January 9, 2007

Season in review - the defensive ends

As we begin our final breakdown of the 2006 season for the defending national champion Texas Longhorns, we'll next take a look at the defensive end position. There were high expectations for the position, particularly with the return of Tim Crowder, Brian Robison and Brian Orakpo. Here's a full breakdown of each player.

Grading scale

A - All-America
B - All-Big 12
C - Solid season
D - Disappointing
F - Failure

Tim Crowder (Senior)

Expectations - As a starter since his freshman year, the expectations have always been high for Crowder and 2006 was no different. He was a first-team all-Big 12 selection as a junior, and those same type of honors were expected as a senior with the outside shot that Crowder could earn all-American status. The one area that fans, and Crowder himself, really wanted to improve on was his ability to get to the quarterback and make plays in the opponents' backfield.

Reality - Crowder was exceptional. He was a consensus first-team all-Big 12 selection, a second team all American selection by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and a finalist for the Hendricks Award, given to the country's top defensive end. Crowder was voted as the Horns' most consistent defensive player, and he hit one of his preseason goals by recording double-digit sacks (he finished the year with 10.5).

Stats - Started all 13 games (46 straight over four years); 59 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 20 QB hurries, 4 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery

High point - Crowder had a handful of big games this year, but he was at his best in the Horns' win over Rice. In that contest, he recorded an incredible 7 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and scored the first touchdown of his career on a forced fumble and recovery in the end zone.

Low point - He only made one tackle in the loss to Ohio State, but the nod here goes to the A&M game. In that contest, Crowder finished with four tackles, which in itself isn't too bad, but he was unable to make any big plays and the Texas defensive line struggled as a whole. He recorded one quarterback hurry but that was the only other place, aside from the tackles, that his name showed up in the statbook.

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