It’s game week for the Texas Longhorns following their bye and Steve Sarkisian and his staff used it to their advantage as they begin the second half of the season.
Sark said the team used the bye week to hone in on some of the areas he wanted them to improve on. He is also pleased to see some of the guys who were banged up get healthy “as we could them”.
Jake Majors, Ja’Tavion Sanders, Ryan Watts, and Cole Hutson all practiced Monday with Hutson being the most limited of the group.
“I’m going to have to make a decision later in the week of who is ready to play.” Sark will provide a clearer update on their gameday status during Thursday’s media availability.
Self-evaluation: Sark said during the bye week he did a serious self-evaluation of the team and thought “the effectiveness of the aggressiveness is something that has stood out to me.”
Sark said the team is executing at a high level offensively but mentioned the red zone execution “is an area that if we want to be the team that we think we’re capable of being, we have to take that to another level.”
Asked why they’ve struggled so much in the red area, Sark firmly said they need to “game plan better and execute better.”
Defensively, Sark wants to see them create more turnovers. “Sometimes, things can get lost throughout the season and we’re trying to defend the run and defend the pass and all the different things but we have got to continually as a staff emphasize getting the ball off of our opponents.”
Sark also wants to be more effective on special teams, specifically blocking punts and field goals. He thought Texas should have blocked two punts against Oklahoma and is “really close” to blocking field goals.
“All in all, I’m pleased with where we’re at this point in all three phases, but also know we can be better and that’s our job to motivate the guys to continue to improve now in the second half of the season.”
Donovan Smith: “We’re getting ready to play an experienced quarterback...which we all know too well...and how he played against us a year ago.”
“A team that presents a lot of challenges”: Sark mentioned the Cougar's kick and punt return games as challenges along with their defensive front.
Savion Red: Red has become effective out of the wildcat formation on short-yardage downs and credits his ability to learn a new position after playing quarterback in high school.
Murphy and Manning continue to grow: Sark said both quarterbacks have grown systematically but are looking for more consistency from Arch.
“Re-spark their competitive spirit”: Following an emotional loss and a week off, Sark wanted to re-spark the team's competitive spirit in practice and thought the energy was at a “high level.”
Anthony Hill: Sark said the true freshman is “not a finished product yet” but has grown with all of the things the team has asked him to do on defense.
“He’s definitely got playmaking ability and he plays the game of football the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Two-minute defense: Sark mentioned three things that stood out to him on the pair of two-minute drives Oklahoma scored on to end each half. First, correctly dropping in their zone defense. Second, keeping the pass rush lanes clean. And third, tackle well. He also said communication has to be on point.
On the road again: Sark used the bye week to hit the recruiting trail but you may have noticed the head coach has not been attending high school games as much as previous years. That’s because the NCAA has cut down on the number of days in the fall coaches can go out.
“Now you just can’t get out and go to a game because you want to go to a game. It has to make sense for us to send a coach or to send me to a ball game to go watch.:
Hail Mary practice: Sark said the team practices hail mary scenarios every Friday. As a coach, Sark has been on the good and bad side of hail mary’s. In 2014, USC lost on a last-second hail mary to Arizona State. He’s also converted one at the end of the first half against Oregon State.
Is there a trick to them?
“You never know.. .those plays you just try to execute the right way. Offensively, you’re trying to get to their spots and defensively you’re just trying to know the ball down.”