September 19, 2013

The Deep Dig - K-State

The Mack Brown Trick

It was easy to see in both Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins. I mean easy. It's the Mack Brown trick.

It's the difference between the NFL and college, and it's the reason why NFL-types, like former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, can get away with making fun of my radio co-host's tie - accusing that he was from Pittsburgh of all places.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though - already. In seriousness, this is shaping up to be a pressure-filled trip downward toward the Deep Dig.

Pressure

There are so many kinds. Let's just take one in an infinite number. Let's say you are a quarterback who is an NFL prospect playing in the Senior Bowl. You've faced the media before, but you have never faced the national media. Fluffer interviews with "D-Bag and Bob in the mornings" on K103 Local Sports Talk don't count.

And then there are the scouts, too, and those meetings aren't easy for everyone. Lots of chalkboards and questions about where dad lives - when's the last time you saw him? ... Then, of course the coaches. I asked Vikings HC Leslie Frazier at the 2013 NFL Combine just how important getting to coach at the 2012 Senior Bowl was to Minnesota's 2012 team, which rebounded from a 3-13 disaster in 2011 with a 2012 playoff berth.

He said it was huge. "No Senior Bowl, No (starting Vikings safety) Harrison Smith ... We would have never traded up to get him had we not have had that time with him."

But this is about Kirk Cousins

Let me first say that this is about the Texas Longhorns, Mr. Know-It-All Narrator.

Secondly, you are doing a horrible job of keeping us on topic during our descent. I am in charge of this column, though, and it is my job to make sure I am putting you in the best position to win over readers during your bolded breaks between my commentary.

This has been a horribly rocky start. It's been disjointed, and the entire column has lacked any real identity or focus. It's been full of promises, quips and anecdotes with little delivery of product.

So let me help you, narrator. We do need to address Kirk Cousins ... Russell Wilson, too. Truly, though, the themes to be addressed as we (((squeeze))) downward on an increasingly uncomfortable and unexpectedly lengthy ride toward the Deep Dig are pressure, defense mechanisms and leadership.

The Mack Brown Trick, Take 2

(You're skating on thin ice, narrator, but I think you know that.)



I told you it was going to be a pressure-filled ride down. We even had to explore numerous defense mechanisms in order to shield us from pressure's forces, but we have arrived at our destination below.

The Deep Dig

The Texas football team appears to be in desperate need of leadership. I asked Chris Whaley Monday, as a self-described senior leader, what players like Jordan Hicks meant when saying the 2013 Texas Longhorns are a "player-led team."

"We just, well - the coaches do their job," Whaley said. "They coach us, but as players, the leaders come in and keep everybody positive, and actually lead this team in the direction we need to go to win every game."

Has that been effective? I asked.

"Yes. Yes it has been effective. With these two losses, it has been tough, but the senior leadership is still strong, and that's really what's going to help this team."

What's going to help this Texas team is accountability

And Chris Whaley might have had a tough time at the film session as described by Mack Brown below on Monday in the wake of a second-straight disaster:

"We went through every play. We showed them exactly who played well enough to win on every play, and who did not ... So, there is absolutely no 'gray' on our team today. They know who played well enough on Saturday night to win, and they know who didn't. And that was accountability. Usually, you do it in your own rooms when you're winning, and not everybody sees it, but I thought it was very, very important for everyone to see - this guy better pick it up if we're going to get where we want to go."

What a coincidence. That's exactly what we did.



(garbage time last one-minute offensive snaps to end the game not counted.)

- The offensive line unit featuring an entirely new right side was actually more serviceable than any combination Texas has put on the field in 2013, but the receivers let the team down badly, not being able to get open and struggling off the initial press. Mike Davis was clearly at less than 60-70 percent of his normal self and Jaxon Shipley couldn't ever create a spark with no Ole Miss defenders biting on his double-moves. The stagnant offense against Ole Miss had much more to do with the absences of David Ash and Daje Johnson than anything offensive line-related.

- Mack Brown praised Donald Hawkins on Monday, and rightfully so. It has been my constant contention that Hawkins is a slowly-progressing NFL prospect. Hawkins was physical at the point of attack against Ole Miss and is showing better and better awareness in pass protection with seemingly each passing week.

- When Kennedy Estelle "flashes bad," he flashes really bad. Worse than Josh Cochran. Estelle can make a highlight-reel whiff on a pass rusher at this point in his development like nobody's business. Here's the thing, though - he doesn't do it that often. In fact, the "little flashes" of bad that Cochran accumulates on the right side through games arguably add up to a greater total of "badness." Estelle graded positively with a greater frequency than Cochran in both the run and the pass games now, having finally accrued an adequate sample size of snaps to examine comparatively.

- Speaking of Cochran, he played awfully before re-injuring his shoulder Saturday night.

- Desmond Harrison played three snaps and he graded badly on one, horrible on another and completely average on the third.

- Sedrick Flowers played much better than I expected, as all I had to really watch back of him in 2012 were his few snaps in the jumbo package where he botched his pulling assignment on two occasions, from what I can recall off the top of my head. Flowers plays with a better motor than Mason Walters, and he is strong enough to not get overpowered. Flowers has the quickest feet on any Texas offensive lineman and also the best flexibility. He can play clumsy, but playing clumsy is better than flipping off the switch at key times in games as Mason Walters has done in 2013.

- Dominic Espinosa clogged cutback lanes, constantly allowing for interior penetration in the run game and the numbers above show it. While moving Hopkins to center appears optimal, it seems no player on the line has proven capable of handling all the ancillary duties involved in playing the position (mainly center-QB snap exchange).

- One thing the Texas offensive line doesn't get enough credit for is that despite its obvious faults, it does not commit many penalties. When Josh Cochran got called for a false start, I had trouble recalling others that have occurred in the 2013 season, although Espinosa did have a costly one near the goal line later in the game.

This Week in Missed Tackles



Just as I expected, Donte Moncrief was a load for Carrington Byndom. What no one could have expected was how big a load he was. Moncrief dominated Byndom consistently in every aspect of the matchup, not only in coverage, but in constant point-of-attack blocking wins allowing RB Jeff Scott and various slot wide receivers to freely whizz by time and time again.

Byndom has slowly taken over the crown as Longhorns missed tackle poster boy through the start of 2013, and at times of underperformance in this aspect, Byndom is a clear liability despite other physical gifts.

Defensive Disruption



- Chris Whaley gets beaten at the point of attack consistently and frequently continues to get caved in and/or blown back by combo blocks.

- Malcom Brown put a shot on Bo Wallace that looked like he was delivered straight out of the end of a cannon when Ole Miss was backed up in its own end zone to start the fourth quarter. Upon disengaging from the guard and freeing himself upfield, he exhibited a gear that I didn't realize he was capable of previously in the realm of upfield acceleration and motor.

Mack Brown's two cents on Kansas State:

1) "Physical." Here's how Coach Brown talked about K State on Monday:

"It's the same Kansas State. They're new people, but they are very well coached. They are not big risk-takers on defense, they just play so hard and they're so physical. You saw a lot of new stuff early (on offense) with a new JUCO QB who can throw the ball but at the same time now you're seeing the same stuff come back after three weeks that Bill Snyder's always been a believer in, and for us, we're gonna see option. The same option we've seen for the last two weeks. We're going to see quarterback runs because they're running the ball well and their kicking game is always one of the best in the country."

Texas fans will see Saturday if the Longhorns' defense is capable of stepping up during the time they've talked so much about - conference play. It's here. It will take physicality to win, and this game will be the most telling in 2013 to date in this aspect.

2) "The read option." Or as Coach Brown says:

"You've got to be assignment and alignment proof, and we weren't that good against Brigham Young and we didn't have enough time to get it fixed by (Ole Miss.) ... If Kansas State hadn't run the option much, which they have, they would put it in. They should."

Of course they should. The question is, can Texas stop it? Or is this all just a bunch of talk with no delivery? Some story about Scott Pioli and a funny tie to distract you from what's real.

Onward to conference play.




 

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