Following up from mid-August with an equally Texas-obsessed friend in Austin, we had a long chat about Texas football. Here in Part 2: Blake Gideon’s surprising role as the secondary’s anchor… My Guys are slow out of the gates… and a reminder that Mack Brown should be focused on titles and titles alone.
PB: I sense Texas fans are a little unsure what to think about this year’s team after two games.
TS: After Florida Atlantic and UTEP? I feel the same way: optimistic in important ways, but aware at some level that the weaknesses of this team are gonna take some time to work through. And maybe not before a bloodbath or two.
PB: I'm with you. Remember the long list of questions Texas fans grappled with all summer? They almost all remain open. But let’s revise and focus the questions anew: Yours and my two key questions/issues relating to this team being great.
TS: Okay. Number one, I remain disappointed with this staff’s inability to get John Chiles meaningfully involved in the offense. I’m sure we’ll see more dabs of Q Package as the season unfolds, but I don’t blame anyone who’s skeptical. Chiles is a five-star athlete about whom Texas’ staff seems downright indifferent. Whatever the situation behind the scenes, the status quo is just wasteful.
PB: So would that be wasteful indifference or indifferent wastefulness?
PB: Sure. Okay, my first key to this year’s team making a serious run towards a title of some kind lies in how this team handles the three-game stretch of Rice, Arkansas, and Colorado. The schedule behind this stretch is absurdly difficult—enough so that it’s near-impossible to imagine the ‘Horns successfully navigating it if they’ve lost any must-have players to injury or been worn out battling through the Rice-Arkie-CU stretch. So I’ll be looking to see if Texas can come out sharp in each game, build a sizable lead, and keep the lesser opposition down. If so, it’s a double win, allowing Texas to rest key players in the 4th quarter while giving precious development time to others who will soon be counted on themselves.
TS: Yeah. If we have another Arkansas State-Central Florida performance against any of the weaker teams on our schedule, the hill to the top gets all the steeper. My second key is one you touched on last week. Colt McCoy cannot be asked to do it all. He needs help. Fozzy, Chiles, Buckner, Williams, Shipley – whoever, it doesn’t matter. All I know is that if we get in a situation where it’s on Colt to carry the offense without a strong running game or deep passing threat, things will get ugly at least once or twice this season.
PB: Yeah. Hopefully Fozzy is ready to pop. We’ll see. Alright, last key for me is getting the nickel package in order over the next couple weeks. The young secondary has had impressive moments as well as struggles. Now, we see how quick they can scale the learning curve, because they’re about to get severely tested. I’m watching closely the performance against Chase Clement and Casey Dick, who will both attempt 40+ passes in Austin. Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, and Graham Harrell loom ahead.
TS: The Big 12 is by far the most interesting and terrifying conference in America this year. Okay, I gotta run, but one question for you on the way out. You mentioned not losing any ‘must-have’ players to injury. I’m curious who you’d classify as such.
PB: Hmm… Good question. On offense… well, I’ve argued before that Texas should be able to succeed with John Chiles at quarterback—switching the offense to his strengths wouldn’t be much of a burden at all. Even so, I’ll put Colt on the list alongside Fozzy Whittaker, as the only way I envision Texas’ offense being good enough to compete with the conference’s peak teams this year is if (1) Fozzy wreaks havoc as a 20-touch per contest gamebreaker and (2) Colt thrives against opposing defenses which can’t lock in on what Greg Davis McCoy wants to do.
TS: No other offensive players are must-have?
PB: They’re all important, but whose injury would truly disrupt Texas’ season? I’d hate to lose Kyle Hix, but we’re better on depth along the whole line than in recent years. Seriously, who could we not afford to lose?
TS: Maybe Quan. Colt’s comfort with Quan is a big part of his strong start.
PB: It’s worked well so far, but Colt over-relies on Cosby sometimes. Anyway, I’d hate losing Cosby, but I’m not counting him as a ‘must-have.’ At the least, we might get someone else punt returning.
TS: Amen. Okay, and who on defense now?
PB: Muck, Houston, Miller, Beasley.
PB: Muckelroy is playing such outstanding football, and the dropoff behind him is to Dustin Earnest or Keenan Robinson. Houston and Miller we discussed earlier—it’s a depth issue. Plus, they’re both so disruptive. And Beasley I include because he’s the only already-polished defensive back we have right now. Several more are well on their way, and Ryan Palmer is experienced (but limited), but Beasley is well out in front of his teammates right now. What happens to our nickel package we’ll need for OU, Missouri, Tech, and Kansas if Beasley’s out? We’re left with one B-level senior, six redshirt or true freshmen, and Curtis Brown.
TS: It’s hard to sort out all the DBs at this point yet, but losing Beasley would hurt—I’ll agree there. Okay, I’m out. Let’s do this again soon. Hook ‘em.
PB: Hook ‘em.