Coach's Look: What (And What Not) To Worry About

Surprise! Glynn Horns' top OL vs. NMSU

It is in our genes from the day we are born, passed down from generation to generation. Longhorn fans find it virtually impossible to enjoy a game while the game is being played, and often find it less appealing upon second look or recollection. After watching the tape from the game several times, I found some things to worry about. However, some things were actually a tad bit better than I first thought. What worries me and what doesn't? Well, the answers may surprise you.

During my first watching of the game, I was very worried about the offensive line. It seemed to be the same "no yards and a cloud of dust" first down offense from select games last year. However, after watching the game film, it wasn’t as bad as first glance. Honestly, the Longhorns have a better offensive line this year than they did last year at this time, and it has the potential to be even better (even after losing Robbie Doane and Derrick Dockery). Don’t get me wrong, the running game is still a point of concern. However, the main problem last year against North Texas was losing the physical battle. In this year’s opener, it was mental breakdowns that cost the team. This year’s mistakes are much easier to correct.

The running game picked up steam in the second half, but I want to take a look at the first half running plays. As I stated above, it’s much better to make mental mistakes (at this point of the season) than to be beaten physically. However, between now and the end of October, the Longhorns will face several teams that have the ability to beat them up front physically. All mental mistakes will have to be corrected in the next few weeks. I’ve broken down the first 12 running plays (only 13 in the first half) to illustrate some points.

Play

Identifier

Result

Offender

1

1st Play of 1st Drive

Benson — 0 yds.

Holloway — no continuation on his block

2

1st Play of 2nd Drive

Benson — 10 yds.

Glynn whiffed on the backside LB — contact in the hole.

3

3rd Play of 2nd Drive

Matthews — 7 yds.

No Complaints

4

4th Play of 2nd Drive

Benson — 0 yds.

Jeffery whiffed on SS; Allen stayed to long on the double-team, didn’t get to LB

5

5th Play of 2nd Drive

Benson — 5 yds.

Scaife didn’t get between his man and the hole.

6

6th Play of 2nd Drive

Benson — fumble

Poor, poor block attempt by Edwards; he took the wrong route to the hole.

7

2nd Play of 3rd Drive

Mock — 0 yds.

Mock went the wrong way on the play

8

5th Play of 3rd Drive

Young — 0 yds.

Selvin fell down on the play

9

3rd Play of 4th Drive

Jeffery — 7 yds.

Not much too complain about; blocks could have been better by Garcia, Blalock

10

4th Play of 4th Drive

Benson — 2 yds.

Poor explosion by Matthews

11

5th Play of 4th Drive

Benson — 1 yd.

Matthews whiffed in the hole; he was no more than a speed bump for Benson

12

7th Play of 4th Drive

Benson — TD

No complaints

As you can see, the problem doesn’t lie with solely the offensive line. Will Matthews made some poor blocks, Tony Jeffery completely whiffed on one sweep, and even Chance Mock hurt the rushing totals by going the wrong way. Also, the 8th man in the box made the first contact on many plays. Kudos to the New Mexico St. linebackers. The Texas coaches should show their linebackers the film to demonstrate how to take on blocks.

The pass-blocking was superb for much of the game, and this is another big improvement over last year’s opener. Last year, Chris Simms was constantly dodging bullets and blitzes. Except for the first pass play, Chance had as much time as he needed to get the ball downfield. The first play was bad. Will Allen stepped in to take on the tackle, and Justin Blalock stepped outside to take on the end, leaving the gap open for the blitzing safety. Blalock should have recognized the blitz, and stepped in to take on the safety. If you are faced with the decision, always block the man on the inside gap. However, presented with the same situation in the second half, the two worked it to perfection. Blalock stepped inside, Allen checked inside to help Jason Glynn, and then moved outside to pick up the blitzer.

I would give the game ball for the best offensive lineman to Glynn. He showed the ability to block one-on-one, and he far exceeded my expectations (which isn’t saying a whole lot). If I had to pick the worst OL performance from the game among the regulars, it would probably be Mike Garcia. He looked timid and confused. I’m sure his sore ankle had a lot to do with the former, and this being his first game the main cause of the latter. Those who are clamoring for a new center need to begin clamoring for someone who can play right guard with consistency. So far, neither candidate has impressed.

But the unit of the team that worries me more than any other is the linebackers. I know it doesn’t seem possible that a unit returning a Butkus Award Semifinalist (Derrick Johnson) and the team’s top returning tackler (Reed Boyd) could be a source of weakness, but it might be. What could be the problem? Put simply, the Longhorn linebackers stand around too much, and they don’t take on blocks very well. I will give D.J. the benefit of the doubt; it’s possible he was assigned as a spy for the QB in the option scheme. However, even on plays that were "full flow" (everyone is going the same direction — RB, FB, QB), D.J. played flat-footed and hesitant. Much of the running success for the Aggies came up the middle, and Johnson hesitated before taking on the blocks (sometimes even taking them on with the wrong shoulder). Garnet Smith, before his injury, did a much better job than D.J. at playing the run. His angles were better, his decisions were quicker, and he took on blocks better.

It’s hard to heap criticism on a player that returned an INT for a touchdown, but if the problems with Derrick Johnson don’t get worked out, the Longhorns will find themselves being run on with much success.

Johnson wasn’t the lone disappointment in the linebacking corps. Boyd struggled with his new strongside 'backer position. In his defense, New Mexico St. does a great job of running the option. On the Aggies’ only touchdown, Boyd made a critical error. The TE released upfield and inside to make a block on the safety. However, Boyd read this as a pass pattern (not recognizing the down-the-line movement of the QB), and released with him. On the option, the pitch was taken, but no one was there to take the QB. Where was Boyd? Downfield, covering a blocking tight end. In addition, Garnet Smith appeared to overrun the play.

Since it is the first game, I will chalk some of this up to rustiness. Also, the Texas defense spent the majority of the night on the field. Fatigue will make idiots of us all. Even Rodrique Wright had a few bad plays, settling for being blocked and going around the block, instead of fighting across the front of the block. While these mistakes weren’t terribly painful against New Mexico St., Kansas State and Nebraska will take full advantage of them. In other words, if the same mistakes are still evident in early October, it could be a disappointing season in Austin.

Overall, there are some things to worry about. However, they aren’t Jason Glynn and the offensive line. At least not yet. They still have time to correct mistakes, and they better. The road gets rougher from here, starting in less than two weeks when the Razorbacks come calling.

Mark Kissinger has coached high school football in Texas and Tennessee, coaching OL, TE, WR, DT, DE, and serving as both an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. In high school, he was coached by the legendary G.A. Moore. Mark recently retired from coaching and received his M.B.A. from Rice University and is in his second season of writing for IT. His 'Coach's Look' column appears after each game during football season on InsideTexas.com.

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