Inside Scoop -- Oct. 31, 2008 edition
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OUR WEEKLY WILL MUSCHAMP UPDATE
Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's name is "definitely on the list" for the head coaching vacancies at both Clemson and Washington, a reliable source close to the situation told Inside Texas. In fact, our source believes that if Muschamp leaves at the end of his first season in Austin, it would more likely be for the Washington opening.
The reason: Washington Athletic Director Scott Woodward and University of Washington President Mark Emmert were both at LSU when Muschamp was the defensive coordinator for 2003 BCS national championship Tiger football team. (Emmert was the LSU president; Woodward was the liaison between the Chancellor's office and the LSU Men's Athletic Department). There is a general consensus (among Austin media) that Muschamp is the frontrunner for the Clemson job and would likely accept an offer given the program is in virtually the same backyard as his alma mater Georgia. However, Muschamp and former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden are good friends. Bowden, of course, resigned under pressure earlier in October.
"You know that Tommy will give Will an earful," our source said. Besides, Muschamp has privately been told that Clemson is "a dead-end job," our source added. Bill Frisbie
This week, Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said that running back Fozzy Whittaker was plenty healthy enough to play, but it was simply a schematic decision during the game to keep him on the sideline.
“I think Fozzy's fine. He was fine last week. It was just a ballgame where there was a lot going on. Unbelievable amount of blitzes from various structures. (Chris Ogbonnaya and Vondrell McGee) just had more reps on it more recently, so we just felt more comfortable with that,” said Davis. “We really anticipated getting Fozzy in the ballgame, but because of the way it came down, we just felt like those two were doing a great job protecting the quarterback.”
A team source has confirmed that this was the case, telling Inside Texas that Whittaker frequently took reps with the first team during practice last week and has again this week. Whittaker is ready to play and the chances of him getting on the field look better against Texas Tech, especially if blitz pick-up is the primary concern. The Red Raiders have only blitzed on 18 percent of defensive downs this season.
In fact, while reviewing the tape of Tech's game against Kansas State, Davis turned to a graduate assistant who was with him and said, “Did I miss any blitzes? I only counted one.” The GA had the same total. Texas Tech only blitzed once the entire game against K-State.
For the Red Raiders to come with a heavy number of blitzes, it would mean a reversal from what their defense has done this season (think last season's Nebraska game). Given this, and the struggles in the running game the Longhorns had against Oklahoma State, the Texas coaches may feel more inclined to use the speedy redshirt freshman this week.
Due to knee injuries, Whittaker has only played in two games this season (UTEP, Missouri). He's carried the ball 14 times for 96 yards, giving him and average of 6.6 yards per carry. Ross Lucksinger
What about Chykie Brown? With the passing attack Texas will face this weekend, the health of the sophomore corner could be a very important factor. Last week, the plan was to have Brown match-up with Oklahoma State's top receiver, Dez Bryant. But Brown suffered an ankle sprain in practice that sidelined him for the game. Texas coaches hoped he would be ready, but during pregame warm-ups it was apparent that he would not be able to play.
This week, if all goes according to plan, Brown should play. He may once again be a gametime decision, but a team source said he most likely will be out on the field against Tech.
“Chykie should be ready to go as he practiced Wednesday and Thursday,” said the source. Ross Lucksinger
What's the toughest place for Texas to play in the Big 12? The Horns are headed there Saturday, according to WR Quan Cosby.
"It's the only stadium where you get there two hours before kickoff and it's already full," Cosby said. "And they're already hating you. As much as they dislike us, it's a great atmosphere. We love to play there."
So, what's the plan? Game plan, that is?
Without giving away the specifics, DE Sam Acho told Inside Texas: "We're going to try to get to the quarterback. We know if we don't get there, Graham Harrell has the potential to throw the ball deep. He's a great quarterback, so he has the potential to hurt us. We're going to try to get some pressure on him in whatever way we can."
Players have said Texas will show more of a dime package Saturday. They also know Texas has been able to generate an honest pass rush with its four down-lineman (even pressuring Missouri QB Chase Daniel, at times, with a three-man rush).
DE Henry Melton said: "We're going to come with a different type of mix. We're going to shake it up a little bit. You've always got to try to get a quarterback out of rhythm. That's pretty much what (Will) Muschamp is going to do."
However, there seems to be a consensus among many of Texas' front-line defensive players that the media is needlessly peppering them about scheme this week just because it's Texas Tech. None of them are likely to provide bulletin board material, but there is a pervasive sentiment of 'Been There, Done That' when it comes to containing the Red Raiders. There is a quiet confidence among the upperclassmen (who have never lost to Tech) because this is the fourth time they have prepared specifically for this offense. Texas has also faced some variation of an up-tempo, spread offense three of the past four weeks. (Privately, a few of Horns said it's harder to prepare for a team like Oklahoma State that boasts a balanced offense and a dual threat QB.)
RCB Ryan Palmer (small in stature but big in confidence) made two critical fourth-down stops the last time Texas went to Lubbock, and the senior has had a "calming effect on the rest of the secondary," Muschamp said. "Seniors will generally tell you what we can handle and what we can't. Young players will say they can handle everything because they don't want to disappoint you. Ryan is an honest kid. When we talk about making some changes, coverage-wise, we'll ask him about it as opposed to asking another player." Bill Frisbie
Texas Tech's offensive line is not considered the team's strength, but QB Graham Harrell has been sacked just three times all season. I asked a couple of Longhorn defenders if the stat had more to do with the wide splits along the offensive front, or passing scheme, or Harrell, or what? Most of the responses were diplomatic and complimentary of Tech's offensive front. However, LCB Deon Beasley said: "They ain't seen (Brian) Orakpo. They ain't seen Roy (Miller). They ain't seen those four guys (down linemen). And they ain't seen Serge (SLB Sergio Kindle)."
Translation: it has more to do with the caliber of competition. Bill Frisbie
So... why exactly does Texas Tech use those massive offensive line splits? The Longhorns (more specifically, Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller) had little problem navigating their way through Missouri's splits, forcing the Tigers to tighten up as the game went on.
This week, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp explained the advantage Tech gets using wide line splits.
“Well, it just creates some seams,” said Muschamp. “Really the theory behind it is in the running game and the throwing game. They try to open up lanes for the quarterback so he can see the mesh concepts and the different underneath throws they have. So it gets the clutter out of the middle. We’ve just got to be able to adjust to those and do some different things up front to try and fill the gaps and make sure we're disciplined in our run lanes when they do run the football.”
Later, Muschamp was asked by a reporter, since the Red Raiders have only given up three sacks on the season, if he will have to drop more defenders into coverage and concede that he can't get to Graham Harrell.
“We don't concede a whole lot,” said Muschamp, flatly. “Oklahoma State had been sacked five times coming into it.”
For the record, Oklahoma State now has double that amount, thanks to five sacks given up to the Longhorns. Ross Lucksinger
Is the SEC still superior to the Big 12? Given the fact that four of the top five scoring offenses are in the Big 12, and that no conference ranks higher in total defense than Texas at No. 43 (334.8 ypg), are the offenses just that much better in Big 12 country? Or, are the defenses better in the SEC (where those big, fast NFL First Rounders seem to grow on trees)?
Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp should know, having also directed units at Auburn and LSU.
"There are really only two offenses in the SEC that are playing at a high level, Georgia and Florida," Muschamp said, before adding, "I'd like to play some SEC offenses."
Aside from the revival that Alabama has enjoyed under second-year coach Nick Saban, the Bulldogs and Gators are soaring because of experience at quarterback, Muschamp said.
"The whole key is quarterback. A quarterback affords you the opportunity to have success. Look at the NFL right now. Who's hurt? Who's struggling as a football team? It's real simple. There's nothing complicated about it. If you've got an experienced quarterback, a guy who can manage the game, a guy who can pull the trigger on third down and make plays for you, you have a chance to win games. If you don't, you're going to struggle." Bill Frisbie
Many Texas fans are convinced offensive coordinator Greg Davis is producing some of the best game plans of his tenure. As such, many have asked if there is some sort of trickle-up effect from RB coach Major Applewhite to Davis. My personal opinion is that Applewhite's influence on Davis is not nearly as much as people think. Obviously, Davis devises a game plan with the input of his assistants; he also solicits Colt McCoy's opinion each week. But I believe the 12-0 loss to Oklahoma in 2004 was a watershed moment for Davis. (It was not only Texas' first shutout in 24 years, it likely cost the team a BCS National Championship berth. It was the only time I have ever heard Mack Brown criticize Davis' game plan.) Between 2000-2004, Davis padded his stats against the little sisters of the league. Meanwhile, his game plan against the OU's of the world was so close to the vest that it should have come with a cummerbund.
Since then, Davis' approach in the bigger games has been more aggressive and creative. In fact, the transformation began the very week of the 2004 Texas Tech game when he allowed Vince Young to create by inserting more lead-options and sprint-outs. Historically, Davis has had a strong penchant for drop-back pocket passers because roll-outs "eliminate half the field," Davis once said.
The running game has been criticized the past two seasons, but Jamaal Charles did lead the Big 12 in rushing in 2007. And this year's RBs have been serviceable in the run game, while doing a yoeman's job at ball security and blitz pickups (we can certainly credit Applewhite for those upgrades). The cerebral Applewhite has brought a thinking-man's approach to the running game. Players have told me they now have an awareness of where every defender on the field will be as the play unfolds. A prime example: it translated into Chris Ogbonnaya's patience that resulted in his long run late in the fourth quarter to seal the deal against Oklahoma.
It has been a season where Davis might have been too cute, at times. When a reporter asked him Monday what he called the ill-fated (if not for the roughing penalty) fake-fumble play against Oklahoma State, Davis replied: "I'd call it a mistake."
For the record, the play was R-Tight Okie Touchdown. It was installed for the Cowboys, and it was a play that Davis had never run during his Texas tenure. He saw Boise State run it a few years ago.
"We thought if we got in short-yardage situation, we would catch man coverage and get both safeties tight to the line of scrimmage. Instead, they brought two people of the tight end's edge and we only had one blocker there. Colt wasn't able to set his feet and, because of that, the DB was able to chase the ball down. Other than that, we had the look that we thought we would get. We had the safeties where we thought we would get them. Colt just wasn't able to put his back foot down and turn the ball loose."
Muschamp took his share of the blame for a 28-24 nail-biter that few saw coming. In fact, Muschamp said Okie State's first TD was "my fault" because he failed to substitute in a timely fashion.
"The rules state that if the offense doesn't substitute (then) they can snap the ball at any time. They did not sub, and I was trying to get some fresh guys in the game. When we subbed, they saw the box and went to the line of scrimmage and snapped the ball. We weren't ready to play. We've got caught in some situations where you're not able to sub against some of these (no-huddle) teams. You're not able to get guys into the game. Once they started a drive, we had to stay with the drive unless we had the ball on our hash and then we could sub." Bill Frisbie
Colt McCoy, Todd Reesing, Jarrett Lee, Graham Harrell, Chase Daniel, Matt Stafford, Casey Dick, Jevan Snead, Nick Stephens... the list goes on and on. The country is covered with starting quarterbacks from Texas high schools.
What caused this? What caused the rush of talent at the QB position? The state's population helps, but that doesn't explain the ratio we're seeing.
Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis has a theory.
“To me, the biggest thing that has happened in high school football over the past 10, 12 years -- I'm not sure when it started -- is the 7-on-7s,” said Davis. “It's the number of times that kids are throwing the ball in the summer and coaches are by nature copycats.”
This combined with the proliferation of the spread offense in the Lone Star State. The 'spread' began to spread throughout Texas, which Davis mentioned was further heightened by Todd Dodge's success at South Lake Carroll (he also attributed it as the main reason it's been so hard for him to fine tight ends and fullbacks). Of course, even with the importance of the schemes, Davis said 7-on-7s is his best explanation for development at the position.
“The reason there's so many quarterbacks are coming out of the state is because so many of them are throwing all summer long,” said Davis. Ross Lucksinger
In hoops recruiting, guard Kenny Boynton, the No. 13 prospect on the ESPNU 100 for 2009, will not be taking the visit to Texas he scheduled for November because he gave his commitment to Florida on Thursday.
However, for the class of '09, Texas already has committed three players who are all on the list of the top 100 players in the nation: SF Jordan Hamilton (8), SG Avery Bradley (15) and SF Shawn Williams (72). Ross Lucksinger