We're through a big enough game now that we can begin to draw some conclusions about which players this particular team cannot afford to lose. Some of the players are obvious, as they were, in fact, absent on Saturday. Others are guys that haven't missed time yet, but would be sorely missed were they to get injured.
Without further adieu:
1. Tarrell Brown, CB One of the obvious ones. Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez put on a clinic, aided by Troy Smith's terrific passing. Brandon Foster and Ryan Palmer just weren't up to the task of running with these two speedsters. If Brown were to be absent against Texas Tech, for example... well, we could see similar problems. Which brings us nicely to #2 and -
2. Aaron Ross, CB Truth be told, there's some very interesting talent on the depth chart at cornerback, but the most promising of the bunch are very, very inexperienced. Losing Ross would have an equally unsettling effect on the secondary. Note that the problem is at cornerback. At safety, there's plenty of talent - ready and not. Mike Griffin is excellent, true freshman Robert Joseph is really, really impressing, and Matt Melton/Marcus Griffin are capable of logging solid minutes.
3. Drew Kelson, LB Another obvious problem on Saturday, as fill-in Roderick Muckelroy was busy not making plays all night long. The Horns really missed Kelson's speed and play-making abilities against the Buckeyes. Which (once more) nicely brings us to #4 and -
4. Sergio Kindle, LB Back in July, we wrote an overview of the team's strengths, weaknesses, and unknowns. At that time, I wrote that the depth at linebacker was an unknown. On Saturday we got a pretty good look at why that is. And one thing that's pretty clear is that the unit needed a speedy attack monster like Kindle flying around making plays. This might be premature, as we haven't seen him on the field quite yet, but there's a lot of reason to believe he can be a difference-maker right away. The lack of impact players on defense on Saturday was both surprising and concerning.
5. Frank Okam, DT He hasn't even had a big game yet, but that in itself has been alarming. His inability to penetrate the Buckeye line was critical in allowing them to execute their passing game. If he's playing hurt, or isn't as good as we think he is, this line isn't quite as fearsome as we initially thought. We need him to play like Tommy Harris did; to the extent that he can, we'll be that much better on defense. An Okam eruption would do wonders for our linebacking unit, as well, freeing them from blockers and allowing them to make more plays.
Conclusion Well, I think the absence of players on offense pretty well summarizes how I feel about that unit: I think all the pieces are there, the depth at every position is more than adequate, and we just need the group to develop at a nice pace for it to be a strong force. If Colt can build on his mistakes, he already has the other weapons around him to lead a potent attack. The running backs and the linemen who free them up, are tremendous. The wide receiver corps is deep and talented. There's not much reason to panic about this unit yet. It was Colt's first big game, Coach Davis bet on a conservative approach, and things didn't work out. The machine isn't broken by any means; we just need to tweak it to take advantage of all our strengths.