I'm looking for a win, but beyond the obvious I'll be looking for a few
reasons to be optimistic next year provided the Longhorns do in fact
earn that W versus Oregon State.
Major Applewhite, the playcaller
Since Major Applewhite joined the Texas coaching staff I've fielded a question that's both easy to answer and hard to know: "What kind of offense will he run?" I've maintained he'll call on his experiences from his playing days and his years spent coaching elsewhere. I'm expecting to see a varied offense, which also happens to suit what Texas runs now.
But, with only a couple of weeks to add plays to the playbook he feels confident in, or remove ones he doesn't, I don't expect to see a huge difference in scheme, but I do think he'll use more of an up tempo offense with more confidence in Ash as a passer.
Those of you hoping to see more of a spread may not see everything you want - or maybe you will - but I'll be watching Applewhite's in-game adjustments and situational play calling more intently than actual scheme. Will he be aggressive in short down and distance and go over the top? Will he still use Harsin staples like jet motion? With a few weeks to prepare, how will the Longhorns look early in the game?
Jaxon Shipley, oft forgotten
I haven't been disappointed by Shipley's production this year, but I did expect more from him, not that he's really to blame for that. Like last year he still comes up with the tough catch and does well on the underneath routes. That said, his numbers aren't starkly different from last year, when he both missed time and was hobbled due to injury.
If Applewhite does open things up a little (four-wide perhaps?) I expect Shipley to provide Ash with a security blanket in the short to intermediate zones where he has little trouble gaining seperation thanks to close quarter quickness.
Malcolm Brown, looking to go out on a high note
Since his impressive performance versus Ole Miss on September 15th, Brown has recorded 20 carries. Yes, he's been injured, but he's also been healthy recently and still played a miniscule role in the offense. We all know the Texas run game isn't the same without his talents, but whether you like it or not he's missed too much time in his first two years. It's tough to design a workhorse offense when you don't have your number one Clydesdale.
I'd like to see Malcolm get at least 15 carries, even at the expense of some of the other talented runner's workload. He has the best instincts and vision out of the stable of backs, but Texas has to know they can count on him.
Daje and the Jets
What does Major Applewhite being named offensive coordinator mean for the likes of Daje Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe? It's some of the most exciting Longhorn football in years and many feel it's been underutilized at times. I'm one of those people, but since it was never really a part of Applewhite's experiences as player or coach (until Harsin), will it stick?
I hope it does.
Peter Jinkens, intensity and athleticism excite fans
Jinkens' play late in the season has been the only consistent bright spot for linebacker play this entire year and I'm not so sure my excitement for Jinkens isn't because he looks great when compared with what we've seen from others this year.
What's not in doubt is Jinkens' range and natural instincts. He's made plays at outside linebacker this year, on the other outside linebacker's side of the field. We haven't seen a linebacker with that much range in a long time. Will we continue to see it?
Manny Diaz, no mas death by blitz?
December 1st was a long tme ago and that should have given Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz plenty of time to start diagnosing just what went wrong this year. Texas was fundamentally flawed when it came to play calling, fundamentals and personnel decisions. None of that can be overcome in a month, but noticable improvement isn't too much to ask for, assuming Diaz hasn't spent the last month on Monster.com.
I ask that the Diaz bashing subside until we at least see the bowl product.
Quandre Diggs, ET redux?
We know Diggs has been practicing at safety, but is that preparation for this game or next year? If it is for next year, then there's no time like the present to get him acclimated. We all know Diggs has the instincts and feisty disposition necessary for safety, but does he have a feel for the position yet? If he does get safety snaps it would stand to reason it would be in place of Adrian Phillips rather than Kenny Vaccaro, while next year he would likely assume the Vaccaro role.
One final thing I'll be looking for at the Alamo Bowl
The new running back coach, whoever that may be.
Dare I ask, what will you be watching for?