Morning Coffee Gets Long-Winded

Greg Davis sings "Kumbaya." While all of Longhorn Nation wrings their collective hands and begins to enter into mass hysteria about the lack of production from the running backs, Greg Davis thinks he has a handle on the running back situation:

Coach Bum Phillips once said the two types of players that you don't want to have are the ones that never do what you ask them to do and the ones that only do what you ask them to do. They need to get to the point where they are in the zone and if they need to bounce the ball to the outside they will do it regardless of what the coaches told them to do. I also think they'll get better in the second half of the season as they get more carries because that's what happened last year.

I imagine there is some truth to what Davis is saying.  But it doesn't capture the reality of the situation for two reasons: 1) the offensive line missed some blocks for him on Saturday, and 2) McGee just hasn't demonstrated good feet at Texas.

While the offensive line has been excellent in pass blocking this year, only giving up three sacks, it hasn't been as impressive in the running game.  In fact, I would say it's nothing close to a strong run blocking defense. How many big holes have you seen opened up for McGee this year even against defenses that are physically outmatched? On one play Saturday, lined up in the I-formation with two tight ends, fullback Luke Tiemann was left with three Arkansas players to block. On another, McGee was almost tackled in the end zone on a pitch play when Buck Burnette (who played a poor game) and Michael Huey (missed some blocks as well), both whiffed on their assignments. So the final numbers for McGee reflect more on his blockers than they do on him.

The other problem, besides the blocking for McGee, is his feet. It may be that Davis is right and he will eventually become more comfortable in the zone blocking scheme Texas runs, but it doesn't seem likely because of his feet. When watching a running back, notice their feet first. Watching Cody Johnson, he has much better lateral movement than McGee, with the ability to plant his foot and hit the hole explosively, the main requisite for a running back in a zone blocking scheme. McGee hasn't demonstrated that ability at all, which bodes poorly for any future success at Texas. I'm not willing to write him off already, but the first four games haven't been impressive.

 

Paging the Longhorn tight ends. Last week's game provided some insight into the tight end situation sans Blaine Irby. None of it was particularly positive. The Longhorns showed Arkansas some two tight-looks, but didn't block well out of them and failed to run the ball effectively. Neither Greg Smith nor Peter Ullman, supposedly the two blocking tight ends, justified descriptions as such. Nor did they look anything close to explosive in the passing game.

Ian Harris blocked even more poorly, missing three blocks in a limited period of time, an unacceptable performance. Harris caught a pass, but decided to slow down to juke a defender near the first down maker and barely picked it up, something that drives me crazy. The Longhorns didn't show any four or five wide receivers looks, but it seems likely they will as the season progresses, particularly since the receivers have been excellent blocking downfield. Overall, the performance of the tight ends Saturday left much to be desired, which is unacceptable going forward.

Mack Brown mum on Fozzy. No word on whether Fozzy Whittaker will play this weekend against Colorado. The Longhorn coaches decided not to play him after watching him in warmups in each of the last two games, so he must not be too far off. Anointed savior for the Texas running game, there are stories told of Foswhitt Whittaker that say he scored every time he touched the ball in high school, often making all 11 opposing players miss. Other rumors, spread by certain writers of prominent Longhorn blogs, insist that Whittaker is a robot controlled by a PlayStation 3 controller located in the press box, making him incapable of being tackled (except occasionally to avoid suspicion).

It's not the size of the dog in the fight...Yeah, I'm throwing cliches at you now. Better duck. Sorry about that. Now that I have your attention, I'd like to make the announcement that it's officially time to re-evaluate the evaluation process for high school running backs. Small backs are all the rage after 'Quizz Rodgers' performance against USC last week, which Orson deals with using his typical wit:

The quick search for an iBack Nano will continue in local middle schools and circuses throughout the remainder of the week and through Saturday morning.

Rather than being a problem, short running backs with good feet have advantages against the defense. This Denver Post article mentions that Rodney "Speedy" Stewart didn't even get looks from some MAC teams near his home state of Ohio. Which boggles my mind after watching him play this season. I don't know how much he improved during his redshirt season, but he has such incredible feet and explosive quickness, it's hard to understand what turned off coaches scouting him in high school.

Back to those advantages. Short running backs have several: 1) they are generally short striders, which allows them to stop, cut, and explode quickly (think Noel Devine), 2) they have a low center of gravity, which causes problems for taller defenders who have trouble getting low enough to tackle them (think 'Quizz Rodgers against SC), 3) their size allows them to fit through holes larger running backs don't even notice, and 4) they can hide behind their large offensive lineman, slowing down the defense and increasing their relative speed. I've become convinced in the last several years that a prototypical running back looks like Maurice Jones-Drew--short, fast, and thick. Think about how force acts on a lever and you realize how easily good defenders can use a tall running back's center of gravity as the axis against him--not so easy against the shorter guys. So stop discriminatin', yo.

The Colt/Shipley bromance goes national. Longhorn BFF's forever, Colt and Jordan, have been getting a lot of press in the last two weeks for their lifelong bromance. It's clear on the football field the two have the chemistry and connection needed for a successful, fulfilling, and long-lasting relationship. Already has been, really, even though they ended up moving in together at UT instead of Abilene Christian. And since they have been throwing and catching together for years.

Seriously, though, the first touchdown pass on Saturday was extremely impressive. Shipley made one of his trademark double moves (his second touchdown was as well) and had some open space in the front corner of the end zone. McCoy, realizing the safety was closing over the top, put the ball softly just wide of the sideline as Shipley turned his hips and body and caught the ball, all while keeping both feet inbounds.

Incredible stuff. Such poetry in motion, each operating on the same wavelength of consciousness that pervades all of human existence. Yes, not acting on the moment, but allowing it to act on them. Not thinking, their bodies merely vessels of the moment, acted upon by the moment in perfect harmony. The result, kinesthetic excellence and transcendence of the kind that makes athletic competition so richly compelling and beautiful, so worthwhile. As fans of these transcendent athletic endeavors, remember to step back occasionally from your fanaticism and truly revel in the fluidity and grace of those moments.

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