Archive for the ‘2018’ Category

The Longhorns Need a New Slogan

Darrell Royal had, “Three things can happen when you pass, two of them are bad.” Mack Brown had, “Come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange,”and “One Heartbeat.”

Tom Herman has “1-0” which isn’t working out so I have some suggestions.  

The best is yet to come

The darkest hour is just before the dawn

Win one for the stripper!

Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin eyes?

Let them eat soggy pancakes

Winning isn’t everything

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Come Monday it will be alright

Remember the Terrapins!

Rainy Days and Saturdays always get me down

We’re 0 and one! We’re 0 and one!

Would you believe 1-1?

All is well

Lose one for the Terps

One loss at a time

Remember the Texas Bowl

We’re taking your suggestions below.

 

Maryland Over/Under Resul

D.R. Flower stood head and shoulders above the field in a bloodbath of the Over/Under season opener where the average correct score was 3.9.

D.R. scored and impressive eight. Richard Mosher also blew away the field average with seven correct.

Helen Frink and Mark Adams tied for third with fives.

HooK ‘Em

Willie Earl

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The Offensive Line Paves the Way

A year ago, in my opening column for the 2017 season, I tried to put into perspective the oozing, unbridled optimism that had infested the Longhorn fan base, talk radio hosts, and Longhorn focused bloggers.  You may remember, the consensus opinion of the above was that anything short of a 9-3 regular season record would be a downright disappointment. As we know now, that consensus was simply the product of group hysteria.

This season, I not only believe Longhorn fans should be optimistic, I think they can righteously expect their team to win a minimum of nine regular season games with a good possibility of a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game.  That is, if Tom Herman and his coaching staff can tell the difference between their elbows and end zones in-game in 2018, a perception that was lacking in 2017 in many situations.

There are hundreds of ways to analyze and predict the fortunes of a football team before the first game is played. No doubt many of you have spent time in the last couple weeks reading in-depth analyses of the 2018 Longhorns. My analysis distills the complexity of all the in-depth analyses down to one factor.

As your offensive line goes, so goes your football team

If there is one thing I know for sure from 50+ years of watching football, it’s that if your offensive line plays consistently well, you have a chance be good, period. A good offensive line can turn an average quarterback into a reliable “game manager.” Journeymen running backs average more than four yards per carry with a good offensive line. A good offensive line allows you to play ball-control offense, which comes in especially handy on the road, taking the “hostile” out of a hostile environment. What about the defense? A well-performing offensive line can make your defense better by limiting its time on the field, and by relieving the pressure of having to be perfect because the offense can’t score.

So let’s take a look at the Horns’ 2018 offensive line.

Center: A highly decorated, three-star recruit in 2016, Junior Zach Shackelford will be the starter for the third straight year.  He hasn’t been a great player, but he’s played OK. Not a ringing endorsement, but he’s experienced which is more important for an offensive lineman than for any other position except quarterback. Zach Shackelford with 17 starts under his belt is an upgrade over Zach Shackelford the freshman or sophomore.

Left guard: Patrick Vahe, a four-star recruit in 2015, will be the starter for the fourth straight year. He also has not been a great player.   Many analysts suggested that he was over rated 2015 Freshman All-America pick. However, he was regarded as having played well in 2017, and with 31 starts is even more experienced than Zach Shackelford.

Left tackle: Calvin Anderson is a graduate transfer who started all 36 games he played at Rice. He was an honorable mention All-Conference-USA pick in 2016 and 2017.  Experienced center, experienced left guard, experienced left tackle.
Getting redundant, isn’t it?

Right guard: Elijah Rodriguez, a fifth year senior, was slated to be a starter in 2017 but missed the entire season due to a preseason camp injury. He’s played in 20 games with four starts. He’s not as experienced as the players on the left side of the line, but he’s considered very talented and has been elected a team captain by the players this year.

Right tackle: This is the least experienced position on offensive line. Texas lists sophomore Derek Kerstetter and redshirt freshman Samuel Cosmi as either-or starters. Due to the rash of injuries on the offensive line, Kerstetter started 10 games in 2017. Obviously Cosmi has no game experience. For what it’s worth at this point, both of these players are considered to have high-end potential.

Tight end: Andrew Beck is a fifth-year player who missed the entire 2017 season with a foot injury. He’s a starter because of his blocking ability. He has played in 37 career games with 16 starts. Like Elijah Rodriguez, he was elected a team captain for 2018.

Key backups: Third-year sophomore Patrick Hudson is the backup at left guard. He played in the first two games in 2017 before suffering a season-ending injury.  He was No. 15 on the American-Statesman’s fab 55, and was rated the No. 3 guard nationally by Rivals in 2015. Like Kerstetter and Cosmi, Hudson is considered to have a high upside.

Junior Denzel Okafor is the backup left tackle. He started four games in 2017, again, because of the rash of injuries.  He was all-everything in high school and No. 48 on the Statesman’s Fab 55. He didn’t exactly take a starters role and run with it last year, but it’s a tribute to the quality and experience of the starters that he’s a backup.

Herb Hand

Hand’s title is Co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, but Herman hired him for one thing, to coach the offensive line. He was offensive line coach at Auburn in 2017 where they averaged 218 yards per game rushing.

Hand has stronger resume than Herman’s offensive coordinator Tim Beck, and Derek Warehime who was the offensive line coach in 2017 and now is the tight ends coach.

On paper, Hand is an upgrade as the new offensive line coach.

Elephant in the room

This is the best starting offensive line Texas has had since maybe as far back as 2008, but there isn’t great depth. If Texas suffers anywhere near the rash of injuries to the offensive line that it did in 2017, my premise of a good season built on the play of the offensive line could be scuttled.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Elbows from end zones

I mentioned the coaching staff and their understanding of elbows and end zones near the top of this column. For those of you from Bryan-College Station, I was referring to Tom Herman and his staff’s in-game decision making.  I found grave fault with three decisions Herman made last year that arguably cost Texas three games.

  1. Running Sam Ehlinger on a power play up the gut in overtime that resulted in a game-losing fumble in overtime to USC. As Oliver Wendell Douglas used to say, “What the . . . ?”
  2. Putting Ehlinger back in the game after his head was slammed on the turf in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma. Ehlinger made a visit to the little tent on the sideline for the concussion protocol examination after the play, and he passed. Really? Come on man.  When he went back in the game, he was obviously fuzzy, as evidenced when he intentionally threw the ball out of bounds on a fourth down.

In Ehlinger’s absence, Shane Buechele came in and converted a third down with a nice pass on Oklahoma’s side of the 50. Buechele was experienced and a better passer than Ehlinger and he might have been able to exploit a weak Oklahoma pass defense where Ehlinger had not for three quarters.

  1. The bonehead call of the year—if not the decade—was the pass play call against Texas Tech on a fourth and two with just over two minutes left in the game and Tech with no timeouts. If you need more detail on this one, look it up yourself. I’m too disgusted with the subject to go on further about it.

Those decisions might make you wonder how Herman won so many games at Houston. And what’s with Herman and the strip club story while he was the offensive coordinator at Ohio State?

Do better Tom. Do better. After all, you are a Mensa member.

Don’t be surprised if Daniel Young emerges as the feature running back this year.

Season Predictions

The Horns go 9-3 in the 2018 regular season, play in the Big 12 Championship Game and will be invited to the Sugar Bowl.

Maryland

Don’t assume the turmoil surrounding Maryland because of the tragic death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair means they will be distracted or in disarray on Saturday. They could be—but I suspect that the Maryland players and coaches will be no less motivated or prepared than they were last year in Austin.

Remember 51-41 and . . .

HooK ‘EM,

Willie Earl

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Summer Revival

That was fun.

Paraphrasing Robert Earl Keen, “Feels so good to be feeling good again about the Longhorns.”

Some of the football game day changes Chris Del Conte, our new Athletics Director, has talked about sound promising. After attending my first Longhorn Baseball game today in many, many years, what impressed me the most—other than the results—was the simplicity of the presentation at Disch-Falk. How refreshing and enjoyable the experience was.

Dare we hope for the same at Royal Memorial this fall?
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Can we all agree that Kody Clemens is the biggest Longhorn deal we’ve had around here since Colt McCoy?
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It seems appropriate in more ways than one in June, 2018 to end with another paraphrase, “Now it’s on to Omaha, and let’s win there.”

“Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

 

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September Morn

September Morn

There isn’t much in life that I love more than the first cool mornings of the season that we have in Austin every September. Yes it’ll reach 96 sometime this afternoon but that doesn’t take the edge off of the the primal pleasure I’ve experienced each morning this week. As strong a memory trigger for me as the sense of smell, the cool crisp mornings remind me think of my childhood in Vestal. They remind me that it’s football season. But most of all, driving to work mornings this week with the sun roof open, I’m reminded most strongly of when I drove a bran new burnt orange Thunderbird, with the windows open, down Lamar Boulevard past Pease Park and downtown Austin on certain September mornings in 1979.

 September Morn - Paul Émile Chabas

September Morn – Paul Émile Chabas

All was right with the world for me in September of 1979 and it wasn’t because of the burnt orange T-Bird (though that wasn’t too shabby). September of 1979 was when Helen Yoxall became my girlfriend. That would be the current Helen Yoxall Frink. Helen was a senior at U.T. that fall and I was a salesman for MCI with an office at Dobie Mall. Pretty sweet. Helen and I often had breakfast together at Hamburgers by Gourmet on the Drag on those incredible September mornings before one of her classes and for inspiration for me to go call strangers on the telephone and ask them to make long distance phone calls with this new unknown telecommunications company called MCI.
In September of 1979 Helen Yoxall made life a dream come true for me and I’m still living the dream.

“September Morn”
We danced until the night
Became a brand new day
Two lovers playing scenes
From some romantic play
September morning
Still can make me feel that way
-Becaud & Diamond

 

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