The practice reports and coming depth chart have really started to clear up the picture on what the Texas offense is going to look like in 2018. The confusing aspect of this team is that with Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey out there running routes, some of the best play-making talent on the team is concentrated at WR. However, the pass protection from the OL is still a question mark and while Sam Ehlinger was effective throwing the ball in 2018 he’s still only a sophomore. Then there’s the preferred philosophy of Tom Herman and the hire of Herb Hand, which all portends a stubborn insistence on bulldozing opponents with the run game.
Going into the 2017 season, the big concern was how well Texas could match up with defenses “at the point of attack” off tackle. Connor Williams was set to be the best player on the roster but TE quickly went from a question mark to a glaring hole when Andrew Beck went down in fall camp. They settled on Elijah Rodriguez at RT and then he promptly went down with injury, then Connor Williams went down and that was that.
There’s been a lot of fun discussion over the lineup that Texas tried out in the scrimmage that featured sophomore Derek Kerstetter at center, particularly Eric’s report that the most physical grouping consisted of Pat Hudson-Derek Kerstetter-Tope Imade forcing the Texas nose tackles to “fight for their lives.”
We already talked about the knowns and unknowns for the Texas defense last week and it was an encouraging discussion. Texas had to take on something approximating half of their 2018 offseason defensive rebuild in their bowl practices before taking on Missouri when Holton Hill, Malik Jefferson, and DeShon Elliott were all unavailable. When they proceeded to lay waste to Missouri’s highly rated offense while featuring back-ups, young bucks, and juniors across the lineup that was a pretty good indicator that the 2018 defense was going to end up being just fine.
Ideally a team pretty much knows who they are going into fall camp. If you read my recent piece on Gary Patterson’s defensive development at TCU, you’ll notice that he goes into fall camp with gameplans for every opponent and his goal that fall is more about installing them than experimenting to sort out what will work. The spring is for figuring out who your team will be that season, the fall is for instilling a strategy to maximize that team’s strengths in the coming year.
The stretch run of the 2017 season was important for what it meant about Texas’ bowl eligibility. Heading into the last three games of the year, Tom.
Herman’s Longhorns were 4-5 and hosting Kansas before heading to West Virginia and then hosting Texas Tech.
I had a few good conversations with Patrick Vahe, Breckyn Hager (it was hard not to just camp out and listen to him the entire time), Andrew Beck, and Tom Herman. I didn’t connect with Chris Nelson, which was probably a mistake.
After Texas’ “gauntlet” stretch where they face TCU, K-State on the road, and then OU in Dallas without a break, comes a much more favorable stretch.
They draw Baylor in Austin, a bye week, and then they face Oklahoma State on the road and West Virginia back in Austin. This is the obvious point on the schedule for Texas to rest and recuperate and for Todd Orlando to figure out what his best combinations of players and tactics are for handling Mike Gundy, Dana Holgorsen, and the back half of the schedule.
Much like a year ago, the Texas schedule is set up for a tough middle stretch with a softer landing on the back half that should allow a strong finish. The season’s ceiling will be set by games four through six, which we are previewing today. The Longhorns host TCU, travel to Kansas State, and then take on Oklahoma in Dallas.
Texas’ 2018 schedule is generally considered the toughest in the Big 12 and one of the harder slates nationally. This is mostly because the rest of the Big 12 isn’t opting for taking on a blueblood like USC in their non-conference slate this year (except TCU, taking on Ohio State) but it’s still fairly remarkable given that, unlike the rest of the Big 12, Texas never has to play Texas. Not literally, at least.