Entree with an Italian troubadour tenor and lute strolling the sidelines of DKR...
We're looking for sacks from our favorite beast, we're not impressed in the least!"
(lute strums violently)
After two games of mostly dominant defense and All-American performances from Lamarr Houston, Sam Acho, and Earl Thomas, much of UT fandom is asking, "Where is Sergio Kindle?" We fans were expecting a one-man wrecking crew to roll up the line and obliterate the first and second-string quarterbacks of both ULM and Wyoming...Okay, maybe get a couple of sacks and have the quarterbacks looking for stray prairie dog burrows to hide in two seconds after every snap. Well, maybe just a constant steaming presence in the backfield. Still no? Alright, so maybe he was triple teamed, and we haven't seen him because he's been surrounded by offensive linemen. What's that? We can see Sergio's #2 clearly on every play?
How to explain this phenomenon of the disappearing Sergio? Take the jump.
Pass-rushing terror extraordinaire Sergio Kimble has had a strange first two games. No sacks. No monster hits. No quavering opposing coaches saying,"We just couldn't block that guy." Yet UT coaches have commented that Sergio has done a "good job," and have explained the lack of sacks on the offensive team "not going to let us get sacks." If you look at the boxscore, Sergio is down for 2 tackles and 2 quarterback hurries. Something isn't quite adding up
I thought I would get beyond the "coachspeak" and see for myself by watching the tape of the Wyoming game. So what was the deal? Is Sergio being blocked? Is he running out of plays rather than into tackles? Are the coaches working him on his pass coverage in the games against the "cupcakes?"
My assessment is that there is something physically wrong with Sergio - specifically, he is not running as well as he was last year. Given his history of injuries as a freshman and sophomore, this isn't out of the question. Given Mack Brown's history of not revealing injuried to starters if those players will play in a game, this becomes a distinct possibility. The lack of almost any effort to move Sergio around to different positions on the line or as the "Buck" linebacker provides additional evidence, given Will Muschamp's famous statement in early August that opposing coaches are going to "need a GPS" to find Sergio on gameday.
On what do I base my claim that Sergio isn't 100%? Several things. Let's start with his basic pass rush. Kindle has shown little explosion or strong first step. He typically attacks the offensive tackle and then tries to sidestep him to the outside in his pass rush. As a consequence, Sergio comes clear of the OT on almost every play, but seems to have little speed when he does so.
A second issue is that when Sergio has come free, it seems like he has lead in his shoes and it takes him forever to get to the QB. Hence Sergio has 8 QB hurries on the season but no sacks. A classic example of this occurred on Saturday when Wyoming quarterback Robert Benjamin rolled to his right and Sergio had him dead on and... Benjamin whipped by him like VY. And let's face it, Benjamin is no VY.
For the most part, Wyoming and ULM have run away from Sergio, and right at Sam Acho. On these plays against Wyoming, Sergio was always two steps behind in tracking down the play from behind. In 2009, Sergio would run down the back from the back, saving countless yards. He single-handedly kept the Texas defense in the game against Texas Tech by running down plays from the back side. But right now, this is not happening.
Come to think of it, Sergio didn't play in the spring game (for still mysterious reasons), and was in for many fewer plays against ULM than other defensive starters.
I would bet a gallon of Hagen Dasz (you pick the flavor) that we'll find out at the end of the season that Sergio was "playing through" some leg (probably muscle, but maybe knee) injury. If Sergio is injured, it's in Texas' best interest to leave him on the field, even as a decoy, since this is likely to increase the predictability of the opposing offense (run away from Sergio) and increase opportunities for other players to make plays (hello Sam Acho and Keenan Robinson). Let's hope whatever it is gets better by next week, and certainly by the RRS, because if Sergio can begin to turn his "hurries" into sacks, even the best teams are going to have difficulty scoring on the Longhorns.