Anatomy of Stagnation: EBS and Charlie Tanner

The Context

Mired in a slow start against the Cowboys due to pressure on Colt McCoy, some rare inaccurate throws by the starting quarterback, an inconsistent running game, and zone defense by Wyoming, Texas got the ball on their own five yardline after a nice punt by Austin McCoy down into the corner that Jordan Shipley had no chance to return. The previous drive went three-and-out and the drive before that gained new life after a questionable personal foul penalty on Wyoming for roughing the kicker, with the only the first drive featuring sustained movement down the field for the Longhorns, ending in a short field goal.

1st and 10 on Texas 5

The Longhorns go with their pure 11 personnel featuring the Extra Blocking Surface for the first time in the game, as well as DJ Monroe's first appearance on offense since his scintillating performance against the WarHawks. Greg Davis dials up a counter right with Adam Ulatoski and Charlie Tanner pulling. Re-read those two names and the title of the post and you can probably figure out how the play went. First of all, it's a slow-developing play that doesn't take advantage of Monroe's ability to quickly take the edge against a defense that doesn't particularly have the personnel to deal with his speed. Then there's the fact that Tanner and Ulatoski both whiff on their blocks while falling impotently to the ground. Guess which two Wyoming players make the tackle? The mark of a good lineman is the ability to stay upright -- that's not exactly rocket science -- and the left side of the Texas line did a pathetic job of doing that, as neither one is particularly adept at moving in space. No gain for Monroe, through no fault of his own.

2nd and 10 on Texas 5

At this point, a lightbulb undoubtedly went off in the head of Greg Davis. "Wait," he said to himself, "if the left side of the line can't pull, then just run in that direction!" Brilliant. A Wyoming linebacker slices into the backfield to tackle Monroe. Who was supposed to block that player? You guessed it, Charlie Tanner, who takes several steps into the second level, but barely even gets a finger on the opposing player. One yard gain for Monroe, through no fault of his own. Notice a trend?

3rd and 9 on Texas 6

Monroe heads off the field, replaced by Vondrell McGee as Texas stays in 11 personnel. Within about a second of the play starting, Charlie Tanner whiffs on his block on Mitch Unrein, who heads into the backfield to chase down Colt McCoy, who scrambles through the Texas end zone and finds Shipley on a crossing route. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, Wyoming dropped seven men into coverage and all the receivers are well covered downfield. Unfortunately for Texas, the crossing route run by EBS at seemingly half speed or less doesn't draw the attention of all three linebackers and leave Shipley wide open. Five yard gain by Shipley, who got hit hard by two Wyoming players shortly after the catch.

Final Totals

Three plays for six yards, 2:06 expired. One yard on two carries for DJ Monroe. One pass completed by Colt McCoy to Jordan Shipley for five yards. Three missed blocks for Charlie Tanner. Failure rate for Charlie Tanner on the possession: 100%. One missed block for Adam Ulatoski. One useless possession for EBS and one useless and half-assed route run. Percentage chance that McCoy would ever look in EBS's direction to try to complete a pass: zero.

Verdict

Terrible possession by the Longhorns. There are only two explanations for why EBS was on the field for this possession. One, Greg Davis felt that familiar tightening of the sphincter after Woyming put pressure on McCoy on third down the previous possession and wanted to make sure that Texas had a chance to max protect against a possible blitz on third-and-long. McGee stayed in the backfield and helped out Ulatoski, but he should have known that Tanner would need help on the inside. Note the sarcarsm. Wyoming rushed four and almost immediately got pressure on McCoy. Terrible. Four against six, seven if you include EBS, who released after having no one to block. Instant pressure. Terrible. Two, it might have been the scheduled time for EBS to get a possession. What's the secret code name for that personnel grouping? Three-and-out. Terrible.

Back to Charlie Tanner. The Longhorns are a little bit short at guard right now with Michael Huey and Mason Walters out for the game, meaning that everyone's favorite back up is already playing -- David Snow. Next in line is Tray Allen, the former five-star recruit who has looked good in limited action so far this season. As PB mentioned in the react, Tanner is a great kid, blah blah blah. He's not a good football player. Period. The idea behind Texas football, ostensibly, is to put the best players on the field. Charlie Tanner is not one of those players, therefore, he should not be on the field. Period. He almost gave up a safety and could have gotten McCoy injuried on the third-down play. Hmm. When was the last time that Texas gave up a safety? Oh, I remember. Charlie Tanner whiffed on a block in an important moment against Texas Tech. It's time for the Tray Allen era to begin. It's hard to imagine that he could be worse than Tanner.

EBS? Using EBS inside the ten makes sense, but the problem with the Texas running game isn't that it needs an extra blocking surface. The problem is that the left side of the line can barely manage to run block on a consistent basis. The counter play illustrates why EBS doesn't provide much help in the running game if Ultatoski and Tanner can't do their jobs. EBS could be the best blocking tight end in the history of football and it wouldn't make much of a difference if the Whiff Twins end up on the ground while defenders get free shots at a170-pound running back.

Overall, this poessesion perfectly illustrates why Texas struggles at times in the ground game and the result of Greg Davis becoming too conservative when things don't go well on the road. Just an abortion of a possession. And did I mention terrible? The best Texas offense for almost a year now has been one utilizing a flex tight end. The best Texas running game has been going right. Counter plays are probably more successful going left with Snow and Kyle Hix pulling. DJ Monroe is probably best suited for running some option with McCoy, either the zone read or the speed option.

Note: I did not single out this possession just to criticize Charlie Tanner or EBS. When re-watching the game, I simply noticed that this was a horrible possession and then started to analyze why it failed. It's also worth pointing out that Ulatoski is an excellent pass protector and rarely leaves McCoy vulnerable to blinside hits. An anecdote about Ulatoski's mobility? Walking through the Sanchez building several years ago, I passed by an extremely large person with a brace on his left elbow. It was Ulatoski. Just as I realized who it was, he stumbled and nearly fell. The culprit? Simple betrayal by his own feet. So yeah.

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