Over the course of the past two weeks, one word has continued to come out of the mouths of Texas Longhorns coaches and players alike: explosiveness. For Mack Brown, explosive plays will be the difference in Big XII play, and that precedent will be set today as the Longhorns take on the New Mexico Lobos at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium this evening.
Explosive plays apply to all facets of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Let’s take a quick look at who could make some of these plays this evening against the Lobos and going forward throughout the rest of the 2012 season.
Two guys immediately come to mind here: D.J. Monroe and Mike Davis. Davis came to the Forty Acres in 2009 as one of the most heralded wide receiver recruits in the state of Texas since Roy Williams. In large part, “Magic” Mike has failed to live up to the reputation that preceded him and Texas desperately needs him to do so to open up the vertical passing game and keep opposing defenses honest. Davis can be a deep threat with his speed and athleticism, but he and David Ash must get on the same page to complete plays.
Monroe has the speed and slashing ability to turn the most mundane play into an explosive play. It appears the Texas coaching staff is finally putting its money where its mouth is and will feature Monroe–and also, possibly, his compadre Daje Johnson–not only as running backs in jet sweep looks but also as slot receivers who could turn quick hits into solid yards after catch.
Look for Davis, Monroe and Johnson to have all the opportunities they can handle, this evening and beyond, to make the explosive plays the Texas offense needs.
On the defensive side of the ball, explosive plays equal takeaways that flip field position. For Texas, this starts with Alex Okafor and ends with the secondary that struggled at times in Week One, but also showed some of the athleticism that could make them one of the Big XII’s best units this fall.
If Okafor can continue to wreak havoc in the backfield and pick up a sack or two on occasion that forces a fumble, life will become very difficult for opposing quarterbacks. Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat also showed moments of being able to do the same last week against the Wyoming Cowboys and will be depended upon to be a collective nuisance for the Texas defense to find ways to get themselves off the field quickly.
Kenny Vaccaro, Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs all need to take their game to a second-level as non-conference play wraps up and the conference opener against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Sept. 29 draws closer. Any of these three guys has the ability to turn a mundane interception into a pick six–now is the time to make it happen.
Here’s the kicker (sorry).
For Texas to find the separation they need–maybe not this week–but going forward, explosive kick returns will be so very important. While the new kickoff rules have made things relatively more difficult, Texas kick returners Marquise Goodwin and Mykelle Thompson both have the ability to take one to the house at any time.
Given that both guys may get fewer opportunities if teams choose to sky kick like Wyoming did last Saturday, and sacrifice field position for minimized threat, those opportunities must be capitalized on.
Diggs will be asked to do the same in the punt return game. Make no doubt about it, a game will come soon when an explosive kick return will make the difference in the field position battle and the game’s outcome.
Explosiveness is an absolute for Texas–and they have to find the guys to give it to them somewhere, somehow.
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 the Rant Sports College Football Hour on the TSC Radio Network on Sunday evenings at 8 Central Time and Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.