Culpepper Commentary: Texas finds its QB

Jay Norvell. (Will Gallagher/IT)
Jay Norvell. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Watch out. It took 14 games to find a QB and match him with an offensive plan but new offensive coordinator Jay Norvell inserted Jerrod Heard into the lineup at Texas and the Longhorns actually looked like a FBS team Saturday night in Austin…

​You see it’s almost impossible to create an attack from the double-wide out spread offense -no tight end formation- unless your QB is a serious running threat. No doubt you have to have running backs that will stick it into the line and D’onta Foreman at 6-foot-0, 241 pounds, did that to the Rice Owls interior but until the QB can pull the football out and burn the outside defenders, you are not enough of a threat to a good defensive football team. Heard did just that Saturday night for a total of 96 yards on the ground.

​There was some mention by the former OC at Texas that Heard didn’t have as good as arm as the former Texas QB who started 12 games for the Longhorns but in the 2nd half Heard opened with a beautiful arching pass to a streaking freshman wide out John Burt, who has become a serious deep threat. What in the name of goodness were the Texas coaches doing on offense since they got to Austin and especially this August?

​Let’s give special teams coordinator Jeff Traylor from Gilmer High School a pat on the back. Whatever his particular magic is, the group of athletes he is responsible for stole center stage in this football game. Daje Johnson is as close to a homerun threat as the Longhorns possess on punt returns. Give him some distance by covering defenders and a few blocks by his teammates, and you are on your feet watching him burst into open spaces. I believe we will see coach Norvell begin to use the jet sweep with Daje more and more. That gives you Foreman or Gray blasting inside – Heard handing or tossing off to Johnson, or a zone read type keep by Heard. You better defend the lateral motion of Johnson. Perhaps we will see it this Saturday night?

​By the way, don’t dare think the Rice Owls aren’t a better opponent for a Big 12 team than TCU VS Stephen Austin, Baylor VS Lamar, Oklahoma State VS Central Arkansas, West Virginia VS Liberty, and K-State VS UTSA. Only Texas Tech VS UTEP, Iowa State VS Iowa, or Kansas VS Memphis. That does and can make a real difference later on.

​Instead of a detailed recap of the game played in perfect football weather in front of an enthusiastic Longhorn crowd – we yelled when the Owl offense was on the field – I thought reflections on players I focused on during the game itself might be more interesting.

So here it goes:

66- Sedrick Flowers OL- The 6-foot-2, 326-pound senior from Houston North Shore seemed more aggressive since Texas actually tried to run the football.

14- Dylan Haines Safety- Makes key plays like interceptions and downfield tackles. Lacks speed for a true cover 2-safety but gives consistent effort.

98-Hassan Ridgeway DT- At 6-foot-3, 314, he must continue to get better. When he moves his feet after contact, he can stabilize his feet after contact, then he can stabilize his side of the defensive interior.

23-Nick Rose Placekicker- Much better than last season. His kickoffs are seldom returned and looked accurate on field goals from 50 yards out. He could win a game for the Longhorns.

95-Poona Ford DT- Takes some plays off when he doesn’t move his feet after contact. Did make one key tackle for a loss on a defensive line slant technique.

99-Desmond Jackson DT- At 6-foot-1, 300 pounds, along with Ridgeway represent a senior-junior pair with experience that must step up and be leaders and knock back lineman for the Longhorn defense to survive.

44-Breckyn Hager LB- This freshman is a natural inside middle linebacker. He had a nice interception in the fourth quarter. I think he can be as good as Jefferson by mid-season.

46-Malik Jefferson LB- He got absolutely tired out during the second quarter and was left on the field. No doubt he is a fantastic playmaker but has to improve his tackling – too much grabbing. I was afraid he might get hurt while winded but he made it. Thank goodness.

31-Jason Hall CB- Made a key interception but ran with the ball like a loaf of bread and got a ridiculous contact fumble. Rice promptly drove in for a touchdown. Stupid mistake after an excellent play.

​California comes to DKR 2-0 after ripping San Diego State 35-7 this last weekend. QB Jared Goff is a gunslinger, not a runner, so the suspect Texas secondary has to make drastic improvements this week in practice.

​Ex-Longhorn football assistant and head coach responsible for Texas Tech becoming a serious threat before Mike Leach took over – Spike Dykes, his son Sonny Dykes is Cal’s head man. This should be a wild scoring football game. The weakness of the Texas team at this time is the secondary so the Longhorns must be at their very best to win this game. It won’t be decided until the fourth quarter.

​Keep in mind; should Heard be sidelined during a game, the Longhorns need to get freshman Kai Locksley ready. He can run as well as throw. Don’t try to fall back on Swoopes – he can’t win with this offense. I pray it doesn’t happen but perhaps Swoopes can help the basketball team?



Pat Culpepper played for The University of Texas from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor, and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at