Vegas recently released over/unders for the Big 12 that had Texas at seven for the 2018 season. That put them square with West Virginia and Kansas State, a win ahead of potential darkhorse Iowa State, a win behind TCU, 1.5 behind Oklahoma State, and 3.5 wins behind Oklahoma.
There are two effective responses to roster turnover that you tend to see from strong programs. The first is what would best be described as “the reload” in which a star player at a featured position is replaced by another player that’s been developing and biding his time for the opportunity. The RB position is definitely one where you want to see a “reload” effect while for Texas the “rover” position, “H-back,” and really the QB also fall under that category. The other type of response to turnover is to elevate the roles of returning starters who were serving more as support for their star teammates and now get their chance to lead the way.
Last year around this time one of the big questions for the spring game was how Texas’ LBs would show against the run. The 2016 season had been one of the ugliest for LB play in a decade of exceptionally ugly play at that position but with Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler coming under Todd Orlando’s supervision there was some hope that it might get turned around. Then the offense spent the spring game throwing the ball around on the perimeter and it remained to be seen whether Texas knew how to fit the run or not.
Much like in 2017, the 2018 Texas spring game was pretty passing intensive. It’s hard to know exactly why that may be but some likely reasons include reducing wear and tear on everyone with big hits in the run game or giving the fans more of a show with the ball getting aired out regularly.
It’s fun to watch Texas play football again, isn’t it? There was a lot to take in with this game, normally there are 11 guys to try and eyeball on a given play for your team but in the spring game there are 22. Like most everyone else, my eyes mostly watched the ball and the play of the QBs so there will be some things I’ll wait to evaluate until I can watch more carefully.
At 6-4, 220 with a background as a RB at powerhouse HS Southlake Carroll, Lil’Jordan Humphrey is a pretty unique football player. That was certainly Charlie Strong’s impression when he recruited him, “I don’t know what he is but I just know he’s a football player.”
After observing Patrick Vahe’s play over the course of 2017 I determined to take on another “fun” project. I watched every sack that Texas gave up during the 2017 season and tried to determine what the breakdown was, as best as I could given that I’m less familiar with protection schemes.
Here were the results I found…
Plenty of Texas fans have been pretty surprised by the fact that Patrick Vahe serving as the starting left guard is one of the few features of the 2018 OL that seems etched in stone.
In the last five years in the Big 12, only 13 units managed to field a defense that ranked in the top 40 of S&P+. Oklahoma and TCU managed to produce three such teams, Texas and West Virginia have each done it twice, and then Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State have each pulled it off once. For their defensive reputation, the Horned Frogs had a fairly long dry spell in 2015 and 2016 before they were able to crack the top 40 again last year (no. 16), and OU’s defensive reputation is up in smoke after finishing at 55th in 2016 and then going over a cliff in 2017.
One of the main topics for the offense heading into the 2018 season is how much of a difference it will make for the unit to have even average OL play. Replacing the weak spots across the line, having multiple groups of five that can be executed to soundly execute their assignments without costly errors, and plugging in a top talent at LT after unexpectedly having to forego that luxury in 2017 are all changing variables that could provide a tremendous boost. But there’s another factor that’s likely to have a big impact on the 2018 unit and even to effect the quality of the blocking in a major way, that’s the growth at TE.