Midseason Awards and Report Card

We've reached the midpoint in the season, which means it's time to take a look at the big picture of things, hand out awards, and so forth. Not much more introduction needed.

Individual Awards

Offensive MVP: Offensive line
Defensive MVP: Aaron Ross
Most Improved, Offense: Limas Sweed
Most Improved, Defense: Roy Miller
Most Surprising, Offense: Colt McCoy
Most Suprising, Defense: Scott Derry
Best Freshman, Offense: Adam Ulatoski (RS)
Best Freshman, Defense: Robert Joseph

Unit Grades, Briefly

(Note: Grades are relative to expectation and room to improve)

Quarterbacks - Colt has been outstanding doing what the Texas coaches have asked him to do. He's improved each week, which is what you'd expect, but the rate of improvement, plus his impressive learning curve as a freshman, have been eye opening. If he can gain the confidence to keep the ball on the zone read runs a couple few more times per game, he'll be right where we want him to be. For Snead, he's still very raw, but he's flashed some real signs of greatness at times. He sizzled against Sam Houston, and the improvement is showing. He's still well behind Colt, but not necessarily on talent. One wonders whether Davis might use Snead as a Tebow-esque change of pace guy from time to time. Regardless, the two freshman are handling themselves just fine. Grade: A-

Wide Receivers - Limas Sweed is the best receiver in the Big 12. Crazy, huh? The junior has developed each year since he arrived as a rather awkward freshman, and now serves as a great deep ball threat, and a threat to smaller cornerbacks on quick passes to the outside. Elsewhere, Jordan Shipley has brought his reputation as a gamer to the field with him. Cosby has been relatively quiet, but that's a function of the offense. Overall he's been steady. Only Billy Pittman has disappointed at all. I still say it's the jersey number switch. As a unit, they're doing a much better job being physical run blockers, though they need to be more consistent and avoid penalties. Grade: B+

Offensive Line - They're really, really good. The three seniors are absolute bulls, Tony Hills is a hero, and Adam Ulatoski and Ced Dockery are doing just fine. Nothing much to say, as the unit's outstanding. Grade: A

Tight Ends - Neale Tweedie isn't much of a pass catcher, but he's been doing a solid job blocking. Sir Michael Finley should develop into an elite pass catching threat, but he's still learning on the blocking. You can see improvement from Sir Mike every game blocking, though, and as Colt gets more and more of the offense under his belt, it's probably only a matter of time before he's more of a factor. Still, Horns fans should probably be thinking "next year" for a breakout. Grade: B-

Offensive Coaching - Greg Davis was in an awkward position coming into the season. He had a offense full of great weapons, an elite offensive line, and a freshman quarterback. I think he's done a great job bringing the group along, and the unit as a whole continues to produce as one of the best in the country. You just don't see many programs with as consistently as good an offense as Texas has had since Mack Brown arrived. You have to credit Davis for the great job he's done. The one fault I have for Davis was his decision to try to force an aerial attack against Ohio State when they couldn't stop the run. Still, if Billy Pittman doesn't fumble on the 2 yard line, Texas is playing that game with a lead. And there aren't many better offensive coaches than Davis with a lead. Further, Davis has shown adaptability this year, and made terrific adjustments this past Saturday against Oklahoma. I know he's not a popular figure, but the work he's done with Colt McCoy, plus the consistency thiis offense has shown, earns him a Grade: B+

Defensive Line - Robison, Crowder, Orakpo, and Lewis give Texas the best four-deep rotation of defensive ends in the conference, if not the country. In the middle, Roy Miller and Derek Lokey continue to improve, while Frank Okam remains a steady, if unspectacular, force. The unit is doing a great job against the run, and the pressure on pass rushes is improving with the improvement of Lokey and Miller. If all continues as is, things are going to get better. Look out, Big 12. Grade: B+

Linebackers - The biggest question on defense heading into the season suffered three additional setbacks with injuries to Drew Kelson, Roderick Muckelroy, and Sergio Kindle. Yet, as we reach the midpoint, the group is beginning to emerge as a real strength of the team. Credit to Gene Chizik, who coaches the group, for getting Rashaad Bobino to where he is, as well as working in the surprising Scott Derry. I've been reluctant to come around on Derry, but he's out there making plays, and he's always in the right position. Killebrew sometimes frustrates with his over-aggression, but he's a strong player overall. Drew Kelson is one of the best in the conference when healthy. As Sergio Kindle gets more and more action - adding much needed depth - the group can continue to be a great asset to the defense. Grade: B

Secondary: - It's been an up and down year for this unit. Brown was suspended for Ohio State, and Ohio State torched the replacements. The improvement since then, though, has been excellent. As Chizik has moved away from Palmer and Foster, and started getting Beasley on the field, the play continues to improve. Mike Griffin is one of the best run supporting safeties in the league, but like Troy Polomalu of the Steelers, who he reminds me of, he can find himself out of position on pass plays because of his desire to be everywhere all the time. I'm not the only one who noticed, though, and Chizik has reportedly worked on getting Griffin to focus in on his assignments. Aaron Ross continues to be a playmaker at the corner, a real boost to our defense as we focus on more turnovers this season. Tarrell Brown, when eligible, is as steady as they come. Grade: B

Defensive Coaching - Gene Chizik got smoked during the Ohio State game. Tough to admit, since he's usually the best coach within 50 miles of the stadium, but the Buckeyes came out and popped Texas where we weren't expecting it. With that anomaly aside, he's doing a whale of a job with this defense. As good as they were talent-wise coming into this season, it's the improvements that we're seeing each week that impress me the most. You even see the stars improve (e.g. Griffin). And the development of the linebackers has been masterful. Best of all is that this unit appears to just be settling into its groove. The OU game was beautiful to behold for any fan of good defense, and there's still room to get even better. Grade: A-

--PB--

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