Over the course of the season, we’ll bring you our grades of the Texas Longhorns every Sunday morning following Saturday’s games.
Here’s an analysis of each positional grouping and how they fared in yesterday’s 37-17 win over the Wyoming Cowboys at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium:
David Ash was the only quarterback to take snaps last evening for the Longhorns, and as a whole, had a productive and efficient evening. Ash finished the game 20-27 for 156 yards with one touchdown pass in the second half to Jaxon Shipley.
While Ash wasn’t overwhelming, he also didn’t make mistakes in the passing game, committing a single turnover with a botched snap in the second half. Ash did what will be expected of him throughout 2012: managed the game with efficiency and confidence.
Running Backs: A
Longhorns running backs Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown both had very solid evenings, taking advantage of holes opened for them by a strong Texas offensive line. Bergeron ripped off several powerful long runs en route to 11o yards and two touchdowns. Brown was steady throughout, picking up 105 yards on 14 carries.
Bergeron also piloted the direct-snap WildHorn formation for Texas and looked comfortable doing so. We’ll likely see him in this role as the season rolls on. In my book, he’s Texas’ new No. 1 running back, although Brown is a close 1a.
D.J. Monroe was also very active last evening, especially in the jet sweep runs that have become a favorite for Bryan Harsin since his arrival to the Forty Acres. Although he had slipped down the pre-season depth chart, Monroe showed some nice pop and will obviously be used as a change-up back in 2012.
If this trio can continue this level of productivity throughout the season against stiffer competition, and freshman Johnathan Gray can add to the mix, the Texas running game will be a consistent headache for all opposing defensive coordinators to deal with.
Wide Receivers: B
Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis expectedly were the evening’s two leading receivers for Texas. Shipley and Davis have slotted into two very definable, but divergent roles. Shipley is obviously David Ash’s No. 1 target and will see the lionshare of the short to middle-yardage looks in the quick hit and slant passing game, while Davis will be targeted on deeper routes.
Ash over and under-threw Davis on a couple of long pass attempts, which, with completion, could have tacked on at least 14 more points to Texas’ evening total. If these two can connect at some point, Davis could finally emerge as the deep threat he was promised to be several years ago.
Shipley was Shipley. Calm, cool, and productive. Texas fans should expect nothing less in 2012, as he’ll make a case as on of the Big XII’s better wideouts.
Offensive Line: B
The Texas offensive line got plenty of push throughout the evening, opening up time not only for Ash to find receivers where he could, but also to open holes for Bergeron, Brown and Monroe.
At no time during the evening did Wyoming get sustained pressure in the backfield, apart from isolated instances where Ash was required to throw on the run and abandon the pocket. While the Longhorns weren’t dominant in the trenches, they were good enough to get the job done against an outmatched Wyoming defensive line.
Defensive Secondary: D
The Longhorns’ defensive secondary was flat out poor. While some nice plays were made by Kenny Vaccaro and Carrington Byndom, in particular, Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith picked apart the middle of Texas’ zone sets with ease throughout.
For whatever reason, Duane Akina and the rest of the Texas coaching staff didn’t address these huge gaps in the middle of the Texas zone, and with a few slightly different circumstances, this oversight could have made yesterday’s game much closer.
I don’t imagine this poor performance will be replicated in Week Two against a New Mexico Lobos offense that was one of the worst in the country in 2011, but it’s obvious nonetheless there’s plenty of work to do for a unit believed to be Texas’ strongest entering this season.
Linebackers / Ends: B
Jordan Hicks was the obvious standout for a Texas linebacking unit that had a nice evening overall. Hicks was everywhere at once, both dropping back in pass coverage to break up mid-level routes, and also wreak some havoc in the backfield. Hicks’ performance last night is exactly what Texas will be looking for from him all season long.
Demarco Cobbs was also a force. In spite of a bizarre personal foul penalty in the second half that led to Wyoming’s second touchdown, Cobbs stepped up and accepted his new role as an impact linebacker for Texas. Steve Edmond finished the night with six tackles and Jackson Jeffcoat was a presence for the Longhorns all evening, exerting his force on the edges and making things difficult for the Wyoming defensive line.
And, Alex Okafor was, well, Alex Okafor. He’s one of the best defensive ends in the country, and played as such.
Plenty will be expected of these three guys in 2012, and last night, they didn’t disappoint.
Defensive Line: A
There really wasn’t much too see with the Texas defensive line on Saturday evening, which, in general, is a good thing. They did their job, exerting enough pressure on Wyoming quarterback Smith to not allow for game-breaking plays, sans the long touchdown reception by Robert Herron in the first half.
Ashton Dorsey and junior college transfer Brandon Moore led the Texas D-Line on Saturday, finishing with six tackles (3 TFL) between them and collectively being a nuisance throughout the evening. While the Texas defensive unit didn’t tally many tackles as a whole, in comparison to the typical game, it’s more a testament to the offense’s domination of the clock.
Special Teams: D-
In a word, the Texas kicking game was awful. True freshman kicker Nick Jordan missed kicks of 44 and 46 yards that weren’t even close, and also had an extra-point blocked on the Longhorns’ final touchdown of the evening that wasn’t entirely his fault.
With a true freshman kicker, whether it is Jordan, or the other option, Nick Rose, Texas will encounter some struggles, but regardless these need to be worked through soon to ensure the kicking game is the afterthought it should be as conference play rolls around.
Texas hosts the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday, September 8th at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium for Week 2.
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.