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2009 Texas Preview - Offense
Texas WR Jordan Shipley
Texas WR Jordan Shipley
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 31, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Texas Longhorn Offense

Texas Longhorns

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Texas Preview | 2009 Texas Offense
- 2009 Texas Defense | 2009 Texas Depth Chart
- 2008 Texas Preview | 2007 Texas Preview | 2006 Texas Preview

What you need to know: The offense wasn’t very flashy, and the running production wasn’t always there, but the attack was ruthlessly efficient and very, very productive finishing ninth in the nation in yards and fifth in offense. The Longhorns only scored fewer than 30 points twice, against Oklahoma State and Ohio State. Colt McCoy returns after a tremendous season; he should be able to make everyone around him better. That’s not to say there isn’t talent all across the board, but the key is the all-around depth and steadiness. The line returns four starters, and now it needs to do more for an underwhelming corps of running backs that didn’t do enough. The receiving corps has the potential to be fantastic with Jordan Shipley back to be the steady leader of a fantastic group of young targets. And then there’s McCoy. The Heisman finalist did a little of everything for the offense last year, and now he has a more experienced, more talented group around him.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Colt McCoy
291-375, 3,445 yds, 32 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Colt McCoy
128 carries, 576 yds, 10 TD
Receiving: Jordan Shipley
79 catches, 982 yds, 11 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Colt McCoy
Player who has to step up and become a star: One of the running backs, primarily junior Vondrell McGee
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Kyle Hix
Best pro prospect: McCoy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McCoy, 2) OT Adam Ulatoski, 3) WR Jordan Shipley
Strength of the offense: Colt McCoy, depth and talent across the board
Weakness of the offense: Running game from the running backs, tight end

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
It wasn’t really a shock that Colt McCoy said he was coming back for his senior year, but it was a bit of a stunner that he really did mean it. The senior finished second in the Heisman voting last season after arguably being the nation’s most valuable player. He did it all for the Longhorns, leading the way in rushing with 576 yards and ten touchdowns, while showing a stunningly accurate passing touch completing 78% of his passes for 3,445 yards and 32 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. More than the raw numbers, he showed a reserve tank that allowed him to come through time and again in the clutch. From the epic final drive to put away Ohio State in a fantastic Fiesta Bowl, to a late scoring drive against Texas Tech that would’ve clinched the Heisman had Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree not hooked up on the greatest pass play in the program’s history. While he doesn’t have a huge arm, it’s good enough, and he’s able to throw equally as well on the run or in the pocket. The running skills are obviously a plus, but his warrior mentality is both good and bad. He’ll fight for every yard and try for every big play, earning him the unquestioned respect of his teammates, but he’ll also take a pounding. The 6-3, 210 pounder was able to get through last season, but he was banged around in 2007 and his late season injury in 2006 cost the Longhorns the Big 12 South and, possibly, a shot at the national title. After three years at the helm, he has become a folk hero for Longhorn fans, but now he has to win a Big 12 championship to truly secure his legacy.

Projected Top Reserves: For the time being, the 6-2, 215-pound John Chiles will move to wide receiver. He’s too athletic and too talented to keep off the field, and with Colt McCoy under center, there’s no place for the junior at his most natural position. He has tremendous speed and quickness and a next-level arm, but the big question mark will be whether or not he’s so good at receiver that he stays there if something happens to McCoy. He’ll likely still be the No. 2 man based on his little bit of experience, but for now, the coaching staff will find a variety of ways to get the ball in his hands.

In a big of a stunner, junior Sherrod Harris is still with the program. He has a total package of skills with 6-3, 215-pound size, sprinter’s speed, and a live arm, but he’s stuck down the depth chart. A knee injury suffered in 2007 didn’t help in his fight for playing time, and now he’ll have to fight to try to be the No. 2. It’s his job to be so good that John Chiles stays at wide receiver, and it’s his job to show that he can be the starting option in 2010. If he ever wanted to switch positions, he’d be an interesting pro prospect as a safety.

Coming in as the main man of the near future is super-recruit Garrett Gilbert, a 6-4, 207-pound bomber who was named the national high school player of the year. He set the Texas high school record for passing yards with 12,540 with 138 touchdown passes on the way to two state titles. He’s not a runner like Colt McCoy, but he’s not a statue. He’ll kick off his career next year. It’ll be a shocker if he sees the field this season.
 
Watch Out For ... McCoy to not run quite as much. He knows his value to the team. While he’s humble, McCoy realizes that if he goes down, the national title dream would take a big hit. That means he’ll be less reckless, go down for the slide and run out of bounds more often, and he likely won’t carry the ball 128 times again.
Strength: Sheer talent. Colt McCoy is one of the favorites to win the Heisman and would’ve been a first round draft pick had he come out. John Chiles might be even more talented, and Sherrod Harris has the best pro skills of the three. And then there’s Garrett Gilbert, who’ll be in Indianapolis working out in February of 2014. Remember, the program also had Jevan Snead, the emerging star quarterback at Ole Miss.
Weakness: The reliance on McCoy. Chiles can play and Harris has been ultra-patient waiting in the wings. However, McCoy is the difference between Texas playing for the national title and shooting for another BCS bid. The more playing time the backups can get, the better.
Outlook: Talk about an abundance of riches, Texas is already stockpiled with superstar quarterback talent and then it gets Garrett Gilbert to groom for the future. Colt McCoy will end up in New York come Heisman time, John Chiles would start for about eight other Big 12 teams right now, and Sherrod Harris could emerge as an even better player going into next year’s battle for the No. 1 job. McCoy has had to do too much over the last three seasons, and this year the reserves will get in the games a little earlier.
Rating: 10

Running Backs


Projected Starter
:
Being the starting running back for the Longhorns doesn’t mean much since all the backs rotate, but if there has to be a designated No. 1, junior Vondrell McGee is it. The 5-10, 205-pound speedster doesn’t have elite wheels, but he has enough of a burst to come up with yards in chunks. However, he didn’t hit any home runs last season, running for 376 yards and four touchdowns, and he only caught nine passes for 49 yards. His biggest problem is his blocking. He’s not great in pass protection and he’s not instinctive in picking up the blitz.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Foswhitt Whittaker was on his way to being the team’s main back, rushing for 261 yards in six games, but he suffered a knee injury and was out for the season. The 5-10, 190-pounder was a Texas high school superstar who has yet to make a huge splash for the Longhorns, but with his quickness and toughness for his size, he has the potential to do a lot more once he’s 100%.

While McGee and Whittaker have are the quick, speed backs, but it’s Cody Johnson who brings the thunder. The 5-11, 255-pound powerback only ran for 336 yards, but he scored 12 times highlighted by a three touchdown day against Oklahoma. He saw his role diminish over the second half of the season going four games without getting into the end zone, and then he ran for 102 yards and two scores in the win over Texas A&M, highlighted by a 61-yard dash. The key is his weight. If he’s able to get to under 250 pounds he might be a No. 1 back who can get the ball 15 times a game.

6-0, 200-pound redshirt freshman Tre Newton could become the dirty work player. He’s a great blocker and can catch a little bit coming out of the backfield. While the running back pecking order is crowded, he could quickly emerge as a third down back if he can show early on that he can handle the blitz and if he can put his good hands to use.

The Longhorns don't always use a fullback, but when they do it'll be 6-0, 215-pound Antwan Cobb working as the main option. He didn’t get any carries last season as he spent the year getting healthy from a knee injury, but he saw a little work on special teams and as a runner in 2006. He does all the little things well, but at his size, he’s not a sledgehammer of a blocker.

Watch Out For ... Tre Newton. The Longhorns will continue to rotate the backs depending on the situation and the hot hand, but Newton, for only being a redshirt freshman, does a lot of things the other backs can’t. He might not be the best runner on the roster, but that doesn’t matter as much if he can help keep Colt McCoy upright and be used as a reliable outlet receiver.
Strength: Options. There isn’t a Jamaal Charles on the roster who’s so good that he has to have the ball in his hands as often as possible, but there are several quick, veteran runners who can all produce. The rotation works, and while Texas doesn’t have a devastating ground game, with a quarterback like McCoy throwing the ball, it doesn’t necessarily need one.
Weakness: Yards per carry. The team averaged a pedestrian 4.4 yards per carry, and that was with McCoy averaging 4.5 yards a pop and Chris Ogbonnaya, who’s now gone, averaging 5.3 yards a carry. For all the speed and quickness of McGee and Whittaker, they can’t seem to come up with the really big play.
Outlook: Considering the improved offensive line and all the heat being taken off the ground game by having Colt McCoy under center, the Texas running backs were stunningly mediocre. There’s quickness, experience, and a variety of options in this group with the whole equaling more than the sum of its parts. It would be nice if one back could emerge from the fray and be the type of player who demands the ball 25 times a game, but there isn’t one in the mix at the moment. Even so, the several options will combine for around 1,500 yards.
Rating: 6.5

Receivers


Projected Starters
:
The Longhorns got a huge break when Jordan Shipley was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing two years hurt with hamstring and knee issues. 100% again, he showed he could be a slippery, reliable target who could also break open a game or two here and there. Best friends with Colt McCoy, the two work well together in key situations as Shipley led the team with 79 catches for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns. It was his kickoff return for a touchdown that turned the Oklahoma game around, and it was his punt return for a score that kept Texas alive against Texas Tech. He’ll be counted on more in all areas this year. He missed spring ball getting his shoulder worked on, but he’s expected to be fine.

Looking to take on a bigger role is junior James Kirkendoll, a 5-11, 180-pound third target who came up with 16 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. He got five starts last year and turned out to be more reliable after missing half of 2007 with a hip problem. Extremely quick, he should be dangerous with the more responsibility and the more consistent workload.

The rising superstar of the show is Malcolm Williams, a big, strong, fast target who only caught 17 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns, but came up with four grabs for 182 yards and two scores against Texas Tech including the 91 yarder that turned the game around. The sophomore is 6-3, 220 pounds and can move. He was a Texas state champion-level sprinter in high school, and he has all the upside to grow into an NFL target if he can be a consistent playmaker. He was great against the Red Raiders, but he didn’t do much against anyone else.

The tight end situation might be the team’s weakness early on. At some point, junior Blaine Irby will be back and starting after getting knocked out for the 2008 season with a knee injury. He caught 12 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and was occasionally used as a fullback, before the injury. The 6-3, 235-pounder is iffy at best to be back in time for the season opener, but he’s expected to make an impact this season with his combination of athleticism, toughness, and hands making him tough to get off the field. He’s a key blocker in all phases.
 
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Brandon Collins will see extensive work as the flanker working behind Jordan Shipley. The 6-0, 185-pounder had a nice year as a steady, reliable target catching 35 passes for 430 yards and three touchdowns. While he’s not necessarily a game-breaker, he came up with a 40-yard score against Baylor and made seven grabs for 60 yards against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Is DeSean Hales ready to blow up? The superstar high school sprinter has the wheels to be a home run hitter from the moment he gets on the field. He was redshirted last year and worked with the scout team, and now the 5-11, 175-pound freshman is ready. He’s an outside threat who should be able to stretch the field whenever he’s on it.

Dan Buckner was one of the star recruits of last year and he showed a glimpse of his potential with five catches for 84 yards and two scores highlighted by a 51-yard touchdown catch against Missouri. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, he has the size to go along with good hands and next-level upside. While he’s not a speedster, he’s a strong inside receiver who can work at the X, the split end.

Until Blake Irby is back and healthy from his knee injury, it’s going to take a combination of players in a rotation to take over the tight end situation. Junior Greg Smith is a 6-4, 267-pound blocker who started four games catching two passes for four yards and a touchdown against Baylor. Along with Smith will be sophomore Ahmard Howard, a part-time defensive end who moved over to the offensive side, where he started off his career. At 6-4 and 248 pounds, he has good size and is a tough blocker.
 
Watch Out For ... the 2008 freshmen. Jordan Shipley might be the No. 1 target, but Malcolm Williams, DeSean Hales, and Dan Buckner are the future stars of the show who’ll combine to give Texas one of the nation’s top receiving corps … in 2010. They could still use a year of seasoning. Also watch out for John Chiles, the backup quarterback who’s moving to wideout to get his combination of skills and athleticism on the field.
Strength: A strong combination of talents. To have a veteran like Shipley to count on is tremendous, while having elite-level prospects to develop will be a nice luxury with Colt McCoy making them better. There’s speed, size, and talent.
Weakness: Tight end. The Longhorns don’t have a sure-thing receiving tight end with Blake Irby trying to come back from his knee injury. There are several options the team will work with, but there isn’t a sure-thing, killer No. 1 playmaker to make defenses worry.
Outlook: It’s a good group of receivers that’ll be made better by Colt McCoy spreading the ball around. Shipley might not be a special player, but he gets the job done and he makes plays. The young receivers have so much talent and have so much potential that it’ll be tempting to hope for them to come up with big seasons, but they’re still about a year away from being really, really good. As is, this is a good corps with a high ceiling.
Rating: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters
:
The star of a good line is senior Adam Ulatoski, a 6-7, 306-pound all-star who can play either tackle spot and excel. He proved he could be rock-solid on the right side, and last year he became terrific on the left side after coming back healthy from a knee injury. He’s a solid run blocker who’s getting better and better in pass protection. While he has a few problems with speed rushers, when he gets his long arms on a defender, it’s over.

Back on the right side if Kyle Hix after starting every game last year. The 6-7, 320-pound junior is growing into a strong all-around blocker with a good combination of skills. He was a top recruit for the program and was thrown to the wolves early on, and the experience is paying off. He has excellent athleticism and tremendous strength, but he has to be a bit stronger in pass protection.

Anchoring the line is senior center Chris Hall, a 6-4, 300-pound veteran who has seen time at both guard spots and was moved to tackle for a stretch in 2007. He has found his home in the middle using his smarts and his experience to sniff out blitzes and make the line calls. He missed the final two games of the year with a knee injury, but he’s fine coming into the season.

The biggest question mark up front is at right guard where Cedric Dockery has to be replaced. 6-5, 320-pound junior Michael Huey was thrown into the mix early on as a freshman as a special teamer and a part-time guard. After working behind Dockery, and getting three starts at left guard, the apprenticeship is over. He’s ready to be a steady blocker who should be great for the ground game.

Senior Charlie Tanner is back at left guard after starting for most of last year. An honorable mention All-Big 12 performer, he’s a smart, strong, mauler of a run blocker who has grown into a steady blocker. At 6-4 and 305 pounds, he has the requisite size, and now he has the experience. He’s tough to get by.
 
Projected Top Reserves: Former tight end Britt Mitchell has been a solid reserve at tackle over the last few seasons. He can play either tackle spot and is a big tight end on the goal line and short yardage situations. The 6-5, 305-pounder is athletic and tough, but he’s not Kyle Hix. There’s a drop-off if Hix goes out on the right side.

One of the team’s most versatile backups, 6-4, 300-pound David Snow can fill in at either guard spot and will start out in the middle behind Chris Hall. He started the last two games of the year with Hall out and he was more than fine. With good athleticism for his size, the sophomore is growing into a potential all-star when he gets his turn as a starter next year.

The coaching staff brought in a few top offensive linemen in this year’s recruiting class, and the best of the bunch is Mason Walters. The 6-6, 295-pound prep All-American is ready made to step in and see time if needed at left guard. While the hope is to redshirt him early on, the coaching staff isn’t making any guarantees.
 
Watch Out For ... the true freshmen. Last year’s crop of recruits was strong, with guard Mark Buchanan likely to play a meaningful backup role, and Luke Poehlmann an undersized, but promising tackle. However, Walters is good enough to push for a No. 2 job somewhere, and 6-5, 315-pound Thomas Ashcraft a whale of a tackle prospect. Ashcraft is athletic for a big man and will get a long look at right guard.
Strength: Experience. This was a veteran group last year, and now four starters return to make this one of the Big 12’s most loaded lines. There might not be a slew of all-stars like last year’s Oklahoma front five, but there are good, solid blockers all across the front.
Weakness: Doing any one thing well. The run blocking improved from 2007 to 2008, but not enough to call it a major strength. The pass protection was fine, it’s hard to block with Colt McCoy running around, but it was hardly a brick wall.
Outlook: This is a good line, a very good line, but is it special? With four starters returning it has the potential to be air tight at times. Adam Ulatoski will be starting in the NFL in the near future and Kyle Hix is an emerging star at right tackle. Now the star recruits from last year have to provide a push to the starters, and overall, the line has to dominate on a regular basis. This group has to pound a little more for the running game.
Rating: 8.5