Craig Naivar, Todd Orlando, and Tom Herman are big fans of the safeties they found waiting for them on campus at Texas. The unit that was perpetually filled with superior athletes that couldn’t edge out sticky-fingered Dylan Haines under Charlie Strong but is now finally stocked with multi-year veterans with diverse skill sets.
Obviously one of the big changes that Mack Brown brought to the recruiting game was snatching up juniors early after the season ended before they were even seniors. That required some projection on the part of the Texas staff, but projection is already the name of the game and they could at least work off a year of varsity film + camp work to get a sense of what a kid might become at Texas.
Texas’ reward for going into the Coliseum to take on Sam Darnold and the USC Trojans is a weekend off to recuperate and assess before conference play. They then draw a Thursday night game in Ames, which has been a troublesome place for Texas this decade. Then they get another weekend off before entering the gauntlet portion of the schedule against K-State, Oklahoma, and then Oklahoma State in successive weeks.
This is one of the big ones for Tom Herman in year one even though a pure “win or lose” metric probably won’t be the standard for what Texas needs to accomplish in the premier non-conference game. The Longhorns need to avoid an embarrassing blowout like they endured in 2015 in South Bend while a surprising victory like the 2016 triumph over the Fighting Irish would be more likely to prove a reliable omen.
If I were to offer a scouting report on the 2017 Texas Longhorns I’d suggest that they might be vulnerable to a run game supplemented with option elements, pace, motion, and multiple formations. Texas’ ability to fit the run consistently and with good fundamentals in their new scheme is far from proven, after all. I’d also suggest a “bend don’t break” defensive approach pair with aggressive assaults on the right side of the line. That worked out pretty well for opponents in 2016 and while Texas is likely to be improved overall, those weaknesses are still worth probing.
Our X’s and O’s guru, Ian Boyd is holding a Texas Football Q&A today at 10:00am. Ask him about the schemes and philosophies of the Tom Herman-led program, offense and defense, and more. JOIN US.
One of our favorite offseason topics every year is the numbers and allocation of the precious 85 scholarships. Where Texas should load up with talent? Where do they skimp on numbers? What kinds of talents make for the best classes and bring about future success? The fact that Texas regularly outperforms most of their competition in recruiting and yet doesn’t have much to show for it doesn’t quite get as much scrutiny as whether X or Y player/savior is likely to fax in his letter.
Texas’ search for defensive linemen has become a pretty fascinating topic this offseason. The team is struggling to find depth at the position, losing both existing players and committed recruits at the position. The search for the now notorious “4i-technique” linemen who can fit Todd Orlando’s 3-4 defensive scheme is becoming a major theme in the recruiting story.
The 2015 recruiting class was one of the most athletic collections of defensive players that the Longhorns had signed in this decade. Malik Jefferson headlined the group and was joined, by order of 247 ranking, Anthony Wheeler, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, DeShon Elliott, Davante Davis, P.J. Locke, and Breckyn Hager to round out their defensive backfield class. Now in year three we are finally seeing how the pieces fit together.
In the last column I explained how defending Big 12 run games is primarily a measure of how well a defense works in concert to fill gaps and get hats to the right places. Defending the pass in the Big 12 isn’t like that at all, there’s real skill and overpowering athleticism involved in the execution of these attacks and simply getting guys matched up in the right spots is not enough to guarantee success.