We headed into the season not knowing what to expect in a lot of areas. After Week 1, we're kind of in the same boat.
Last week we identified four key issues that we wanted to see worked out this season. Each week we will examine them and see how they've progressed (or regressed). Week 1 is in the books, so here's what we learned, and didn't learn.
Garrett Gilbert's Progress
Overall I thought the kid looked really good. He can fire it, for sure. The things he did poorly can all be fixed with experience - not stepping up in the pocket, better fakes on the play-action pass, not forcing the ball.
Gilbert showed good poise in an offense that served up three big scoops of vanilla Saturday. As promised, he was under center a ton, but the hurry-up offense was still in effect. Although it seemed to backfire at times, like at the end of the first drive when Texas was stuffed four times before you could blink.
Gilbert had two great passes that stood out to me-a deep middle pass to John Chiles in the second quarter and another deep ball to Malcolm Williams in the third quarter.
As expected for Week 1, Texas showed very little in the passing game. Gilbert rushed the play-action fake the few times it was run. If that is going to be a foundation of this offense, he must get better at that. Once he nails it, Gilbert's arm on the deep ball will be a dangerous weapon.
Gilbert looked good against Rice, but that's not saying much. It really didn't show a whole lot of progression, which is what we're concerned with here.
Retooling the Running Game
Cody Johnson started; Tre' Newton looked better. Uhm, yeah, same story there.
The single-back set dominated the run game, and as expected, it was jammed down our throats. Get used to that as the coaches force this thing to work. Johnson started off with big runs but wore down quickly, getting stuffed at the goal line early. His lack of top-end speed was evident. Newton is clearly the more dynamic back and the best all-around option we have. He gets the start against Wyoming, and we continue on the running back carousel.
Fozzy Whittaker showed some great moves, and had a decent per-carry average. The offensive line struggled at times to get good push against the Rice defensive line. Other times they opened some nice lanes. The lack of a fullback to knock out a linebacker hurts the inside game.
The new running game was stuck in neutral. Both Johnson and Newton had less than 4 yards per carry, and the overall running game tallied less than 200 yards. There will be growing pains for sure, and we're all going to have to fight through them. But I really believe it's a move in the right direction. Texas has the talent to break off 300 rushing yards a game, but the scheme may not be there for a while.
BROC (Big Receiver on Campus)
Hey, Marquise Goodwin is fast. He needs the ball more. He adjusted well on one pass and is electric in the open field, and by "open" I mean with defenders at least five yards away from him. That's all the space he needs.
Malcolm Williams used his size and exceeded expectations. I'm sure Gilbert appreciates his size out there. James Kirkendoll had just one catch for 5 yards. Chiles had the one big catch down the middle. Honestly, if Goodwin and Williams can consistently be the top two receivers on this team, that will be just fantastic.
Freshman Mike Davis got into the game but didn't have any catches. If you're like me, you hit the replay button on your DVR remote a couple times just to get a good look at him. He's a good one.
Again, we just didn't see much Saturday, and don't let that bother you. This thing has a lot of time to play out over the next few months. There will be a lot of ups and downs. The thing to look for is progress, which is the purpose of this column. Week 1 was a good starting point. This is the most talented position on the offense, so expectations for the pass catchers will remain high.
The D-Line Shuffle
Two words: Sam Acho!
Sam Achooooooo!!! Yeah, he's really, really good. And he's even a better person. He sure is fun to cheer for. He came up big with four tackles, one sack and one forced fumble turned into a touchdown.
Overall the line showed its speed, but also allowed too many running lanes. And what was up with getting caught with their pants down against the zone read? The ZONE READ!?!? Thankfully they adjusted and pretty much swallowed it up in the second half.
Kheeston Randle looked good after an early injury scare. The freshmen Jackson Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson both made plays, which was awesome to see. At one point Acho, Jeffcoat and Eddie Jones were on the line together.
Acho played end most of the time, which was comforting. This group still needs to improve against the run. Forget the stats from last year. Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are capable of running it all over the field.
Check back next week as we will have a better measuring stick for identifying progress. For now, leave your comments on how you think each issue progressed.