Savior from the injured list? After Bruce Chambers put to rest on Tuesday any speculation about moving a player from defense to offense to play tight end, Longhorn fans thirsty for a pass-catching tight end have shifted their interest to Ian Harris, out since early in fall practice with a strained neck. Mack Brown also said on Wednesday that Harris may be able to play for the first time this season on Saturday after resuming practice Tuesday. With Josh Marshall probably done for the season, Harris is the most likely player to stretch the field from the tight end position. Several questions surround him, however, including how much he will be able to play, if he has anything close to the rapport with Colt McCoy that Blaine Irby was developing, and how much the coaches are willing to play him instead of lumbering giants like Peter Ullman and Greg Smith.
The quarterback is his prey. It appears that Will Muschamp has unleashed the beast. After two nondescript years at Texas, Sergio Kindle has finally arrived. Note: Kindle was never an afterthought to Longhorn fans. Begin rant. In fact, he was at the forefront of their minds when speculating about why the defense was underachieving. They just wanted the real Sergio Kindle to stand up. End rant. To take advantage of his pass rushing skills, Muschamp has reduced Kindle's coverage responsibilities and lined him up as a defensive end in the nickel package. Kindle's former coach has a great quote about his abilities, "Thoroughbreds don't go backwards." If Kindle struggles in coverage, then don't drop him back into coverage. Use another linebacker to do that who doesn't have so much value as a pass rusher. Kudos to Muschamp for fulfilling his promise to put the best players on the field and use them appropriately. The result? In the second half, Rice often had to keep a running back in the backfield for protection. What an advantage a defensive player can provide when the offense has to start scheming for them and diverting their resources.
Ode to correct measurements. Good article up over at Inside Texas that takes a look at how Muschamp tracks his defense. Instead of keeping stats like the NCAA, he explains how the Longhorn defensive coaches do it:
We do it like the NFL does it. When a quarterback drops back, and then he scrambles for 23 yards, that's in the passing stat. That's a passing game breakdown. The NCAA counts that as a run, but that's not a deficiency in the running game. That's a deficiency in the passing game. It's the same thing when the quarterback drops back to throw and you sack him for 18 yards (because) that's a positive in the passing game. It has nothing to do with running the football. Technically, the Rice quarterbacks dropped back 62 times Saturday, but the stats don't show that.
I like what Muschamp is saying--it's strange that the NCAA counts sacks against running plays, as Muschamp points out, it's a passing play. He goes on to talk about simplifying pass rush moves and not trying to get around the tackles on the edge, but rather to beat the blocker to a spot, and then "convert speed to power." Not often do coaches really get into the fundamentals of playing a position, but those quotes from Muschamp are golden.
Stop the hand-wringing. It's time to stop worrying about the passing yards the defense gives up. Yeah, it used to look bad to give up 300-yard passing games. But as Mack Brown said in his presser on Monday, it happens all the time now. What do you expect to happen when you only give up 17 rushing yards? It's difficult to hold even an average spread team like Rice to barely over 200 yards of total offense. Throw out all the passing stats and re-prioritize the important defensive numbers. In that vein, Will Muschamp is emphasizing yards per pass attempt (6.18), third-down efficiency (68%), and scoring defense (11, 11th in the country). It's the classic bend-but-don't-break strategy. And it makes sense. After being repeatedly gouged by big plays last season, the defense can see immense improvement by just cutting down on those killer big plays. It's all about the secondary keeping everything in front of them and the front four providing the pressure, which they did successfully to the tune of seven sacks against Rice, six in the second half after Muschamp told the defensive tackles to stop worrying about gap responsibilities and get to the quarterback.
Even Mr. Moneybags can take a hit. Even the seemingly limitless deep pockets of T. Boone Pickens have taken a hit with the recent economic woes. And that's bad news for the OSU athletic department, which has benefited greatly in recent years because of its wealthy benefactor. However, with reports that Pickens has lost $1 billion this year, the plans to construct an indoor practice facility have been put on hold, although renovations of the football stadium will continue. It will be interesting to see if the facility upgrades have an influence on recruiting at Oklahoma State, because after all, they do have a coach who is 41 and a man. I can't imagine it will make that much difference, although OU has overcome the fact it's in Norman to lure top athletes. Almost incomprehensible when you look at it that way, huh? Viva Austin!