We are two games into the 2010 season and on the cusp of a tough four-game stretch. We've been examining four key issues with this team that we want to see progress with. Two weeks doesn't tell us a whole heckuva lot, but you don't have to look too hard to see some very encouraging signs.
Of course, the negative stuff still and needs to be ironed out. But this is a young team, especially on offense. As the season gets older we can go back to these early weeks and use them as a measuring stick.
Let's get into this week...
Garrett Gilbert's Progress
Texas opened with three straight passes, and even lined up in shotgun. It was nice to see some diversity. Overall, Gilbert seemed confident and poised. Of course, he made several passes that were comply off the mark and locked on his receiver too early. That won't fly in the four-game stretch coming up. But we are two games in and he has no interceptions.
It was nice to see Gilbert connect with freshman Mike Davis for more than 100 yards and a key touchdown. He certainly has great deep-ball ability, and that's a trait he already holds over Colt McCoy. He threw a great pass to Marques Goodwin, who dropped the ball.
Gilbert's footwork within the pocket can still use a lot of improvement. He also lacks touch on a lot of passes. Like most young QBs, he tries to muscle most of throws. Touch will come with time.
The good news is that, after two games, I don't see anything with Gilbert that isn't correctible with experience. He appears to be fundamentally solid. The four-game gauntlet coming up, including three games away from Austin, will be a great test of confidence and mental fortitude.
We saw a little more from Gilbert against Wyoming. The progress was minimal, but noticeable. Texas is going to have to establish rhythm early in the game, and that's going to have to come from the passing game in this four-game stretch.
Retooling the Running Game
Greg Davis continues to roll out single-back sets to keep three receivers on the field. While that's probably the best overall strategy, it will continue to hinder this running game that's in obvious need of a blocking back.
Cody Johnson, last week's starter, didn't even get a carry in the first half. So, the running back committee is back in session... again. Tre' Newton had a couple good runs early, but ended up with just 23 yards and a 2.9 yards-per-carry average. Johnson actually doubled Newton's yardage and scored three touchdowns.
Fozzy Whittaker provided the spark with a 39-yard touchdown run. (Oh, and that came on a handoff in the shotgun formation.) He's now averaging better than 7 yards per carry in the first two weeks. His explosiveness is obvious, but Fozzy has to prove he can stay healthy. He gets his shot as the starter against Texas Tech this week.
The offensive line still needs to get more push and allow the runners to get to the second a third lines of defense. Everything starts at the line of scrimmage.
While Johnson was able to finish two drives with touchdowns, and there was more explosiveness than last week, this "new" running game had the progress of a snail. If this thing is going to gain some steam and achieve some real progress, it probably won't be against Texas Tech, Oklahoma or Nebraska.
BROC (Big Receiver on Campus)
Well, hello, Mr. Davis. Yes... very nice!
One of the greatest things I enjoy about watching Texas football is seeing youngsters break out. Seeing Mike Davis haul in seven passes for more than 100 yards and a touchdown has to put a smile on your face as you prophesy about all the Gilbert-to-Davis connections in the years to come. But as promising as young Mike looked Saturday, we cannot have a true freshman as the top receiver on this team.
Senior John Chiles had some good runs after the catch. Malcolm Williams had just two catches for 14 yards. Even worse, Goodwin had no catches. Zero. He got dinged up early, but that's not good when his stat line consists on just one run. He's too talented and explosive to not get the ball in his hands.
Although it was awesome to see Davis step up and make some terrific plays, I'd say it was a push in terms of progress for finding a go-to receiver. That's the issue we're concerned with here, and it may not work itself out for a while. Williams, Chiles, Goodwin and James Kirkendoll had just 83 total yards between them.
The D-Line Shuffle
This group has so much talent and speed, speed, speed. There were way too many missed tackles, especially late in the game against Wyoming's quarterback. But overall I feel really comfortable with this group.
We probably all wish there was more beef and depth in the middle, but the talent the D-line has showed on the ends overshadows that at this point. Sam Acho continues to be phenomenal. Eddie Jones has been better than expected, and freshman Jackson Jeffcoat has gotten more playing time than most people expected.
Acho had three tackles for loss (for 15 total yards), and Jones led the way with eight tackles and one sack. Kheeston Randle still looks good in the middle even though the lack of depth at tackle is still noticeable. The line has shown great pass rush ability, but they have allowed too many runs to bust open.