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Discussion in 'On The Field' started by Dionysus, Mar 3, 2017.
"Spring break is overrated, let's put the pads on already."
– Breckyn Hager
While [Tom] Herman said sophomore Jeffrey "The Shark" McCulloch is young, he’s impressed with the potential possessed by the former Under Armour All-America defender.
“You can tell it’s there,” Herman said of McCulloch. “Very cerebral kid, smart kid.”
With McCulloch having done enough to grab Herman’s attention, it stands to reason that he could be in a position to make a move up the depth chart once the Longhorns are back on the practice field next week.
While Hughes is running in front of McCulloch as one of the three linebackers who ran drills with the No. 1 defense during the opening week of spring practice, that could change once actual football is being played. The depth chart is by no means set in stone and Hughes is going to have to deliver on the field to keep McCulloch, who with his ability as a pass rusher projects well to the B-backer spot, from taking reps away from him.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound McCulloch...made the most of his limited action by recording a sack, two tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a quarterback pressure.
McCulloch flashed his athleticism in a November road win against Texas Tech when he backed up Jefferson. The job the two defenders had on that day was to spy quarterback Patrick Mahomes; with Jefferson and McCulloch shadowing him, Mahomes rushed for a season-low minus-16 yards on 15 carries (he was sacked three times).
With so much flash in such a limited role, McCulloch perhaps only needs an opportunity to prove himself as one of the biggest playmakers the Longhorns have on defense. If McCulloch earns a spot by the...Sept. 2 season opener, Herman likes McCulloch’s chances of emerging as a presence, both in terms of his play and his ability to lead.
“I think eventually,” Herman said of McCulloch becoming a vocal leader on defense. “Once he gets some pelts on the wall, so to speak.”
[More @ 247]
Chris Warren skips spring break to focus on football
Receivers take batting pratice....
Herman has a secret weapon that could really transform Texas from the losing team that took the field in 2016 to a Big 12 contender in 2017; the special teams. The Longhorns lost five one-score games last season and their special teams didn’t do them many favors in any of them.
[G]reat special teams units are heavily influenced not only by coverage and returns on kicks but simply how good your kickers are.
With access to any kickers they’d want to offer from the high school or transfer ranks plus a student body of 50k people there’s no reason that Texas shouldn’t always have good kickers on campus. After that, then things like coverage and returns start to matter and they are partly a measure of team discipline and partly a measure of athleticism, just like the rest of the game.
The last four years of Mack Brown featured pretty lame special teams, but nothing horrendous. Charlie Strong’s special teams were a special kind of stanky, regularly featuring missed PATs and a general lack of ability to provide field position advantages for his struggling young team.
In 2017 the stage is set for the Longhorns to make a leap that could impact the season more than most of us tend to think about.
Mensa Tom views special teams both as a way to sneak in extra advantages and as a barometer for determining which people on his roster are hardcore football players. Houston ranked 26th in special teams in 2015 and then slipped to 40th in 2016 after losing Demarcus Ayers from the kick return game.
Beyond providing an opportunity to score a few extra points, special teams are immensely important in creating a context where your team is at advantage. Consider Bill Connelly’s five factors to winning college games where he found the following correlations:
Factor 1: The team that wins the explosiveness battle wins 88% of the time.
Factor 2: The team that wins the efficiency battle wins 83% of the time.
Factor 3: The team that wins the drive-finishing battle wins 75% of the time.
Factor 4: The team that wins the turnover battle wins 73% of the time.
Factor 5: The team that wins the field position battle wins 72% of the time.
Special teams can play a part in generating explosive plays, in finishing drives (converted field goals after crossing the 40 are big), and of course with field position. The last point is often a wildly overlooked factor but if one team has to move the ball 500 yards over the course of a game to score four TDs and the other has to move the ball only 300 yards over the course of a game to score four TDs then the latter team is obviously much more likely to win.
Texas was weak in all five factors save for efficiency last year, ranking 99th in explosiveness, 23rd in efficiency, 43rd in field position, 84th in finishing drives, and 54th in turnover margin.
Alternating between handoffs to Foreman into a loaded box and throwing “three yards and a cloud of dust” hitch routes on off-man coverage didn’t make for a very explosive offense, nor was that particularly efficient in the red zone. Meanwhile special teams didn’t do the team many favors in creating short fields.
The one area of Texas’ special teams that were truly elite was the play of punter Michael Dickson, who’s All-American recognition is almost as big of a secret as the importance of special teams. Dickson averaged an absurd 47.37 yards per punt while successfully pinning opponents inside of the 20 on 28 occasions. Imagine if Texas had been great on defense last year? Dickson’s brilliance was unquestionably the reason for Texas’ relatively solid national rank in field position.
When Herman was hired Texas fans eagerly began to eye the recruitment of Texas’ various in-state stars like Walker Little, K’Lavon Chaisson, or Baron Browning. Then Herman missed on all of them while unashamedly securing three-star JUCO placekicker Joshua Rowland as his first commitment.
Rowland was pretty solid as a JUCO, which probably translates a little more cleanly than your average junior college transfer since there aren’t many variables at play in whether a guy can kick the football through the uprights consistently or not. With his addition and RS freshman Chris Naggar providing competition there’s definite potential for Texas to have upper tier placekicking this coming season. And punter Dickson still has two years of eligibility remaining, so everything looks very good here.
Now that Texas has determined that kicking situations are worth some increased practice time there are plenty of burners on the roster that could prove to be pretty effective in that role. Armanti Foreman and Devin Duvernay served in those roles a year ago when Warrick wasn’t the man and both showed the capacity for some playmaking.
In the world of return coverage and kick blocking Texas’ plethora of good athletes has long been underutilized. The roster is filled with guys like Demarco Boyd, Breckyn Hager, Chris Brown, and Brandon Jones that could very easily have a big impact, especially in a culture that demands a lot from special teams’ play.
A remotely similar effort [to the 2009 team] could produce a lot of margin for a young team that’s going to be trying to find their footing on both offense and defense with underclassmen quarterbacks, unproven defenders, and a much improved Big 12. Of course Tom Herman has already thought of that and was setting his plan in place back when Texas fans were still pining after a bigger transition class. It may be that Rowland goes down as a worthy first commitment in this new era of Texas football.
[More @ IT]
Boy gonna break his neck like that. Get that face up !!!!!!!
This to me may be the most offensive of Charlie's failures here, even though it doesn't get much attention. No hyperbole whatsoever, last year's team was the worst return team I've ever watched. Ever. Every once in a while, you return a kick past the 30 by accident, just by a guy missing a tackle or running into the wrong lane or something. This team NEVER got past the 30. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember a single kickoff return that made it past the 30. You could count on two hands the number that even made it past the 25.
We ranked 115th out of 128 teams and averaged 18.4 yards per return. How that wasn't dead last is beyond me.
Some of our returns were pretty long if you could take into consideration returning from 5-7 deep in the end zone.
I was torn watching that for the first half of the season. On the one hand, I had to like that they had the absolute conviction that THIS time they were gonna break one, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. On the other hand... it bugs me when people think they're great at stuff despite never actually accomplishing anything that indicates greatness. Anyway at some point, the optimism lost its appeal.
While I agree that the return ineptitude was pathetic but there was a coverage bright spot: Brandon Jones. He was virtually unblockable.
That's true - the coverage was actually pretty consistently good.
Ha, THIS time. D'oh!
I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on that. The return ineptitude was in fact not pathetic. They were very good at being inept.
Spring Practice resumes today... with pads!
Both Herman and the players have been talking about this for over a week. With only 12 sessions left (+ the Spring Game), we should be hearing more info on who's doing what where, as well as how the O and D teams are processing the new O and D.
After the second practice, Herman said, "I’m never going to comment on anybody’s performance in shorts. It’s just not football. We’ll wait and see. The Tuesday after spring break will be a good indication of who stands out and who doesn’t."
Hopefully, all goes smoothly these next four weeks – we've had enough rocky times the last few years.
And another one bites the dust.
Wonder what Kai Locksley is thinking.
I think it leaves only 2 QBs on schollie
Déjà vu all over again. 3 if you count Heard.
Wonder if that means Harris is a lock
So where does [Jerrod Heard] fit into the quarterback battle now that Merrick is gone? About the same place he did before. Tom Herman was always going to have Heard act as his "emergency" quarterback, building eight or nine packages with him behind center just in case anything happened or even to mix things up some.
That will still be the case now, Herman said Tuesday, and Heard will stay at receiver for the rest of the spring.
"Not to disparage Matt, but [Heard] would have been a better option for us if both of these guys had gone down anyways," Herman said. "[But] not this spring. His head is swimming.
"Again, we’re talking about a scenario to where quarterback A goes out and gets hurt. Quarterback B goes out; gets hurt. Alright, 'Jerrod, here’s your eight plays you practiced all week, get us out of the game. Defense, go win the game for us.' And then ok, Jerrod is the starting quarterback on Sunday and now let’s get him up to speed."
[More @ 247]
It was no surprise following Tuesday’s third spring practice that Tom Herman admitted the staff is actively looking for a graduate transfer to add to the mix behind center.
“We’ll try to see what’s out there on the waiver wire,” Herman said.
What’s out there includes former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, a player Herman addressed Tuesday evening.
“I can confirm that we’re exploring recruiting him,” Herman said. “That’s it.”
Herman didn’t address Harris specifically beyond that statement. However, he did address concerns about bringing in a graduate transfer for the 2017 season.
For example, would bringing in a graduate transfer stunt the growth of Buechele and Ehlinger?
“You’ve got to win,” Herman said. “We’ve lost seven games three straight years around here. [If] the grad transfer is better than those two and can beat them out then we’ll worry about their growth next spring.”
It’s assumed that a graduate transfer like Harris is going to pick a destination (North Carolina is believed to be the leader, and he’ll visit the Tar Heels later this week) where he’s going to do something other than hold a clipboard. Herman disagreed with that assessment, noting that he took former Utah quarterback Adam Schulz as a graduate transfer who was looking only for a chance to compete.
“You would quite literally have to have zero quarterbacks on your roster for said grad transfer to think that there’s going to be no competition,” Herman said. “I think they’re always going to have to go beat out whoever’s in that room.”
The bad thing in this case is the Longhorns won’t be able to bring another body into the mix until well after spring practice has concluded. Until then, two quarterbacks will have to be enough for Herman and the Longhorns.
“I say my Rosary every night and sprinkle some holy water on those two guys that they can stay healthy,” Herman said.
[More @ 247]
247 Practice #3 Notes
-- Andrew Beck (foot) was dressed out and was going through some drills. He wasn’t [taking and contact], but the fact that he’s back on the field is a good sign for a tight end position that’s lacking depth this spring (Peyton Aucoin continues to run with the No. 1 offense).
-- Shane Buechele took the first-team reps and Sam Ehlinger took all of the other available reps in the portion of practice we were able to see.
-- The quarterbacks worked again a drill on getting the ball out quickly, but today’s work during the individual period seemed focus more on throwing in a rhythm and working on timing. Ehlinger did have a ball... that went way over the head of Lil’Jordan Humphrey, which the coaches didn’t seem too happy with. Outside of that, Buechele and Ehlinger both worked a lot on running the option (the true option from the shotgun, not the read option) and pitch relationship with the running backs.
-- Jerrod Heard only worked out at wide receiver. He was running with the No. 1 offense ahead of John Burt on the outside.
-- Devin Duvernay, who got some work as a running back when the offense was doing play polish and tempo on air, and Collin Johnson joined Heard with the first offense. Humphrey, Burt and Armanti Foreman made up the second group of wide receivers.
-- Right before we left the practice field the slot receivers (Duvernay, Foreman, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and Davion Curtis) were working with the running backs. The slot position was big part of Herman’s offense at Houston and it’s going to be the same for the Longhorns.
-- Kyle Porter was getting some work with the first-team offense. There didn’t appear to be an injury issue or anything with Chris Warren, but regardless the No. 1 back during the drills I saw was Porter with Kirk Johnson taking reps as the No. 2 back.
-- The No. 1 offensive line remained pretty much the same: Connor Williams, Patrick Vahe, Zach Shackelford, Jake McMillon and Tristan Nickelson. The second unit was also the same as it was in the first two practices: JP Urquidez, Elijah Rodriguez, Terrell Cuney, Patrick Hudson and Brandon Hodges.
-- The biggest changes on defense came in the secondary. Davante Davis and Holton Hill were the No. 1 cornerbacks in front of John Bonney and DeShon Elliott at safety with P.J. Locke in the nickel. Kris Boyd, who was with the first unit during the first two practices, was on the second team with Eric Cuffee. Antwuan Davis and Brandon Jones were the safeties. The hamstring injury that’s going to keep Jason Hall out for the rest of the spring could benefit Chris Brown, who’s now been upgraded to the second-team nickelback.
-- The linebacker group continues to be Breckyn Hager, Naashon Hughes and Malik Jefferson on the first team with Anthony Wheeler, Edwin Freeman and Jeffrey McCulloch backing them up.
-- No changes on the defensive line from the first two practices either. Poona Ford, Chris Nelson and Malcolm Roach made up the first group with Jordan Elliott, Gerald Wilbon and Charles Omenihu running with the second group.
Hook'Em.com: Tom Herman on Texas Spring Practice #3
WTH ? You are either a physical guy or your not. There are two kinds of football players... The one who likes to hit, and the one who likes to knock your head off. Sounds like we have the former and Bama has the later. That is the problem with recruiting "good" student athletes. They aren't mean enough.
I like it.