It's game day eve! Preview of our awesome Defense

Published by David Macias

2018 season starts tomorrow and I'm at work like: 

So, I went through why the O would be better, so not let me address the defense. We definitely lost a a few studs on the defense, but overall, I think we'll be just as good if not better this year. Replacing those guys won't be easy. However, I think the replacements could be very solid/product players, and the absence of those guys will be felt more at the beginning of the season. 

The other big thing we have going for us on defense that we don't have going for us on the offense is a top-flight coordinator in Todd Orlando. (I'll refrain from a Tim Beck rant.)

Orlando always has these guys prepared, playing hard, and I love his schemes. Our defense should be one of the best in the nation, and a 10+ win season would definitely be a result of our D carrying our O.

Here's a great example of blitz design by the Defensive coaches:

I'm actually not as worried about losing Malik as I am Poona or even Holton Hill. Why? Gary Johnson. The dude is a stud and future NFLer. Here are a couple GIFs that show just how solid he was as a part-time starter last year. My one fear with the linebacking core is the depth. It'll be interesting tomorrow during the first half with Wheeler suspended - hopefully it doesn't hurt us against a heavy running offense in Maryland that sliced and diced us last year.

Great play recognition, reaction, and tackling all on display on this 3rd and short stop by Gary J.

If you've read up on Gary J, you know he's quite fast - I think he was a track star in high school. Very nice to have at LB. See him run down this RB behind the line.

This next guy might be the most talented player on our team. I'm serious. He's out-performed expectations from coming in as 3 star, and has just made so many variety of plays. He's got wide skill set and very good athleticism/agility for guy his size. He's an undersized DT that can play DT, DE and even linebacker. Just see the next 3 plays.

While he may not get the most attention or end up with the most accolades, I think Malcolm Roach could end up having the best NFL career on the team. Think James Harrison, but more agile and not quite as strong. Still he's too athletic and instinctive at 6'3 270 to not be a force at multiple positions.

Here he is essentially playing the 3 (maybe 5) technique - so, lined up in between the LG and LT. He dominates the LT and stops the RB at the line of scrimmage. That's a big boy play, no doubt.

Now, watch his awareness and speed to be able to run down a pretty athletic QB short of the first down marker.

Finally, watch him come off the edge, take on the RB (poor guy - can you imagine trying to pass block a 270 pounder with a 10 yd running start....eeee, not fun), and get the half sack. Man he's so awesome. Enjoy watching him this year, because I'm pretty sure it's his last in burnt orange, unfortunately.

Forgive the lack of copyediting. Ain't nobody got time fo dat.

Offense - 2018 Will Be Better and a Few Not-So-Bold Predictions

Posted by David Macias

Coming in hot(ish) with my first not-so-bold prediction - the line for UT wins is 8.5, and I'm taking the over. Wow, I know, a true Skip Bayless in the making here. 

We're days away now, and I wanted to share a few last preseason thoughts on why I think we'll be better with a few thoughts/predictions for each side of the ball. Decided I'd start off with the O-O-O-fense. 

^Get it? ha. haha... ha.

Regardless, I hope by the end of this post your feelings about our 2018 offense are more similar to Drew's (on the right) and less like Office Space's main character, Peter Gibbons. 

First off, let's take a look at the predicted starters for Saturday's game versus starters from last year (taken from the depth chart against TCU).

The net of this chart is to show that we'll have a returning starter or new (and improved) starter in every position. Even if some guys may not progress as much as we'd hope, or we wish our players were just flat better (looking at you O-line) surely the following equates to progress:
- being in the same offense 2 years in a row
- another off-season to improve
- new coaches (mainly O-line coach Hand)

I'm still nervous about our O-line, and not wowed by our Tight Ends, but I'm excited about our skill position guys. Tre Watson has pushed Daniel Young to the point of being named the starter. Tre's a nice all-purpose back who had pretty solid production at Cal, and while he may seem more of a slightly undersized open-space kind of back, check out how he finished this run against Stanford:

Takes the defender 5 yards into the end zone.

He's going to be good, but even if he's just pretty good, we still have Daniel Young, who had a solid finish to last season. Also, 4-star true freshman Keontay Ingram has been showing enough nice flashes in practice to be RB3. 

I also think WR will be our strength on offense. Seems kind of odd to say, but I think Collin Johnson and Lil J Humphrey are future NFLers, and I'm not so sure about anyone else. Yes, I did write about how I think Collin Johnson needs to rebound last week, but I still think he has star potential. 

Also, LJH - the guy just gets open, makes good catches, and has great run-after-catch abilities, especially for a big guy. And did you see him in the short yardage package in the Spring game? Second not-so-bold prediction, Lil J will lead the 'Horns in TDs this year with 12+ TDs (5 receiving and 7 rushing, at least).

Here's a good example of Lil J getting open on 3rd down. Nothing too complicated, just keep the route going:

Here's a nice display of his hands. Remember, he was a RB in high school, this guy is just going to get better and better.

This was his second short yardage rushing TD of the Spring Game. Definitely an improvement from adding more unnecessary hits on your QB.

Actually, before I move on from LJH, I do have hot take, or actually bold prediction. After LJH leads the Horns in both receptions (though CJ will lead in yards again) and rushing TDs, thus total TDs, he will be in the top 5 in voting for Heisman in 2019 as the Horns leading WR and goal line RB. Think about it, when was the last time you saw that at the NCAA or NFL level.

Finally, let me explain why I noted our QB as a wild card. I think there is such a wide variance for how this season will play out for him. On the very positive side of the spectrum, he could lead us to a 10+ win season and enter next year with justifiable talks of being a Heisman hopeful. On the flip side, we might be pumped for Cameron Rising next year (who is getting much praise of his own, but will likely redshirt this year).

I very much think it will land some where in the middle, neither Heisman hopeful nor close to losing his job. However, I think there's 3 a few things he, and the coaches, need to do to help it lean toward positive: (Note, I'm leaving out the very obvious "DON'T TURN THE BALL OVER FORCING A PLAY AT THE END OF A GAME".)

1. For the coaches, don't call any QB runs outside of an option read 
- Sadly, my last not-so-bold prediction is that Sam will end up with the most carries on the team again. He had nearly 30 more than the top RB last year. And, considering the coaches will likely split carries among 3 RBs AND over-run Sam, unfortunately.

2. For Sam, get more comfortable and accurate as a pocket passer. He completed 57% of his passes compared to Shane's 64%. I'd love to see Same stay above 60% this year. Also, he seemed to miss too many easy throws either looking for the big play or just not reading defenses well enough.

See here: Just throw the quick out and don't take an unnecessary hit!

However, here's an example of him making a nice accurate throw over the middle. He has it in him, and I know he needs better protection to make him trust staying in the pocket more.

3. Lastly, IF the called run plays are down AND he's making more throws and more accurate throws from the pocket, then I hope he just continues to bring the right amount of the following at the right time...

And, who can forget...

Forgive the lack of copyediting. Ain't nobody got time fo dat.

Newer Names to Watch and a Star...ish Who Needs to Rebound

Posted by David Macias

#same... except, I'm itching for real football. Fantasy Football prep and (banging head against wall emoji) preseason NFL is basically making the football itch worse. It's time. I need it.

Anyway, I saw one of my favorite sports writers, Bob Sturm, post a sort of "players to watch" (for the Cowboys) that he got from Blogging the Boys. So, I figured I'd give a similar take, but on the Horns, and obviously... with GIFs.

Here's my take on it.
Breakout Guy: Caden Sterns - Safety
Comeback Kid: Cade Brewer - Tight End
Rising Star: Taquan Graham - Defensive End
Don't Forget About: Josh Thompson - Cornerback
Needs to Rebound: Collin Johnson - Wide Receiver (outside)
Darkhorse: Samuel Cosmi - Offensive Tackle
Under the Radar: Marquez Bimage - Defensive End

Breakout Guy:
Caden Sterns #7 - Safety
If you've been following the Horns recruiting, pre-season, or Spring game, you've likely heard of Sterns. He (and likely BJ Foster) is the next elite safety in a long line of elite safeties from DBU. It's sounding more and more like he's going to be starting as a true freshman opposite Brandon Jones. He can fly, has great ball skills, and apparently has great play recognition and understand the D. Be a hipster and say you knew about him before everyone else does in about 5 to 6 weeks. Don't have a GIF, but here's a YouTube clip to the All American game highlights of UT players which starts off with a Sterns' INT.

Comeback Kid:
Cade Brewer #80 - Tight End
Honestly, I'm not huge on Brewer, or any of our TEs for that matter. Freshman Epps seems like he could be a great receiving TE, and Leitao might have something too. Anyway, the coaches are pretty high on Brewer, and anything that keeps 8th year man Andrew Beck from seeing too many (hopefully no) snaps is a win in my book. Hopefully Brewer is fully back from his ACL tear last November and can provide solid blocking and pass catching on a consistent basis.

Rising Star:
Taquan Graham #49 - Defensive End
While the GIF below doesn't showcase any overly impressive move, the guy played well in his limited snaps as a freshman. He had a great spring, and will be starting at one of the DE spots. Should be fun watching Hager, Omenihu, Roach, and Graham get after QBs. I predict 5+ sacks from him this year. That may not seem like much, but see the aforementioned names - he'll have competition getting to the QB. He may not be the star of the pash rushers this year, but he'll definitely be going into next season with some preseason accolades.

(Finally, a Gif!)

Don't Forget About:
Josh Thompson #29 - Cornerback
Thompson is likely to start at a very important position on defense, nickel cornerback - the corner that covers the slot wr. Kris Boyd, Davante Davis, PJ Locke, and Brandon Jones are names you've seen get plenty of play, and guys like Sterns and other Freshman, BJ Foster, are getting a lot of hype, so it could be easy to forget about Josh Thompson. The coaches were big on him last year, and the former 4 star recruit has played well in the Spring and training camp - expect good things from him this year.

He mostly saw time on special teams last year, but here's a look at his athletic ability and solid awareness.

Needs to Rebound:
Collin Johnson #9 - Wide Receiver
Look, don't get me wrong, I like me some Collin Johnson. In fact, I think we should throw a fade to him at least once in every red zone possession we have. However, I couldn't help feeling like his production dropped off after his great end to '16 and start to '17 (including a monster game against USC).

He led our team in receptions and yards last year and looks like a future NFLer. Don't get me wrong, his production (or at times lack thereof) doesn't fall on #9's shoulders alone. Piss poor play calling and inconsistent QB play (especially on the long ball/fades) doesn't help his cause.

Regardless, I wanted to see how his number compared to other wrs, and once I saw he actually got 100+ targets last year (which was surprising to me), I compared the TD total, Yards total (divided by 100 to weight 100 yards similar to a TD), and Completion % (divided by 10 to weight similarly). As you can see below, for all 44 D1 wrs who received at least 100 targets last year, CJ fell near the bottom in production. If you add up all 3 of my weighted categories, he ended up 42nd of 44. Btw, I put an asterisk next to all the wrs who were drafted on day 1 or 2 of the NFL draft, or first 3 rounds.

CJs stats:
2 TDs - tied for second to last
765 yds (shown as 7.65) - rank #41 of 44
50% completion percentage (show as 5.0) - rank #37 of 44

When I say he needs to rebound, it's not that he didn't have a better sophomore year than freshman year, but he had 490 yds in the first 5 games last year, and just 275 yds in the last 7. I'd really like to see him with some more multi-TD games (like Tech '16 - both were great grabs) and 100+ yd games (2 in the first 3 games last year). I get that game situations will dictate more or less passing, and w's and l's are all that really matter. Still, he has the potential to get drafted in the first 3 rounds of the NFL draft, and I'd love to see his production get back to his first 8 or 9 games (late '16 / early '17) to make the potential a reality.

He showed it in the Spring game as seen below. Here's to hoping we see this through the season.

Samuel Cosmi #52 - Offensive Tackle
Currently backup offensive tackle as a Dark Horse.. fun, can't wait to read the rest. I know it's not sexy, but this former 3 star recruit (redshirt freshman) has been outperforming his recruiting grade in practice according to insiders, and looks like he could really push to start at right tackle. I'm not trying to say he's going to be like Connor Williams, also a former 3 star recruit (and wearer of the jersey # in the 50s), but who knows... maybe, hence, dark horse.

Under the Radar:
Marquez Bimage #42 - Defensive End
Bimage will likely rotate in behind Omenihu and Graham at DE. Back up DE's don't necessarily get a ton of sacks or notoriety, and thus, fly under the radar. And while he isn't pushing for a starting spot like Cosmi is (mainly because he's behind probably future NFLers while Cosmi isn't), having high quality backup is what the likes of Bama and Ohio State have. There won't be much drop off when the two starters need a breather or get shaken up, and that depth is one of the key things this team will need to get to 9+ wins.

If you made it this far, first - thanks! Second, follow me on twitter @dmacut as I'll tweet new posts there and likely other thoughts during away games. Stay tuned for more before and during the season - Hook 'em!

Forgive the lack of copyediting. Ain't nobody got time fo dat.

Week 11 - (W) UT 28 at WVU 14

Posted by David Macias

Bowl eligible, a W on the road over a decent team, and a chance at a winning record got me and Sam like...

Solid win overall. Defense played well as usual, and we actually had a run game led by runningbacks. Brace yourself for this very lukewarm take: getting our all-American left tackle back made a big difference. Mind. Blown.

Our anemic offense, which somehow seemed to be getting worse, put up 28 points. (I net out the pick six SE gave them with the sack-fumble that led to our 6 yd drive.) Left tackle is the second most important position on offense, and getting Connor Williams back was huge.

Here's Connor with a savory little pancake early in the game.

How Connor allows play to happen and D Young has the speed to get to second level (defensive backs).

Speaking of D Young, sure is nice to see RBs with gitty-up get more carries.

Nice throw and route. SE stays cool with the blitz. Hemphill keeps the route high since he's on the CB at his break.

Hall with a nice play

Elliott with closing speed

Jones needs to start locating the ball

Jones really needs to start locating the ball

Roach playing DT pushes the OT in the backfield and gets a tackle for loss.

Roach lined up outside, gets a full head of steam and pushes the blocking RB into the QB.