Colt McCoy’s Texas passing game

Colt McCoy, University of Texas’s record-setting triggerman (and Heisman hopeful), is known for one thing above all else: his astounding accuracy. Indeed, he set the FBS single-season record for completion percentage last season, having completed 76.7 percent of his passing. For his career, McCoy has thrown for 9,732 yards and 85 touchdowns to only 33 interceptions, and has led the Longhorns to a 32-7 record as a starter.

11coltLast season, of course, was his best yet, as he averaged an impressive 8.9 yards per pass attempt and UT went 12-1. Yet the stats don’t necessarily sum up his accuracy: his coaches freely profess that he is the most accurate passer they have ever seen; it’s not just a matter of throwing a lot of checkdowns. He makes decisions quickly, sizes up the defense, and puts the ball right on his receivers’ numbers. So what concepts do Texas’s coaches, head coach Mack Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis, use with McCoy?

In exploring that question, this is one of those great examples where understanding the Xs and Os doesn’t supplant appreciating the skills and talent of the player, but instead enhance it. McCoy is a triggerman in every sense of the word: he calls the checks, he is given a plethora of options on most plays, and Texas’s gameplan week-to-week is to basically hand him the ball and tell him to make it work. That’s not to say they don’t give him the tools — I like Texas’s schemes quite a bit — but it’s a system that takes advantage of McCoy’s special skills.

Texas’s favorite route concept, by far, is something known as the “two-man” game, known in some coaching circles as the “stick concept.” Texas runs their a little difference, but they also use it a great deal; it’s their number one concept by far. After that I’ll briefly overview Texas’s quick game or three-step drop passes, followed by some highlights of what Texas’s coaches dial-up when they want to get a little more vertical.

Two-man game. This concept has been Texas’s go-to route since Mack Brown and Greg Davis arrived. Everyone from Major Applewhite, to Chris Simms, to Vince Young and now McCoy have been asked to master the play. (Indeed, Vince Young completed this concept more than any other in the 2005 Rose Bowl against USC, often to the tight-end Davis Thomas. Young, despite his passing limitations, got good enough at this play and others to lead the nation in passing efficiency in his record-setting junior year.)

The concept itself is simple enough. Dan Gonzalez, a University of Texas letterman at receiver and currently a coaching consultant, explained it in detail in his book, Concept Passing: Teaching the Modern Passing Game. It can be run from really any formation — any set with at least two receivers to one side — but Texas favors it from sets with at least three receivers, as the diagram below shows. This way the outside receiver can run deep. He serves both as an option on the fade route against single-coverage, but primarily he draws the defense away. And, from a formation and personnel standpoint, he typically draws the other team’s cornerback, allowing the two inside receivers to work against inferior pass defenders — the linebackers, safeties, and nickel backs.

The “two-man” concept itself has one receiver run immediately to the flat, while another bursts upfield to a depth of about eight yards — slightly deeper than most other teams run the route. He can then turn inside or outside depending on where the coverage is pressuring him. He wants to find the crease in the zone and to find the window that gets created as the flat defender widens for the other receiver on the “shoot” route to the flat. Against man coverage, he can break back to the sideline. See the diagram below.

twoman

On the backside, the split-end runs a skinny post while the runningback checks his protection responsibility and then leaks out as a dump-off. If the split-end has single coverage or the free-safety moves, he becomes a big-play option. (Note that this is not a “deep post” where the quarterback lofts it up. Texas actually refers to it as “glance” — it is a relatively flat throw thrown before a safety can break on it.) The “skinny” or “glance” receiver runs to ten yards, sticks his foot, and breaks “skinny,” just inside the corner and upfield.

McCoy should have a good idea if he will throw the glance route before the snap, or shortly thereafter if the free-safety ignores him. Otherwise he looks to the two-man concept, and he eyes the flat defender. If he widens for the receiver headed to the flat, McCoy throws the stick route. If the flat defender hesitates or drops, the flat should be open. See the video clips below of McCoy’s ability to fit the ball in to the “stick” or inside receiver.

Finally, one of the clips above shows Texas using this concept from a five-wide set. The adjustment is very simple, as the diagram below shows.

5widetwoman

Quick game. I can’t do full justice to Texas’s quick game, but I can mention a few routes. Texas, like most teams, begins with a lot of simple quicks. One is an adjustment to the run game, where if the defense does not cover all the split receivers and a run play is called, McCoy can just give his receivers a “look” and they know to look immediately for a quick pass (or block for a quick pass).

Next, Texas uses the “hitch” route a lot. It is the simplest play in football: the receiver bursts to about five yards (three big steps and two small) and then just turns around. If the corners play soft, or the defense doesn’t cover the slot receivers properly, the quarterback just throws them the ball quickly. Often you package these hitches together — if the flat defender widens to take the outside receiver, the quarterback throws it to the guy in the slot, and vice versa. The purpose of this is to take advantage whenever the defense is playing off or essentially giving them the easy throw. Because McCoy is accurate downfield and has a few speedsters, UT sees its fair share of off coverage. In the Fiesta Bowl last season against Ohio State, McCoy completed a staggering 41 passes out of 59 attempts (414 yards), largely because Ohio State was determined to play loose, “off” coverage.

That is, that was their strategy until . . . McCoy’s final pass. As the clips below show, on the game winning 26-yard scoring pass from McCoy to Quan Cosby, Ohio State — possibly frustrated — shifted into an all-out blitz with man coverage, and Cosby just beat his man on a simple slant pattern.

The route concept used is one Texas uses a great great, diagrammed below. To the two-receiver side, Texas runs double-slants. This serves as both a man beater and a nice route against cover two. To the three receiver side they run a variant of the two-man concept, where the outside receiver runs a fade and both inside receivers run out routes. If the flat defender to that side widens with the out run by the middle receiver, the innermost receiver should come open. If he doesn’t, well McCoy has a man in the flat. (For an analagous pass concept, see here.)

slantstick

In the video clips below of Texas’s various quick passes, notice how in both of the first two clips — which both show the double-slant and double-out packaged concept — McCoy hits a slant pass for a touchdown.

Get vertical. When Texas decides to go downfield a bit more, they use a variety of concepts I can’t all address here. They use play-action, plenty of roll-outs, bootlegs, sprint-outs and other “movement” passes to take advantage of Colt McCoy’s athleticism as well as his good accuracy. But their “go-to” downfield pass is nevertheless likely the “four-verticals” concept.

I have addressed this concept in detail previously (with mucho assistance from Dan Gonzalez again), so for now it is best to just reiterate the flavor of the play.

As the diagram below shows, the idea is to send four receivers “vertically” to divide the field — and also the secondary. Against a three-deep coverage (Cover 3), the free-safety cannot be correct: he cannot defend both receivers up the seams. Defenses will often adjust by having their underneath defenders “carry” or “run with” the receivers, but that opens up the runningback or another receiver on an underneath route. The outside receivers always remain an option, either if the cornerbacks release them downfield, or if Colt McCoy just likes his matchup. And, finally, although this is a “vertical” route, it is not a bomb-over-the-top throw — the ball should be completed between 18-22 yards downfield.

verticals

As the video clip below shows, McCoy is exceedingly accurate with this throw, and is adept at moving the defense with his eyes just before releasing the ball to an open guy in the void between defenders.

But when Texas does want to go over the top, they will often call for a double-move play, as they did against Texas Tech when they fell behind. In that game McCoy had actually thrown one of his rare interceptions on a curl/flat concept. He had failed to see a defender slide in front of the curl route (receiver bursts upfield to twelve yards and then comes back to the football inside, while an inside receiver breaks to the flat), and the result was six points for Tech.

Greg Davis and Mack Brown fired back, and called the same play, with a twist. This time the receiver, Malcolm Williams, ran his twelve yard curl, planted his foot — and then burst towards the end zone. McCoy lofted it up and the corner was beat. It was not just an example of McCoy’s skill, but also his moxie. They knew Tech would see blood when they saw curl/flat again, after having scored a defensive touchdown on the play.

See the video below for clips of four-verticals and the curl-and-go.

2009, and beyond. McCoy is an excellent quarterback, and Texas’s system — though sometimes maligned — is a great fit for such an accurate and poised rhythm passer. We should see plenty more of these passes this year as Colt makes his case for the Heisman, and for the Longhorns as National Champs. (Most of the questions on offense revolve around the run game.) But, in watching Colt, I see a lot of parrallels with another guy known for his accuracy: Drew Brees. Both have underrated athleticism, both are smart, and both can stick the ball on the receiver, exactly where they want to. That is something that cannot be taught, and it should continue to serve Colt well.

  • Jack

    Wow, excellent stuff. I’ve never been one to read too many football inside break-downs, but this is just excellent. Good work.

  • Tyler

    Colt McCoy is simply the best decision-maker at quarterback in CFB today.

  • http://clempsonfootball.blogspot.com DrB

    Clemson’s coaching staff spent a week in Austin trying to pick up a few concepts from their staff. I’m hoping they picked up a few of these.

  • Mr.Murder

    Amazing protection, as well. True, short routes take little time to develop. The fact that passing windows were so clear when linemen were trying to use hands and play tall speaks to the precise manner of protection and were the passer’s release points matched line technique to the route destination.

    A testament to their system and playing style!

    PS- McCoy isn’t a favorite of mine but you must respect the amount of reps needed to install something to that measure!

  • brandon

    ive been watching Colt since his FR year and is my favorite QB in the country. i cant wait to see what he does in the NFL. you used “moxie” to describe him and i think if you look that up in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Colt. great read as always

  • Jon

    Colt McCoy is a great college QB but he’s not cut out to play in the NFL. Too limited to be a starting NFL QB but can be a solid backup if he goes to the right team.

  • Shaz

    I disagree that Colt will be just a back up in the NFL. He is a carbon copy of Drew Brees if I’ve ever seen one. He is accurate, athletic, has good feet, and he has one thing a lot of QB’s don’t have that Drew Brees did have as well….experience! I look for Colt McCoy to be drafted in a similar position (Brees went 32nd overall) by a team that is playoff bound but missing a few pieces (like San Diego was in 2001).

  • http://SoonerScoop.com Ca-Sooner

    I’m not a fan of Colt but I think in the right system he can have success in the NFL.

  • Mike

    You wrote the following, “Dan Gonzalez, a University of Texas letterman at quarterback and currently a coaching consultant, explained it in detail in his book, Concept Passing: Teaching the Modern Passing Game.”

    Not to pick nits, and certainly not to “dis” Mr. Gonzalez, but Daniel Gonzalez didn’t letter playing QB at Texas, unless he did so running the scout team. He’s listed as lettering in 1994 and appears on the “game participation” for only 1 of the 12 games played that year…the 10th game of the season v. University of Houston.

  • Mr.Murder

    Stemming outs to eight yards instead of five yards hurts those shell covers trying to pattern read from cov 2/4 looks.

  • http://smartfootball.com Chris

    Mike,

    Not to “dis” you, but you do not appear to understand the definition of being a “letterman.” Letterman simply means participate. I don’t have an exhaustive detail of his playing history but is is my understanding that Dan, who is a friend, (a) was not a starter at UT, but (b) did in fact letter. Even if he was limited to action against Houston, that still qualifies as having “lettered” in a sport. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/varsity+letter

    Besides, I’m not sure why this was relevant.

  • James

    Mr. Murder,

    Yep. Ohio State is a big pattern reading team, and in that video you can see their corners bailing a bit early on a few plays that turned out to be simple outs.

    I love the idea of little adjustments like that throughout a game that can change things on a play by play basis.

  • Bob Thornton

    Colt will be dead in 2009 without Cosby. Texas gets stomped by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

  • rkhufu7

    Chase Daniel also broke the old completion percentage record.

  • n-ea

    “Two-man game. This concept has been Texas’s go-to route since Mack Brown and Greg Davis arrived. Everyone from Major Applewhite, to Chris Simms, to Vince Young and now McCoy have been asked to master the play.”

    The “two-man game” concept may have been used while Major and Chris were at UT, but the Texas offense changed considerably in 04′. Shotgun formations, the zone read (along w/ its variants), and a change in down vs distance philosophy make this offense much different from the 98-03 era.

    Excellent write-up though. Very rare that someone’s X’s and O’s breakdown is worth reading.

  • Billy

    Bob Thornton,

    Ever heard of Jordan Shipley? OU certainly has…

  • jamey

    Bob Thornton,

    i don’t have a care for OU or Texas more than any other team, but Colt beat OU without much help from Cosby in 2007. Ever heard of Shipley? Go watch that game again. OU chokes in big games.

  • Bob Thornton

    Uh Jamey OU won the game in 2007.

    Cosby kept Colt in his comfort zone. Teams will key on Shipley this season.

    This and other reasons OU stomps UT.

    Lets rank the postions:
    1. QB…Bradford’s better
    2. running back no contest OU by a huge margin
    3. OL ..Draw UT’s OL has not learbed how to run block
    4. WR and Tight End…OU with the beast Jermaine Gresham..big margin
    No ut player capable of guarding him.
    5. Defensive line…Huge huge advantage to Oklahoma..HUGE!
    5. LBers..OU has the edge.. with a healthy Ryan Reynolds and the great Travis Lewis
    6. DBs…wash….OU has the great Dom Franks
    7. Kicking game…wash.
    8. Coaching huge Margin Bob Stoops…Mack has only 1 Big 12 title in his 11 years at Texas…Bob Stoops has six Big 12 titles.

    OU WINS BIG!!!!

  • Mike

    Chris,

    1). I am very familiar with the University of Texas football program and have been for a very long time…from knowing DKR to Fred Akers to David McWilliams and knowing several of John Mackovics coaches. I’ve known David McWilliams since he played at the University of Texas.

    2). You should reread my original post to determine where your error of lies. No need for you to look back, I’ll copy it here:

    “Dan Gonzalez, a University of Texas LETTERMAN AT QUARTERBACK and currently a coaching consultant, explained it in detail in his book, Concept Passing: Teaching the Modern Passing Game.”

    I highlighted the portion to which my original post referred.

    It is relevent because I cared to comment on it.

  • Too Impartial, Bob

    1. QB – Bradford is better when he has time. He’s not as good a creator, nor is he nearly as fleet of foot (although he’s not a statue by any means). With a new OL, he’ll get hit a lot. We’ll see if he adjusts well, or the coaches do. I like it when guys return to school, but I think he made a mistake.

    2. Agreed.

    3. Please. The Texas OL will have a lot of combined starts, and OU’s OL will have very few. I don’t doubt the talent, but I will be pretty surprised if the OU OL doesn’t get Bradford hammered a few times through missed assignments and other confusion. This is not a draw. UT by a large margin.

    4. Nice that you included TE with WR, so that you could mention Gresham. He’s a freak, no doubt. On the other hand, Texas’ WR corps is far, far better than OU’s. They were last year, too, and OU lost almost everybody. OVERALL, Texas enjoys a large advantage here.

    5, part 1 (nice numbering). Agreed.

    5, part 2. No depth at LB for OU. Lewis is great. Reynolds is good but gets hurt more than a 15-year old emo boy pining for Morrissey. Texas enjoys a slight advantage with 5 “championship quality” (Muschamp’s words) LB’s, and that becomes a large advantage if Reynolds does his usual frailty act.

    6. Bullcrap. Texas’ secondary will be among the best in the nation. They were better than OU’s secondary last year when most of them were freshmen.

    7. Agreed for kickers, but I believe OU graduated their Academy Award winning punter, while Texas has quality, experience, and quantity. Slight edge in proven talent, but probably not significant.

    8. I would give Stoops the edge, but disagree that it’s huge. After all, Mack has taken 3 of the last 4 from Stoops, Conference championships notwithstanding.

    Texas by 2 scores.

  • http://orangebloods.com Brad

    Bob Thornton: Saying that Colt McCoy will be dead without Quan Cosby is about as ignorant an assessment as you could make when talking about the passing game of Texas for this season. Its as if there is no viable option at receiver other than Quan. Jordan Shipley notwithstanding, Texas has 4 other receivers with playmaking ability and all with better speed that Quan had. Quan was no doubt an EXTREMELY valuable piece of the team last year, it would be stupid to not see that. But if you really pay attention to the Texas program year round, not just during the season, you would know that Brandon Collins, James Kirkendahl, Malcolm Williams and the newly converted John Chiles will have something to say about Colt McCoy being “dead” without Quan Cosby.

    Texas will have it’s best combination of big play receiving talent on the field since the Big 3 (Roy Williams, BJ Johnson, Sloan Thomas) and you better believe that a more seasoned and talented O-line this year along with a healthy Vondrell McGee and Fozzy Whittaker (both played hurt most of last year) will most definitely provide Colt plenty of room to be “not dead” on the field.

    Texas plays as a team, not a bunch of individuals, as good as any football team I’ve ever seen, and that is one of many reasons why they will beat OU again this year. That’s just talking offense…

    If you wanna jump to the other side of the ball, feel free.

    1) Will Muschamp in his second year as D Coordinator = more looks, formations and blitz patterns that will be absorbed and implemented by the defense

    2) Lamaar Houston will absolutely pick up right where Roy Miller left off last year, and maybe even be better.

    3) Sergio Kindle will have at least 12 sacks, and stud freshman Alex Okafor as well as Sam Acho and Eddie Jones will provide more than adequate pass rushing ability off the edge. Don’t be surprised if Texas isn’t in the top 3 in the nation in sacks.

    4) Texas will field the most athletic overall linebacking corps since Mack Brown arrived in Austin in Rod Muckelroy, Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho, Jarod Norton and Dustin Earnest.

    5) The secondary will be one of the best in the country and Earl Thomas will surprise almost everyone who doesn’t already know he’s poised for a breakout season. Everyone knows who Taylor Mays and Eric Berry are, and soon they’ll know who Earl Thomas is too. One of the reasons he’ll have such a big year is because there is a lockdown corner on both sides of the field in Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown. Blake Gideon can only get better, and he was the quarterback of the secondary last year as a true freshman.

    6) This defense is a year older and a year wiser and is guaranteed to cause more turnovers than last year. I don’t think they could cause fewer turnovers than they did last year if they tried.

    Texas vs. Florida in the Rose Bowl ladies and gentlemen. Book it.

  • NateHeupel

    Where to begin…

    Losing Quan Cosby is going to hurt UT not at all. Not even a little bit.
    UT’s OL is going to be a better unit than OU’s this year, and I have no doubt of this. OU’s OL will be more athletic than last year’s group, but let’s just say I’m grateful and concerned they’ll get battle tested early.

    UT’s WR are far, far better than OU’s?
    Lamarr Houston will be as good as Roy Miller?
    Please. That’s the same type of stupidity shown above, but in a burnt orange flavor.

    Oh, and UT’s secondary was not that impressive. Only 6 interceptions all year. They were single-handedly responsible for the Tech loss, and pretty much everyone passed on them at will even with a fantastic pass rush.

    Finally, this breakdown is fantastic. And it helps make sense out of why Texas’ offense suddenly got going when OU’s MLB went down last year. With the backup out of position and getting confused by the routes, UT was able to attack the middle with impunity.

  • PIGSKIN

    I really hope teams key on Shipley this year, because Malcolm Williams is going to have a break out year. Mark my words he will be another Roy Williams.

    I’ve been watching him play since high school. Gig’Em Garland Owls!

  • http://smartfootball.com Chris

    Mike,

    I made a mistake saying Dan lettered at quarterback. He in fact lettered at receiver, and I have corrected that mistake in the text. Dan has asked me to print a brief response, which is below:

    “Mike,

    “I appreciate your interest in the accuracy of the article, and there is a mistake, as you pointed out. I lettered at Wide receiver, not QB…I played in seven games my senior year ; the criteria for lettering was playing 100 plays during the course of the season, which I did. I also played four years, and remained in good standing the entire time, which is the other way a walk on could “letter” as a senior.

    “I was on the travel squad for the entire season, which is much different than just being on the squad, as there was a travel limit of like 55 players, and 105 on the team.

    “I played against:

    Rice
    SMU
    Houston
    A&M
    Tech
    Baylor
    UNC

    “I don’t know what the game participation log says — I only know what I know. Cleve Bryant, currently an associate director of athletics at UT, can confirm this, as he was my position coach…My mom has pictures somewhere if you need further clarification. The next time you bash a third party for an honest mistake (I have never said I played BE at Texas), please know you are also disregarding four and a half years of sacrifice that I made, and am very proud of.

    “Dan Gonzalez”

  • http://www.soonerscoop.com RobBallgame

    Billy,
    Yeah we know who Shipley is BUT does he or Colt KNOW what a Big XII Championship is?? OUr team and fans sure do (and will know their 4th in a row this season)!

  • http://www.soonerscoop.com RobBallgame

    Brad, good analysis. You all just need to hope there’s no 3 way tie this year because you have to admit, that UT’s schedule is absolutely laughable (as is Florida’s).

    Part of me hope it plays out like it did last year. For all of my UT hatred (while being a “realistic” fan) last year was the biggest slap in the face we could’ve given them (outside of winning the NC game, which unfortunately didn’t happen).

    Colt is a great QB and I expect a great game this year along with a Sooner victory.

  • John

    “3) Sergio Kindle will have at least 12 sacks”
    You mean the lanky LB, undersized for a DE, who has yet to show he can hold up fulltime at that position? Without AA Orakpo drawing the double-teams? 12 sacks – really? NOBODY else on your DL scares anybody.

    “5) The secondary will be one of the best in the country”
    From #104 (and that was with Orakpo applying heat) to top 5? Chug that burnt orange kool-aid, pal – must be deliriously hot down there.

    Back on point: Bottom line is that Cosby was the leading WR in the RRS last year. Write it off as a small time loss if you must…

  • Bob Thornton

    This 2009 Texas team is their most overrated in years. They have two serious position shortcomings. Lets look at these compared to OU.

    And both of these positions are very important.

    1. Running back….Texas has been unable in the last few seasons to get a commit from a featured running back. Last season UT was LAST in the nation for production by running backs and they lost their #1 producer in 2008, Ogbonaya. They will do as badly this season.

    OU’s running backs…OU has three FEATURED running backs the dangerous Demarco Murray and Chris Brown. Both rushed for 1000 yards each last season. OU also has 5 star Jermie Calhoun who has been a terror in pre season scrimmages. He could easily rush for a 1000 yards this season in a reserve role. He is that talented. Jermie is so good, he has allowed the coaches to move Mossis Madu to wide out. Madu is a homerun waiting to happen and he is dangerous in space and he will be a great wideout.

    Defensive linemen….OU by every football expert is rated the nation’s best and deepest defensive line including defensive ends. They will put unrelenting pressure on McCoy.

    UT’s defensive line is not only very thin, they don’t have anyone even close to Orakpo. Another key player lost is Melton who was extremely quick and even the moderator of Orangebloods called Melton the most underrated great player on the entire UT team last season. Texas is so thin this season the had to move the fat underachiever offensive lineman Trey Allen to the DL and ut will have to play freshmen who may be good but they are not yet ready for bigtime footbsll.
    The thiness of the UT DL will catch up with them as the season progresses.

    Just these two important positions show how overrated UT is this season.

    OU and Oklahoma State beat Texas big and the overrated 2009 Texas Longhorns finish out of the top 10.

  • James

    Christ, this may get lost in all the bs in here, but what are the usual drops for the two man game from under center? 3-step?

  • James

    ^^^^^^^

    Whoops! The above was not an appeal to the Lord, but rather a question for Chris.

  • Tom Bagby

    Why has OU gotten smoked in every major bowl game since 04? Overrated…Stoops is a joke.

    http://www.soonersports.com/sports/m-footbl/archive/m-footbl-bowl-history.html

  • OldSouth

    It’s unfortunate to see the usually high-quality, strategy-centric discussion break down into biased rivalry chat, but I suppose that’s a necessary evil for the growth of a site.

  • n-ea

    Quan was a great player for us last year, but there are several receivers for Texas that are poised to have very productive years. Someone between Kirkendoll, Collins, Williams, Buckner, and Chiles will emerge to replace Quan’s production. I think it will be Kirkendoll, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s one of the others or possibly just a combination of all the above. As a Longhorn fan, it’s not a position I, nor most fans are worried about considering all the above (except Chiles) showed great production when called upon last year.

    Production at RB is a legitimate concern. I’m not saying we have anyone as talented as Murray or Brown, but we’ve got players that can get the job done provided our scheme allows it. True, we’ll be limited as to what we can do rushing the ball in convientional sets, but there’s no reason to believe that this offense can’t be just as good as it was last year. Remember, we didn’t rush the ball at will last year, but still found a way to have an effective running game without a TE.

    Removing sacks from rushing yards, this is the disparity between our rushing offenses.

    #20 OU = 206 yds per game
    #36 UT = 181 yds per game

    D-line is by far the most worrisome position as a Longhorn fan. An optomistic take would sound something like “no one thought our DL would be very good last year either.” Orakpo was known to be a physical freak, but never put it together until last year (mainly due to injuries he was playing through). A lot of people looked at Melton as a failure at RB and thought the move to DE was a desperation move by the staff. Miller was expected to be solid, but still people were thinking there was no way he could replace Okam.

    Well, here’s 2009 and we have a lot of the same questions. There’s talent along the DL, but we’re extremely thin at DT and there’s no way to sugar coat it. A loss to Houston, Randhall, or Alexander would put us in even more of a world of hurt. On paper, we’ve got at least 4 DE’s that can play at a high level this year, but none of it is battle tested unless you consider Kindle a DE. I think this group can get the job done, but they’ll need someone to emerge as a force rushing the passer and more importantly…stay healthy. This is a big, big concern for me.

    There’s no reason to worry about LB or DB this year. They’re highly talented, there’s very good depth across the board, and both groups have experience. Only a rash of injuries could make either one of these groups suck.

    I expect the TX/OU game to come down to execution as usual. For the past decade these teams are almost always similarily talented and I don’t see this year as any different. My preseason prediction is Texas 28-24.

  • Bob Thornton’s Dictionary

    OU runs the wishbone? Is that how you have three FEATURED running backs?

    Great article!

  • Bob Thornton

    n-ea.

    UT’s very thin DL will kill the entire Texas defense.

    No position requires more physical exertion for an entire game than a team’s defensive line. As the game progresses into the third and fourth quarters the thin Longhorn defensive line will be spent physically and emotionally and there will be no pass rush.

    Then with no pass rush on the QB, the UT d-backs and linebackers will be lit up and teams will pass and run and at will vs. Texas.

    The UT very very thin defensive line is Texas’s fatal flaw.

  • sessamoid

    You had that defensive line and 3 FEATURED running backs last year too. You lost by 10.

  • Bob Thornton

    yea sessamoid
    Last season Texas had a deep defensive line.

    Now lets talk about this season.

    And OU’s defensive line is even deeper and better this season. As an example the great Austin English OU’s defensive end was last season’s Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year. He is 100% healthy this season and he will have to share time with Frank Alexander.

    And OU’s running backs now have redshirt freshman 5 star Jermie Calhoun in the rotation.

    Texas is in deep ****

  • n-ea

    Bob Thorton,

    I’m perfectly aware of the importance of a good Defensive Line, hence my concern for the position. I don’t think it’s necessarily all doom and gloom at this point. It’s not like we’re replacing Orakpo with some talentless ass clown from an intramural fraternity team. Between Jones, Okafor, and Kindle, you have three 5 star athletes that will be coming off the edge this year. Acho and Carter will also push for a lot of playing time at DE and perhaps start.

    At DT, Lamaar Houston is a beast and the coaches seem pleased with the progress of Kheeston Randall. Ben Alexander is serviceable against the run. After that, it looks like Tray Allen, Calvin Howell, and Derek Johnson will push the depth chart at DT. The other option is to use 3 DE’s in passing situations, which is something I actually think we’ll experiment with this year.

    Anyways, this line has the potential to be very good and have adequate depth to get through 4 quarters against a great opponent like OU. Depth does worry me though if even a modest amount of injuries hit our DL. It’s hard to say though at this point how good or bad this line will be. We’re talking about talented yet unproven commodities here. Time will tell.

  • Bob Thornton

    n-ea

    Okafor an incoming freshman is not ready for college football. A normal team would ease him in slowly or redshirt him. OU has a talented DE who mimics him exactly…5 star DE RJ Washington. His quickness for his size (6’4 260) will take your breath away. OU redshirted him last season and will ease him in the lineup slowly.
    RJ’s talent and potential is unequaled.

    Kindle is an undersized DE. His success last season was because Orakpo was always double teamed freeing Kindle to do his thing.

    Randell and Ben Alexander would not even be on OU’s depth chart this season. They are average at best. Calvin Howell is also not ready. Just like OU’s JaMarcus McFarland they need time to be ready to build their bodies and minds to be college ready. and McFarland someday will be a superstar and the OU staff will either redshirt him or ease him in very very slowly..

    Derrick Johnson is not ready at all. He did not even stick around in Austin this summer. He went back home to Arkansas and Trey Allen (blubberboy) is a joke. He has been a complete underperformer his entire time at texas. He was added to the defensive side of the ball as a desperation move.

    Seriously, the defensive line is the most important part of the entire defense and with a weak pass rush throughout the whole game the entire UT defense will break down.

    This I guarantee.

  • n-ea

    BT,

    I’m not comparing our Defensive Line to OU’s Defensive Line. I also realize some of the guys mentioned are not ideally groomed. Our D-line has a lot to prove, but they have the potential to be a good, competent D-line. They don’t have to be better than last years line for us to have a great season.

    That said, some of the youngsters will have to grow up and develop quick to give us the depth we we’ll probably need at some point, especially at DT. Howell, Johnson, and Allen are not ready yet, and the coaches have basically said that much, however that doesn’t mean as the season progresses they will not make strides to crack the rotation. I’ve seen freshmen D lineman perform exceptionally well in the past, so it wouldn’t be unheard of. For example Brian Pickyrl was an absolute beast for us as a true freshmen. Unfortunately he suffered a severe shoulder injury and had to hang it up.

    At DT, ideally we can get by with Houston, Randall, and Alexander and get creative with our packages to give them spells when need be. The latter two are suspect as to how good they can/will be, but as I eluded to in my previous post, everyone thought Melton was a joke and he turned out to make it to the NFL. The coaches seem to be impressed with Randalls progress too so there’s room for optimism there.

    Orakpo is a huge loss, but he really didn’t draw that many double teams last year. Most of the time teams just held the crap out of him or sent a RB out to chip him. Miller drew most of the double teams. Overall, I like what we have a DE. Kindle will be moved around a bunch, but he’ll be a force off the edge when called to do it. Acho produced well for us last year when spelling Orakpo and Melton. It’s his turn to shine and all indications are that he’s mentally and physically ready. He may not be the most heralded DL recruit, but neither was Lokey or Robinson and they turned out well. I’ve got faith that our coaching staff can coach our kids up, especially with Muschamp running the show on that side of the ball.

    Jones is apparently healthy for once and has the talent to be great. Carter has been around for a while now and should make meaningful contributions this year. Okafor may be young, but I guarantee the coaches wouldn’t even be talking about him if they felt he couldn’t compete at a high level right now. Anyways, all 4 true DE’s have the size and speed any coach covets, plus you can get creative with a guy like Kindle. I think we’ll be fine off the edge, perhaps even great.

    You’re right in that our D-line is the biggest question mark for this team. They could be our achillies heel, but I think your automatic conclusion that they will suck without ever watching them as a unit is a bit premature. I think it’ll be an interesting match up with OU’s new O-line. O-line generally takes much more time to gel as a unit, so any deficiencies we may have on the line may not be as magnified against you guys this year.

    Right now, I think this game comes down to execution and which team capitalizes on the others mistakes. Both offenses showed they can put points on the board in a hurry last year, so I could definitely see this game getting ugly. We’ll find out soon enough I suppose.

  • Ted Seay

    Fanboys go home! Smart Football addicts only!

  • Bob Thornton

    n-ea

    I am not saying that UT’s DL will suck. But it is obvious by the players in your depth chart are not what the university of Texas has had in the past.

    No position requires more physical exertion play after play than a defensive lines pass rush and run protection. In my opinion Texas does not have the horses for all 4 quarters in the defensive line. The desperation is evindenced by using Tray Allen (what a joke) and Calvin Howell and Johnson. Most good teams in the nation would not even think of using these three guys, but Texas has to because they are so so thin.

    With no sustained pass rush for four quarters the entire UT defense will die. OU has a three and four deep on the DL because of all of the energy and constant physical exertion required in an entire game by this position. This is where the war is waged and Texas does not have the quality depth this season.

    Sam Bradford will light UT’s D up and the OU running backs this season run wild.

    Book it.

  • TheDark

    Only a sooner would compare the DLs to one another instead of the OL they will be facing. It doesn’t matter if the sooner DL is better than the UT DL, because they won’t be facing each other. The Sooner DL is very good, but not better than the UT OL, at least not much. And in contrast, while the UT DL isn’t as good as last years, they are still better than the sooner OL, with 4 new starters.

    Add to this fact that the UT DBs are top notch and can cover any new OU receivers man to man, and you get the experienced UT LBs close to the line of scrimmage to both blitz the QB and stuff the run. All with the best D-coordinator in the conference.

  • Bob Thornton

    The Dark…..

    Everyone including Rivals, Scout and every football publication have OU’s defensive line by far as the nation’s best and deepest. It is the best in OU’s entire history and 5 times as good as last season’s OU DL.

    They will completely dominate the ut offensive line….COMPLETELY! Colt will be running for his life.

    And it won’t matter how good ut’s defensive backs are. (Even last season with Orakpo and Miller on the DL the entire d-backs still only got 6 interceptions).

    When uts 2009 DL as thin as they are does not have a pass rush in the 3rd and 4th quarters, teams will light up ut’s d-backs.

    OU will totally butt stomp ut.

    This is the weakest texas defense in many years.

    You will see this yourself by the time Texas Tech comes to town in your 3rd game.

  • David

    Leave it to a sooner to think the same positions match up against each other.

    QBs don’t face the other team’s QBs. Offensive lines don’t match up again the other team’s offensive line. Same for running back, receiver, and every other position on the field.

  • Bob Thornton

    Ok David I say it again simply…

    OU’s best in the nation defensive line dominates the ut offensive line putting great pressure on Colt McCoy.

    ut’s weakest, thinnest in many years defensive line cannot maintain pressure for the four quarters of the game, and Sam Bradford and the great OU running backs light up the texas D.

    Now do you understand David?

  • Louis

    Excellent article.

  • n-ea

    Ha ha Bob Thornton! WTF happened to the “Great” insert OU players name here? BYU just dominated you. OU is the most over-rated bunch of pussies ever! Go ahead and make your excuses now. Yeah, I know Sam
    Bradford got hurt, but ya’ll looked like shit with him in the game and your your entire team looked very vulnerable. Go back and read the bullshit you spewed earlier. OU sucks!

  • FREDERICK COLE

    I HAVE A GOOD TEAM THAT HAS A GOOD QB BUT OUR O- LINE IS NOT THAT GOOD.I DO HAVE GOOD WR. HOW WOULD BE ABLE TO GET GOOD PASSING GAME FOR MY TEAM. WE ARE VERY GOOD IN THE SHOOTGUN AND MAY QB HAS A GOOD ARM AND CAN RUN AND PASS.FOR EACH PLAY HE NEED TO KNOW WHO TO LOOK FOR # 1234 WR. CAN YOU HELP. OUR RUN GAME IS OK.

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