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2010 Texas Preview – Offense
Texas QB Garrett Gilbert
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Texas Longhorn Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Colt McCoy was the heart and soul of the offense and the team, as painfully evidenced by the BCS Championship loss to Alabama, and now the attack will gear more towards the running backs and the ground game to balance things out. The problem, however, is that the best players are still in the passing game with Garrett Gilbert a still-emerging, but ultra-talented quarterback while the receiving corps is fast and full of promise. The running backs are veterans, but health has been an issue and no one has carried the workload before. The goal is to get more physical and to do far more to pound the ball, and the backs will get their chances behind a line that’s been mediocre by UT’s standards and now has to replace three starters. The offense might not be third in the nation in scoring, but it’ll still be good enough to be among the best in the Big 12.
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Garrett Gilbert
Passing: Garrett Gilbert
30-66, 310 yds, 2 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Tre Newton
116 carries, 552 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: James Kirkendoll
48 catches, 461 yds, 6 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior C David Snow
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE Barrett Matthews
Best pro prospect: Gilbert
Top three all-star candidates: 1) OT Kyle Hix, 2) WR Malcolm Williams, 3) Gilbert
Strength of the offense: Receivers, Running Back Experience
Weakness of the offense: Line, Quarterback Experience
Projected Starter: Thrown into the spotlight at the worst possible time, sophomore Garrett Gilbert was asked to win a national championship against the incredible Alabama defense on a night that was supposed to belong to Colt McCoy. He looked lost, couldn’t handle the pressure, and didn’t appear to belong on the field … and then the light bulb turned on. He finished completing just 15-of-40 for 186 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions, but it was the way he handled the adversity and brought the team back to make the Tide sweat that showed the promise and potential for a player who could turn out to be special. That type of moxie is part of the reason why the 6-4, 212-pounder was one of the nation’s top recruits last year after throwing for a Texas high school record 12,540 yards with 138 touchdown passes on the way to two state titles. As good as McCoy was, Gilbert has the bigger NFL upside and will get the chance to throw down the field early and often.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Sherrod Harris stuck with the program after being rumored to transfer at various times. The 6-3, 215-pound veteran has been around seemingly forever as a possible Next Big Thing with great size, sprinter’s speed, and a live arm, but he has never been able to make any headway up the depth chart with Colt McCoy holding down the position and Garrett Gilbert coming aboard. If he ever wanted to switch positions, he’d potentially make a whale of an NFL prospect at safety, but that’s never going to happen and he’ll be a strong No. 2 option who’s ready to step in and produce at any time.
6-4, 209-pound Connor Wood is a three-time all-state selection out of Houston with good size, a pro passing arm, and the running ability to take off from time to time to make things happen for the ground game. He’s a smart, accurate passer who got to school early to fight for the backup job, but in a perfect world he’s able to redshirt and is in the mix for the starting gig in 2013 while serving as a key backup before Gilbert is done.
Good luck filling THOSE shoes. As if there isn’t enough pressure playing quarterback at Texas, freshman Case McCoy has to replace his brother, the winningest quarterback in college football history and a Texas legend. He’s not nearly the same talent that Colt is, but the 6-2, 175-pounder is a similar player with an accurate short to midrange arm and great mobility. He’s a great athlete who’s a pure baller.
Watch Out For … Harris. Wood and McCoy are relatively even and neither one looks ready to take over the franchise if something happens to Gilbert, but if Harris isn’t strong, the temptation will be there to elevate one of the freshmen to No. 2 when a redshirt year would be a big help.
Strength: Accurate arms. Gilbert only completed 46% of his throws last year, but most of those came in the Alabama game. He really is a big-time talent, while Harris has a gun. Wood and McCoy threw darts in high school and have the upside to be ultra-efficient once they get a little bit of seasoning.
Weakness: Experience. Gilbert might have been thrown into the fire, but he’s basically coming into the season new. Harris hasn’t done anything, and it’s asking too much for a true freshman to shine right away. There will be some rough patches.
Outlook: 45 wins, 13,253 yards, 112 touchdowns, 1,571 rushing yards and 20 scores. Colt McCoy is irreplaceable, but so was Vince Young. Gilbert has NFL potential, and Harris is a nice veteran (at least in practices) who can play if needed. Wood and McCoy talented enough to be given the nod in an emergency.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: Junior Foshwhitt “Fozzy” Whittaker suffered a knee injury two years ago and took a while to get back into the swing of things as he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He got a little work early on carrying the ball 18 times for 71 yards against Oklahoma, but he only ran 53 times all season for a paltry 212 yards with four touchdowns while catching 13 passes for 51 yards. The 5-10, 195-pounder was a Texas high school superstar and has yet to make a splash for the Longhorns, but now he’s healthy and now he’s ready to be a focal point of a rushing attack that will rely more on the ground game bringing more power to the equation.
The thumper in the Texas running back rotation will continue to be junior Cody Johnson, a 5-11, 250-pound goal line specialist who scored 24 touchdowns over the last two years and ran for 109 yards against Baylor. He only carried the ball 87 times on the season and ran for just 335 yards and 12 scores, and while his role has diminished down the stretch in each of the last two seasons, he can carry the load when needed. The key will always be his weight; if he can stay around or under 250 pounds, he’ll get more work.
Projected Top Reserves: There might be a four-headed running back monster returning, but
it could be redshirt freshman Chris Whaley who shoehorns his way in and takes over a bulk of the job. The 6-3, 245-pounder is a versatile runner with great thump on the inside and just enough quickness to bust out big runs on the outside. He could be a better all-around big-back option than Cody Johnson, and while he might not necessarily be a fullback, he can be physical.
Sophomore Tre Newton will see equal time in the running rotation after leading the team with 552 yards and six touchdowns. The 6-0, 200-pounder is a strong runner and a great blocker who’s willing to do the dirty work needed and can be a bit of a workhorse as his role expanded as the year went on. Good enough to be a key part of the passing game, he caught 14 passes for 108 yards, and he can be used in a variety of ways.
If Vondrell McGee is out of the doghouse and back in the rotation, he should thrive with the change in offensive focus. The 5-10, 205-pound senior has good speed and the burst to crank out yards in chunks averaging 5.4 yards per carry with 300 yards and two scores. He’s not a strong blocker, isn’t quite as physical or as consistent as he needs to be, and he was banged up throughout last year, but his biggest problem is getting over a suspension after being charged with a DWI this spring. He won’t play in the opener against Rice, and Mack Brown might make the suspension longer.
True freshman Traylon Shead’s high school résumé reads like a video game stat sheet. He’s the Texas all-time leading touchdown scorer hitting paydirt 141 times while rushing for 10,290 career yards highlighted by a 2,696-yard senior year. At 6-2 and 210 pounds he’s a tall, speedy back who hits the hole with a burst, but he’s built more like a wide receiver than a running back needing to bulk up and get stronger to provide more power.
Watch Out For … production. Texas hasn’t gotten enough out of the running backs over the last few years, and part of that was because of Colt McCoy being under center (and the offense focused around throwing the ball), and part of it was because the backs simply haven’t been great. Now, with more attention paid to the ground game, the backs should do far more.
Strength: Experience. Everyone who ran the ball last year is back except for Colt McCoy (who finished second on the team with 348 yards), Antwan Cobb (one carry, three yards) and Jordan Shipley (one carry, no yards). Newton, Johnson, Whittaker, and (possibly) McGee should form a nice rotation.
Weakness: Proven production at a high level. It’s not like there’s a Jamaal Charles, Ricky Williams, or Cedric Benson around who can grab the running game by the horns and make it work. There are several nice backs, but no one has emerged as a star of the show to rely on game in and game out.
Outlook: The coaching staff says it’s more committed to the ground game, and it says it’s going to try to be more physical, and it says it plans on balancing things out, but it might be tempting to keep the running attack in the backseat with an NFL-caliber prospect in Garrett Gilbert and a dangerous receiving corps. There’s experience in the backfield and there are a variety of options, and now the production has to come on a consistent basis.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: Ready to step up and become the team’s No. 1 receiver is junior Malcolm Williams, a prototype NFL target who could blow up if the passing game really does start to go down the field more. At 6-3 and 225 pounds and with Texas high school state champion level speed, he has all the skills and he has shown flashes of being special catching nine passes for 132 yards against Texas A&M and made six grabs for 103 yards and a score against Kansas, but he only made 39 catches for 550 yards and two scores on the year. At the split end, the time is now to become special.
Senior John Chiles came to Texas as a top-shelf quarterback recruit with tremendous athleticism, a next-level arm, and a world of talent, but he has been pushed aside with the emergence of Colt McCoy as a legend and with the uber-talent of Garrett Gilbert stepping in. The 6-2, 210-pounder is too good to not be on the field in some way, and he showed his talent as a target making 34 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns before getting banged up late in the year. If absolutely needed, he could move back to quarterback even though he’s becoming too valuable as a flanker.
The UT offense will mix the formations with different looks with James Kirkendoll being the No. 3 target in three-wide sets. The 5-11, 180-pound senior has been reliable throughout his career starting 17 times with 48 catches for 461 yards and six scores last year. Extremely quick, he hasn’t shown any ill-effects from a hip injury suffered early in his career and he has found a role with his great route running and great hands. He’ll be a key factor on third downs.
Taking over the tight end job will be Barrett Matthews, a 6-2, 235-pound sophomore who spent last year as a blocker and a special teamer. A superior high school talent and a top prospect, he’s built more like an H-Back or a fullback for the next-level scouts, but he has excellent deep speed and the hands to become a dangerous receiver. While he won’t be a bad blocker, his real worth will be as a top playmaker down the field and a matchup nightmare against any linebacker.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Marquise Goodwin came to UT at the same time as Garrett Gilbert, and the two appear to have a nice rapport working together in practices. The 5-9, 175-pounder will see time at the Z and will work on the outside to get his world class speed into open space. An elite track star who can jump out of the stadium and has the potential to be a devastating home run hitter, he needs to come up with more big plays after averaging just 9.3 yards per catch. However, as a true freshman, he played well making 30 grabs for 279 yards with a score.
Very soon, the time will come when sophomore DeSean Hales releases his deep speed for the offense. The 5-11, 175-pounder was a superstar high school sprinter who only caught one pass for two yards, but he’ll get time as a punt returner this year. He has the ability and the skill to get the ball in a variety of ways; he’s too athletic to not be a factor.
6-2, 183-pound Mike Davis was one of the team’s top recruits this year with the potential to be a gamebreaking, No. 1 type of target. The Dallas native is a deep threat with great hands, nice size, and the make up to be a go-to receiver who makes things happen whenever he gets the ball in his hands. While he might not see the field right away, he should be too good to not get a long look for playing time.
Along with Davis, 6-3, 200-pound Darius White is a tremendous prospect with size, quickness, and the ability to become a playmaker who does a little of everything well. A smart, high character prospect, he’ll be ready to play right away and has the frame to add a few more pounds and have the look of an NFL prototype.
Backup tight end Greg Smith is a strong blocker who got six starts last year and will combine with Barrett Matthews for the job. He only caught six passes for 48 yards, but the 6-4, 250-pounder does a little of everything for the blocking schemes while also serving as a snapper for the special teams. The academic all-star is a jack-of-all-trades who always finds ways to produce in an under-the-radar sort of way.
Watch Out For … the true freshmen. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Texas always has the next big thing at wide receiver with supposed NFL-ready talents coming in year after year (remember now-Arizona Wildcat Dan Buckner?), but White and Davis have all the tools to take on big roles right away. If Williams doesn’t grow into his hype (another one-time freshman jaw-dropper), then the true freshmen could become the stars.
Strength: The mix of talents. There’s the size of Williams and Chiles, the speed of Goodwin and Hales, and the youth of Davis and White to mix things up a bit. There are always elite talents flowing through Austin, and even if they don’t always live up to their immense potential, they’re still very good.
Weakness: Jordan Shipley. Oh sure, about 110 other teams would give six bucks and their left … leg to have a receiving corps as good as UT’s, but it’ll still sting to lose a go-to, clutch playmaker like Shipley. All the Cincinnati Bengal did was catch 248 career balls for 3,191 yards and 33 touchdowns with 116 grabs last year. Throw in the transfer of Dan Buckner, who was third on the team with 45 catches, and there are some holes to fill.
Outlook: The Texas receivers look like Tarzan, and play like, well, Tarzan at times, but they suffer from overhype. There’s a ton of talent returning, even without Shipley, but Williams has to be as good originally advertised on a consistent basis. Kirkendoll has to continue to be steady, and Chiles has to take on a bigger role. Getting something from Hales would be nice, adding some more pop from the tight ends would be a plus, and getting production from the star true freshmen would be great. The numbers won’t be there like last year, but this is still going to be a very, very good corps.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: The line has to replace the starters on the left side, so the big move of this offseason was taking veteran right tackle Kyle Hix and putting him in Adam Ulatoski’s spot at left tackle. The 6-7, 320-pound Hix has been a fine, serviceable tackle who has been tough enough and durable enough to start 28 straight games and be a big part of the attack for the last three seasons. Now he should be better in what appears to be a more natural spot. An honorable mention All-Big 12 selection, with his size and his tools, the one-time superstar recruit should be the anchor of the front with more responsibility. A good athlete with tremendous strength, the senior has the tools with the experience to finish strong.
Charlie Tanner is gone at left guard, but right guard Michael Huey will move over to left guard where he should be stronger. The 6-5, 310-pound senior has been an honorable mention All-Big 12 performer as a good run blocker, and he’s been an occasional mauler, but he needs to be a blaster on a more consistent basis for the ground game. He and Kyle Hix appear to click a bit better on the left side than the right, but the spotlight will be on to see if they can carry the line.
Former tight end Britt Mitchell could become one of the team’s bright new blockers taking over for Kyle Hix at left tackle. The 6-5, 300-pounder is a nice athlete who moves extremely well, and he’s the type of nasty blocker who wants to bury defenders. He saw time in every game last year and has been a regular in the rotation both at right and left tackle, and while he’s not Hix, he should be solid.
6-4, 295-pound junior David Snow will step in and take over for David Hall at center, but he could play guard if needed. He started five times at right guard early on and struggled a bit, and he should be far better at center where he can be a quarterback for the front line more than he has to be a killer of a run blocker. He’s a good athlete with decent athleticism, and now he should shine in a full-time role in the middle for the next two seasons.
Senior Tray Allen is a versatile career backup able to play either guard or tackle spot, and he’ll get the call starting at right guard taking over for Michael Huey. The 6-4, 305-pounder was a high school All-American who came to Texas with plenty of hype and promise, and while he hasn’t been able to grow into a major factor, he has one last chance as he tries to add a more physical element to the line as he has found a spot.
Projected Top Reserves: It’s just a question of time, position, and health for redshirt freshman Mason Walters. The versatile 6-6, 305-pounder has the talent to become a starter and he has the ability to be a key part of the left guard rotation working behind Michael Huey, but he has problems with a foot that keeps getting injury. He saw a little time early on last year before getting the hurt and missing the rest of the year, but the one-time star center prospect will be counted on to hold up.
6-5, 310-pound redshirt freshman Thomas Ashcraft , like all Texas offensive line prospects, was a top recruit wanted by just about everyone, and he’s eventually going to be a starter. A backup right guard, he could also end up moving to tackle where he was considered a possible option at either side. He’s athletic and smart, and he’ll get his chances this year to get his feet wet.
Redshirt freshman Paden Kelley was rated as high as the No. 2 offensive tackle prospect coming out last year, and now the local Austin native will get a year to work as the understudy behind Kyle Hix at left tackle before likely getting the starting nod next year. At 6-7 and 290 pounds he has a big frame with room to add more weight, while he has the toughness to become a strong run blocker. Smart, he was a high school academic all-star.
Watch Out For … Mitchell. He might not be a brick wall against the top pass rushers, but he’s going to provide an attitude to the line at right tackle and he’s going to give a full-tilt effort every time out.
Strength: The left side. Hix and Huey are longtime veterans who were decent on the right side, but weren’t killers. With their years of experience and their skill, they have the potential to shine with more responsibility on the left side. They know each other’s moves and should be productive.
Weakness: Blocking. This was a disappointment of a line last year and now three starters have to be replaced. The pass protection was mediocre allowing 31 sacks while it only paved the way for 148 yards per game. It’s asking a lot for a vast improvement with so much turnover.
Outlook: The line should be better over the next few years when the star recruits from last year mature and are ready to be fantastic (like Ashcraft, Kelly, and Mason Walters), but it’s not going to be a strength this year. It’s not like the UT line is going to be fall-off-the-map bad, but it’s been merely above average over the last few years and it has to try to find one thing it can do well. It’s a serviceable group that will be asked to be more dominant for the ground game from time to time.
Unit Rating: 7
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