus and assistant, Davis also brings inroads to the top high schools in Louisiana.

The question now becomes whether Brown is making random hires that he hopes work well together under his tutelage. It seems odd, to this writer anyway, to hire position coaches when the coordinator positions are still up in the air. At least, publically still up in the air. Maybe Brown’s got his CEO house in order, has lined up more than we know behind the scenes, and has everything but signatures on the dotted line. Maybe he’s building a staff based on input from those to-be-named resources.

Rumors are circulating that leading candidates for the offensive and defensive coordinator positions are also in Austin interviewing this week. While many expected Teryl Austin (Florida), Everett Withers (North Carolina), or even former Longhorn Jerry Gray (Seattle Seahawks), to be leading defensive coordinator candidates, it appears as though Brown is after another young, energetic SEC coach instead – none other than Mississippi State’s Manny Diaz. Diaz would be an interesting hire, but to look at what he’s done with a middle-of-the-road SEC team only means he could flourish with the talent in Texas. On the offensive side of the ball, many have considered Boise State or Wisconsin’s coaching gurus to be the focus of the search, and that seems to be more or less true, as the Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is supposedly the top target. But, don’t rule out the Broncos’ OC, although it sounds like he wants some of his boys (namely, his offensive line coach) to come along for the ride if he signs a contract to come to Austin.

Only time will tell, but as the college bowl season wraps up and the recruiting window opens up again leading in to Signing Day in early February, it’s due time to name some coaching talent and get them in Austin and on the road solidifying what is and could still be the #1 recruiting class in 2011.

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The Sky Is Falling in Austin

What at first appeared to be a blessing in disguise for Texas this off-season is quickly becoming a nightmare for Texas football head coach Mack Brown and the athletic department. Following his first losing and worst season in Texas history (5-7), pressure was on Brown to replace key coaching positions on his staff where deficiencies were observed. That meant a swift “adios” to long-time offensive coordinator Greg Davis, as well as line coaches Mac McWhorter and Mike Tolleson.

Today, in the wake of Florida Gator coach Urban Meyer’s second retirement in Gainesville, athletic director Jeremy Foley has announced the Gators they’ve hired away Brown’s coach-in-waiting for the Longhorns – none other than defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

Holy, Davy Crockett with a raccoon hat. Next, we’re going to find out the Confederacy won the Civil War, the French army is something to be reckoned with, and there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Brown’s got some big holes to fill, and just when he thought things were lining up perfectly for him to retire in the not-to-distant future. The two lead coordinator positions, plus the two line coaches – and maybe a wide receiver coach to boot – leads to a very, very busy off-season. Anyone else think 2011’s becoming a re-building year…again?!

Hey, Greg Robinson…tired of working for Rich Rodriguez and getting your door knocked on by the NCAA every other day? Hey Gene Chizik, when you’re done coaching you’re Heisman Trophy quarterback in the national championship game this year, would you be interested in coming back to coach the defense in Austin? Hey, Major Applewhite, aren’t you glad you’re sticking around…opportunities are becoming more and more available for you, my man.

It’s evident, even more so with this latest departure – EyesOfTX is quickly seeing a very, very young coaching staff taking over the helm in Austin in the next 3-5 years.

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Texas’ Mack Brown Turns Mafioso?

Suffice to say, there are a few mixed feelings about offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ departure from the Texas Longhorns football team. But, we all know that head coach Mack Brown loves to control his “empire” and these latest coaching retirements and resignations are no surprise given the heat from the Texas fans and boosters.

Brown’s control is no more obvious than this video, making its rounds on YouTube. Could Brown be creating his own group of vigilantes, including Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite? Perhaps…

What’s next? Opening laundry mats and restaurants?

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It’s For Real, ‘Horns Fans

It’s about time. No one ever wants to see wholesale changes in a coaching staff, especially one that has been together as long as Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns staff. But, after the first losing season for Texas football since Brown’s arrival in 1997, it is time for some change.

Early reports indictate that several coaches have either resigned, or at a minimum told their players that they won’t be returning next season. The key departure (good or bad depending on your alliances) is offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has been with Brown for all 13 years at Texas, not to mention his tenture at North Carolina and Tulane before coming to Austin.

In addition, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, defensive line coach Mike Tolleson, have confirmed they are resigning, and wide receiver coach Bobby Kennedy is rumored to also be leaving the staff (although that has not yet been confirmed). That leaves a lot of holes to fill on the coaching staff, but they were all areas where the Longhorns have struggled the past 2-3 years. You can find more on the departures here, and it appears as though Mack Brown will not try to fill the positions until after the bowl season concludes. The resignations will also not be effective until August 31, 2011, when each of the coach’s contracts expire, although they could leave sooner if they are hired away by other teams.

Who are the likely candidates to fill some of those roles, you ask? Let’s pontificate, based on some rumors circulating Longhorn nation. Keep in mind, current defensive coordinator and future Texas Longhorns head coach Will Muschamp will also have some pull in hiring the new coaches, so he might help Brown and the staff dig in to SEC coaching talent as well. No doubt, with some top coaches departing, the ‘Horns will have some money to spend in the off-season to get top-notch talent.

Dana Holgorsen (Oklahoma State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach): Lead the nation’s #1 offensive juggernaut in 2010, and made a former Major League Baseball pitching prospect one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12. It could be tough to grab Holgorsen, though, as he’s an in-conference coach, and Cowboys alum and millionaire Boone Pickens has plenty of money to donate to keep a winning staff together in Stillwater.

Bob Bostad (Wisconsin running game/offensive line coach): When you think of the Badger’s offense, the first thing that comes to mind is a stout running game that is based on the success of an offensive line that can run block with the best in the counry year-in and year-out. The downside is Bostad hasn’t called the plays and would have to learn on the fly or defer to another member of the current Texas offensive staff (see also: Major Applewhite). Would be a solid hire as an offensive line coach, but that might not be the type of “promotion” or long-term growth opportunity that is attractive to a successful assistant coach.

Major Applewhite (Texas running backs coach): A natural progression for Applewhite, and more the likely one of the reasons he took a demotion from previous roles to come to Texas in the first place – to be Greg Davis’ replacement. As a former quarterback, he can help groom future talent, and he’s also called the offensive plays for Rice and Alabama (under none other than Nick Saban) in previous stints. He’s young – yet experienced, more than capable, repsected by the players, has name recognition and in-roads to Texas-state talent, and it is a guarantee that he wants the job.

Mark Helfrich (Oregon offensive coordinator): As much as EyesOfTX despises all things Ducks, this might be a great hire. Helfrich has only called the plays for the “Zeroes” for two years, but their offense has been prolific during that time – and he’s got the Ducks playing in the national championship game the year after his starting quarterback transferred and his best running back went off to The League. Not bad. This one comes down to how much Nike, er…Phil Knight, er…the university is willing to pay to keep him around.

Bryan Harsin (Boise State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach): This would be an interesting hire, but might be difficult given Harsin’s a Broncos graduate. It’s hard to get talent out of Boise, as head coach Chris Petersen has a well-oiled machine under his helm. The question remains whether Boise State talent can climb up the rungs and be successful at the next level – see also: former head coach Dan Hawkins, who floundered in his attempt to translate his success in Boise to Boulder and the Universityof Colorado.

Stacy Searels (Georgia line coach): There is some history with Searels and Will Muchamp, and the SEC connection might help draw him to the Lone Star State. While Searels has seen success at Georgia in previous years, the past several years have been struggles for the Bulldogs. Is that what Brown and Muschamp want to bring to town?

We’ll see how things pan out, but expect some big changes in the next month or two.

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Week 7 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Nebraska Cornhuskers

There are positives and negatives to having a bye week. On the plus side, when you win going into a bye week, as a player you can go through the motions on the practice field while relishing a few more days rest to recover from lingering or annoying minor injuries. Be assured, Texas has had no such break these past two weeks. If EyesOfTX (and the rest of Longhorn nation) had no break from the mental anguish of the past two losses, then the ‘Horns better not have either. Here’s hoping Texas head coach Mack Brown ripped on both his players and staff behind closed doors for the past 13 days. Two losses? Back-to-back? Think the stuff of “Top Gun” lore: “Two of your snot-nosed jockeys did a fly-by on my tower at over 400 knots. I want some butts! … Dammit, that’s twice!”

Luckily for the ‘Horns, the bye week means they’ve some extra time to try and right the ship. Level their wings. Put their heads on straight. To remember they are football players for one of the most elite college programs in the game. The I-35 bubble in Austin should have a lot of blood, sweat, and even some tears after practice this week. The film room should have cots spread out across the room because players have been spending every waking hour glued to the early-season game tape to find and correct their on-field mistakes.

But, it’s deeper than that. So far this season, the seniors are showing how much they feel entitled. On the field, that’s translating to Maverick’s “crashed and burned on the first one, it wasn’t pretty” lingo. The younger guys can’t buy in to that – there is too much talent and potential among the depth chart. For the ‘Horns, it’s time to step up or turn in their pads because they’ve “lost the edge.” Just because it says “Texas” on the front of your jersey doesn’t mean you deserve to win.

Texas Longhorns v. #5 Nebraska Cornhuskers
2:30 p.m. CT (ABC/ESPN)

Prediction:
Texas 13, Nebraska 45

There is one thing on Nebraska’s mind this week – redemption. December 5, 2009. Just like Texas needed one second back in the upset in Lubbock in 2008, the ‘Huskers want one second back from last year’s Big 12 Championship game. December 5, 2009. There will be no mercy rule, Nebraska is squarely set on putting the wood to Texas on Saturday in Lincoln, the teams’ final Big 12 regular season match-up. December 5, 2009. Make no mistake, this game has been circled on head coach Bo Pelini’s calendar since … December 5, 2009.

Even Nebraska’s marketing department was behind an off-season shot at the Texas game (and later changed) to get Husker fans excited for the upcoming season – called “Red Out Around The World.” Their mantra (and doesn’t this sound kind of familiar): “Come early. Be Loud. Wear Red. (Beat Texas).” They’ve sold out of t-shirts at the bookstore bearing the saying: “All my ex’s live in Texas: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.” The date “10-16-2010” is plastered all over campus. Don’t become ou fans, Huskers…it’s not a good look for you.

Nebraska’s Keys To The Game:
His name is Taylor Martinez. His name is Taylor Martinez. His name is Taylor Martinez. Seriously, Tyler Durden probably knows this kid by now. The barely-past-puberty Martinez leads Nebraska at QB in 2010, and brings the word “amazing” to an offense that was anything but in 2009. With the same basic role players on offense, the infusion of Martinez has helped transform what was a horrific scoring attack last year to one of the best in all of college football this year. Jake Locker, eat your heart out. As a redshirt freshman, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. might have just moved Martinez past Locker on his draft board.

Everyone knows Pelini is a defensive-minded coach, and since his return to Nebraska, he’s shown his ability to craft a defensive juggernaut – even giving the “Blackshirts” nickname back to this year’s squad. But, Martinez is the knight in shining armor for the ‘Huskers 2010 BCS run, running the zone read to perfection. He’s mobile. He’s fast. REALLY fast. Think Looney Tunes’ roadrunner. Get this: the kid is five games in to the season, and he’s already accumulated 737 yards rushing, on 10.8 yards per carry, for 12 TDs. Those are RB stats, folks. A really, really good RB. Passing? Only three TDs. You get the idea. Let’s hope Martinez doesn’t leave Will Muschamp’s Texas defense looking like Wile E. Coyote.

Unfortunately, Martinez isn’t the only rushing threat. RBs Roy Helu, Jr. and Rex Burkhead flank Martinez in the backfield, and are more than capable of providing the power running attack as opposed to Martinez’s sideline-to-sideline flair. Is this bringing back UCLA nightmares yet? It should. On the outside, Martinez has the option to throw to several talented and big wide receivers – namely Niles Paul, Mike McNeill and Brandon Kinnie – but quite honestly, he just doesn’t need to. He’s only thrown for 660 yards on the season with three TDs and three INTs. Will they pass? Yes. Do they think they need to? Probably not. Most impressive is that Nebraska’s offense is built around a very inexperienced offensive line, with three new starters in 2010. Maybe Texas’ Mac McWhorter could take some lessons on how to transform on-paper talent to on-field production? The line has given up seven sacks on the season, and with Texas’ stacked defensive line, the Big Red will have their hands full maintaining their gaps and creating running lanes for Martinez, Helu, Jr. and Burkhead.

This year’s “Suh” in Lincoln is none other than Suh’s cohort in the trenches last year, defensive tackle Jared Crick. He has 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season, and with opponents focused on protecting against Crick, the rest of the defensive line has opportunities to shine in opponent’s backfields. Ironically, the line isn’t their strength – the ‘Huskers bring the #1 pass defense in the country. You’d have to utilize your abacus to add up the number of interceptions they have on the year. With Texas’ lack of a running game, expect Pelini to pressure and contain any semblance of a running game with his front four and have his secondary focus on dropping back in to coverage to track down balls a la Willie Mays.

Texas’ Keys To The Game:
Good news. Texas got their butts chewed during the bye week. Bad news. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis is probably sitting up in the press box drawing up a “revised” version of the bubble screen to a different running back or wide receiver. Good news. RB DJ Monroe has used the bye week to “learn the playbook.” OK, maybe not, but he’s getting the call to start in the backfield again this week. Bad news. No matter how well the offense plays on Saturday in Lincoln, Texas won’t win Saturday without a big performance by the defense.

Offensively, this game lies in the hands of the Texas offensive line. Nebraska is prone to giving up rushing yards (well, at least more than they do through the air). If the o-line can give QB Garrett Gilbert time in the pocket, provide running lanes for the speedy Monroe, and the wide receivers can run routes beyond the first down markers, Texas does indeed have a shot. It hasn’t happened yet this season, but they’ve had their poor performances to-date rubbed in their face for too many weeks now. It’s time to change. It’s time to define the offense…on the field…on a Saturday. With freshman WR Mike Davis back in the line-up, Texas can take some shots down the field and change the dynamic of the game with big plays and open up the field for the…gasp…running game.

Defensively, Muschamps’ boys have their hands full with Nebraska’s three-pronged running attack. But, like any good football coach will tell you, even “Coach’s” Hayden Fox, beating a running team is all about playing assignment football. It’s about maintaing your gaps in the trenches, and utilizing your linebackers and secondary to clean up the mess. It’s about not making mistakes. It’s about making sure tackles. It’s beating Martinez to the corner with the right angles. It’s about stripping the ball and winning the turnover battle, and the ‘Huskers have put the ball on the ground 18 this year, so it’s possible. Nebraska will get their yards on the ground, but this defense has shown glimpses of being an elite unit. They’ll need every piece of that talent and pride to win in Lincoln.

Texas will also have to overcome a strong Nebraska kicking game, as the ‘Huskers will use every opportunity to pin Texas deep with punter Alex Henery and make Gilbert and company drive the length of the field, which has been a consistent problem this season. The ‘Horns have to eliminate the mistakes in special teams. Expect to see new kick and punt returners, and with a swift kick in the pants, a different attitude to bring some momentum to the Texas sidelines. It’s going to be chaotic and red in Lincoln, but Texas has a long-shot chance at avoiding a .500 start to the 2010 season and redeeming themselves in the eyes of college football’s elite.

Hook ‘em!

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Week 5 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. oklahoma sooners

Well, it won’t be an undefeated season after all. It’s easy to admit now – along with many others – that UCLA seemed like a pushover. They were mid-level PAC-10 team (if that) with few expectations, and there was no way they were going to roll in to Mack Brown’s house and put a beat down on the #6 Longhorns. Boy were we wrong – 34-12 wasn’t even a summary of what went wrong.

There are a lot of things that need to be fixed. Go ahead and start up the “replace Greg Davis” talk for the 2010 season, because once again, this writer is on board. Texas looked absolutely anemic in Saturday’s contest against the Bruins. After holding the opposition to -6 yards in the first quarter, Texas gave up 264 rushing yards in the final three quarters. The Bruins only passed for 27 yards all game – yep, 27 yards. But, this game was decided not necessarily on the defense’s performance, but the offense and special teams being anything but. Turnovers changed the game. Perhaps the incomplete TD pass to James Kirkendoll changes the attitude on the sidelines and the game ends up differently for the ‘Horns. But, it didn’t happen and the outcome wasn’t affected. Texas got beat, pure and simple, and truth be told they should have gotten beaten a lot worse then they did. This was the wake-up call. Were they looking ahead? We’re going to find out this week.

It’s a weekend of intense hatred on either side of the Red River. In fact, EyesOfTX’s significant other made an astute football observation this week while watching “The Biggest Loser.” One of the contestants, picked from Oklahoma City during a nationwide search for contestants, had family members in the crowd cheering her on in a contest to get on the show. Those family members were wearing ou t-shirts. Rather bluntly, the words, “I hope she loses” simultaneously echoed off the walls of our living room. While she thought I had somehow gotten in to the crazy pills, we all know who the sane one was that evening. ou sucks – let’s get to it, and if you need a refresher on your pre-game checklist for Texas/ou weekend, check it out here.

Texas Longhorns v. oklahoma sooners
2:30 p.m. CT (ABC)

Prediction:
Texas 17, oklahoma 42

It’s a first. EyesOfTX is picking against the ‘Horns. Saturday’s contest seems an insurmountable hill to climb, and with only a few cylinders in the Longhorns clunker working leading in to week 5, the road to glory in Dallas will be a long one in 2010.

On the plus side, this is THE game of the year on Texas’ schedule. Every player comes to Texas to relish in the atmosphere of Texas/ou weekend. To walk out the tunnel on to the field at the Cotton Bowl, amongst the 50/50 split of Longhorn and sooner fans and make their mark on the rivalry. This is the game that matters. This is for bragging rights. This is to gain back some of the respect lost after last Saturday’s debacle. If you need help getting amped up for this game, you shouldn’t set foot on the field.

Nonetheless, oklahoma WR Jaz Reynolds gave the Longhorns some bulletin board material this week. For those who don’t know, a lone gunman strode through the UT campus earlier this week, firing shots at random before entering the PCL library and taking his own life. Luckily, no bystanders were injured. But, that didn’t stop Reynolds from using Twitter to speak his mind: “Hey everyone in Austin, tx…….kill yourself #evillaugh.” Shortly thereafter, he followed up with: “Everyone in austin, tx disregard that last tweet….y’all will mess around n do it lmao.”

Thus, the dominoes will fall as they may on Saturday, and sooners will still be classy in every way we know them to be. And, Reynolds will enjoy the game from the sidelines – head coach Bob Stoops did one thing right and suspended him indefinitely. Too bad, surely the ‘Horns would have loved to have their shot at him this weekend. Metaphorically, of course.

oklahoma’s Keys To The Game:
It’s as though Stoops’ offense hasn’t changed in years. Balance. Lots of points. Select playmakers. Quentin Griffin comes to mind. As does Adrian Peterson. And Sam Bradford. And the other Roy Williams. And a number of others. Today’s sooners heros are none other than RB Demarco Murray and WR Ryan Broyles. It will be a two-man show on Saturday, with QB Landry Jones behind the scenes pulling the curtains back. Balance.

oklahoma sooners RB Demarco Murray

Murray is finally hitting is stride as the RB every fan has been waiting for him to become. He’s Peterson-sized at 6’1” and 207 pounds, and has gained 436 yards and seven TDs in just four games. He’s fast, and great in between the tackles or hitting the edge and making the most of open space. He’ll do the leg work for the sooners on Saturday, but the question becomes where and how he makes his yards – on the ground or through the air. Broyles is a known quantity, and has shown up big for the sooners in previous Red River Rivalry games. Despite his size (5’11” 193 pounds), he has a way of freeing himself up in coverage and making big plays to the tune of 120 yards per game and four TDs. He’ll be Jones’ go-to wide out on Saturday, and expect Texas to plant CB Aaron Williams on his hip as the shut-down corner.

Jones is an accurate and strong-armed passer, but he’s relatively immobile and that should be something Texas keys on in their defensive scheme. He likes to get rid of the ball quickly, letting his aforementioned playmakers do the work, but if the Texas d-line can get pressure, he’s mistake prone. The sooners’ offensive line is also still struggling to gel, and although they put together gutty performances, they are just as susceptible to mistakes as the young Texas offensive line. They give up two sacks per game, and most of ou’s running game – stretch plays or running off-tackle – veer away from what is usually the strength of an offensive line’s blocking schemes.

oklahoma sooners LB Travis Lewis

The defensive line and linebackers will cause Texas problems, especially from the edge. ou returns two defensive ends – Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander – that could both make a case for national awards at season’s end. Beal is the real threat, but left one-on-one, Alexander will make plays as well. The defensive line will try to control the line of scrimmage and clear the dust so their star linebacker, Travis Lewis, can clean up everything in site and is also solid in coverage. With Texas’ anemic running game, expect to see Lewis blitzing more often to force Texas QB Garrett Gilbert to make poor decisions – something he hasn’t really done all year. With the middle of the field open, Texas should be able to exploit the short-yardage passing attack.

But, the defensive backfield poses the biggest threat for ou and opportunity for Texas. The corners are small, 5’9” and 5’11”, and shouldn’t be able to handle Texas’ height on the outside. Their safeties are plenty capable of running the sooners’ cover two scheme, and Gilbert will have to disguise his reads in a way that would make former Texas QB Chris Simms jealous to be successful.

Texas’ Keys To The Game:
First, show up to play. The ‘Horns looked lethargic last week, and they need the playmakers to step up at every position on Saturday. Every player at every position was tested this week in practice. Every player’s starting job was on the line. Every player’s ears should be ringing from a position coach in their head about blocking their gaps, running the right routes, holding on to the ball, and not making mental mistakes. Rumor has it, that as of Wednesday, the Texas coaching staff hadn’t figured out their offensive game plan for ou – something that is usually settled on Sunday afternoon in Austin. That’s a scary proposition that most Texas fans don’t want to hear.

Second, Texas need to expand the offensive playbook. Texas is awfully predictable right now, and while Gilbert is making safe reads to his check-downs, it’s happening too often. The bubble screen and hot routes aren’t successful in moving the chains with this group of wideouts. Yet, on the rare occasion we see Gilbert get out of the pocket or looking downfield, we have success – in big chunks. While Gilbert can get the ball to his playmakers on the outside, they’ve got to step up and make plays as well. Against a questionable sooners secondary, this will be their time to shine. Run sharp routes, catch the ball (it’s one of two jobs you have on the field!), and make some yards after the catch. The running game, with likely its fourth different starter in five games, shouldn’t be a factor this week – all they need to do is pass protect, and act as Gilbert’s relief valve when the sooners’ pass rush is overwhelming the offensive line.

Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis

As an EyesOfTX subscriber brought to my attention this week, it’s not necessarily the offensive players at fault for the production on the field – offensive coordinator Greg Davis has managed to diminish NFL-caliber talent on the offensive side of the ball for years. Think back to 2007, when the team wasn’t that good, and our offense consisted of next-level talent at every skill position: QB Colt McCoy, WRs Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley, TE Jermichael Finley, and RB Jamaal Charles. Yikes – if he couldn’t do anything with those guys, what’s in store for what looks like mediocre talent in 2010? That makes you wonder if and how Greg Davis is hampering the talent walking through the doors of Moncrief every year.

Third, Texas has to re-group on defense. This week and next (against Nebraska), the ‘Horns are going to continue to see a top-tier running attack. UCLA was nothing, and they gashed defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s schemes for three quarters last weekend. The middle of the line was atrocious, and the linebackers were no where to be found – they might as well have been in Driftwood, Texas, eating Salt Lick BBQ. At least we’d applaud that effort. The secondary is going to have to step up and blanket Broyles this week, while also keeping a keen eye on Murray out of the backfield – all while making sure open field tackles. Let the defensive line do their jobs by putting pressure on Jones and leaving the clean-up to the safeties playing field generals.

Finally, enough with the mediocrity – hell, downright gnarly – special teams effort. Dropped punts, forgetting fundamentals, kick-offs misplayed. Last weekend was a lesson to high school coaches everywhere is what NOT to do on special teams. Get it fixed, and Texas has an advantage in the kicking game in Dallas.

This one could go one of two ways, ‘Horns fans. It could be a defensive battle, perhaps utilizing the kicking game to win it, or an outright embarrassment that doesn’t feature Texas on the 4-1 side of things. This is the game to turn it around. This is the game to show the world why Texas deserves to be in the top 25. This is the game that sets the precedent for the rest of the season.

It’s 3:45 a.m. and ou still sucks!

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Week 4 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. UCLA Bruins

Was anyone else stressed out last Saturday? The referees seemed to try to steal the game from the ‘Horns for much of the night, but the defense stepped up in a big way and kept the offense in the game until it was time to catch the plane home. For the ‘Horns, it was the first hurdle in a challenging 4-game stretch that includes the Red Raiders, UCLA Bruins, #8 oklahoma sooners, and #6 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Write in down in the books – Texas moves to 4-3 in the Mack Brown era in Lubbock. And, EyesOfTX’s prediction that Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts would be “injured” at some point in last week’s game comes to fruition.

On to week 4, let’s get to it…

Texas Longhorns v. UCLA Bruins
2:30 p.m. CT (ABC)

Prediction:
Texas 35, UCLA 14

We remember, don’t we Texas fans? It doesn’t matter that both coaches weren’t in their respective coaching positions yet. It doesn’t matter that most of the players in this weekend’s game were 70-pound youngsters the last time these two powerhouses saw each other on the playing field. The score was 66-3. And the ‘Horns weren’t on the winning end of that debacle.

It’s time for redemption. Longhorn fans have waited too long for it, and it’s finally here. It’s time to show UCLA why they’re lucky the ‘Horns didn’t venture West this off-season in the conference realignment. It’s time to jump to 4-0, and get “right” before the showdown in Dallas in October.


UCLA’s Keys To The Game:
In uncharacteristic fashion for a West coast team not named Oregon, this match-up is all about the running game for UCLA. While the Bruins return an experienced QB in Kevin Prince, he won’t be the one to watch on Saturday. After all, in 3 games, Prince has only thrown for 258 yards (or, 86 yards per game), one TD, and – count ‘em – four INTs. Not the stats you want from the field general when trying to run a balanced offense. In fact, even going in to last weekend, Prince’s job was up for grabs – and he won it back. Not sure what that says about head coach Rick Neuheisal and offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s recruiting in SoCal, but I’ll venture a guess – it sucks.

UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin

Instead, all eyes will be on the two guys that will share carries and line-up in Chow’s “pistol” formation – Johnathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones. The pistol is basically the zone read formation that Texas has “enjoyed” for several years, but instead of lining up next to the QB, the RBs line-up behind the QB. This allows the backs to getting a running start before getting to the line of scrimmage and thus hitting the gaps the offensive line creates with a full head of steam. Can you imagine that? Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis can’t. Franklin (291 yards, three TDs) and Jones (101 yards) will be the keys to UCLA controlling the clock, wearing down the interior of the Texas defense, and keeping Texas’ offense off the field while scoring points.

The Bruins defense – at least on paper – doesn’t look that great. But, don’t be fooled. The secondary can more then hold their own, as can their very physical linebackers, but what those position players bring to the table is off-set by a less than stellar defensive line that can’t help their back seven by putting pressure on the QB or stop the running game. The defense ranks near the bottom of Division I schools in stopping the running game, but this early in the season, it’d be easy to argue that their first game of the year against Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas didn’t help pad their run defense stats. That being said, the opposite will likely be true on Saturday, as the ‘Horns offense can’t put any semblance of a running game together through September. If the Bruins defensive line can’t stop the Texas running attack (can we even call it that?), and then force QB Garrett Gilbert to force throws or make bad decisions, it’s going to be a long day for a secondary who actually does a credible job of holding opponents to a mere 155 yards through the air.


Texas’ Keys To The Game:
It’s a flip of the switch for Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s boys this week. Whereas last week the ‘Horns ran a nickel package with an extra defensive back on the field to corral all of Tech’s wide receivers, this week is all about loading up the box and stopping the power running game from the boys in baby blue. The Texas LBs and defensive line – namely that rotation of defensive tackles and defensive-ends-turned-defensive-tackles holding down the center of the line of scrimmage – will have their hands full with Franklin and Jones, but they can’t sit back in third-and-long situations either, as they need to force Prince to throw in to Texas’ highly-touted defensive backfield.

On offense, the ‘Horns need to eliminate some errors – namely, stupid penalties, dropped passes, and turnovers. The coaches and fans alike want to see any kind of consistency in the offensive line’s run blocking, more consistency from the wide receivers corps as a whole, and see Gilbert making smart decisions with the football. The Texas offense is still adjusting to a new QB and offensive scheme, and it’s the last week to test things out and open up the game a bit more than they have before the sooners become top of mind. Repetition and mental acuity are key. Forget about fried Oreos and turkey legs at the Texas State Fair, because next week’s match-up won’t matter if the ‘Horns don’t win this week.

Overall, Texas should win this game going away. The ‘Horns might not score 60 points on Saturday – or hell, in any game this season – but the defense will remain an elite unit, giving the offense time to get settled, and every single player on the burnt orange sideline will battle it out for four quarters. With focus and effort at every position, improvements can be made, and victories are had. Even Neuheisal would bank on that.

Hook ‘em!

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