What We've Learned

Here are ten things we've learned from this week's media availabilities, from the offense's goals to Garrett Gilbert's lack of trick plays.

1) Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin talked about the offense's goals. According to him, the main goal was to win, on both sides of the ball. The second goal was to eliminate turnovers. It doesn't seem a stretch then to suggest that the defense's second goal might be to force them. Harsin said the offense didn't meet goal No. 2, by virtue of the second team's fumble. The defense forced one turnover, also by the second team. Special teams also forced a turnover.


2) Harsin said there was plenty to like about the performance of quarterback Garrett Gilbert. He stood tall, threw with authority and made a couple of throws on the move. He also had a couple of drops that deflated his 13-23 completion percentage. Now, the key was for Gilbert to "make new mistakes," the offensive coordinator said. The two main ones talked about Monday were Gilbert's attempt to pitch the ball to Fozzy Whittaker as he was being sacked and his missed throw to an open Mike Davis in the end zone. "I have to make that throw," Gilbert said.


3) Texas coach Mack Brown gave his viewpoints on two big college football hot points in one answer. When talking about potential conference realignment, Brown said that he wasn't involved, but that he wished universities and conferences took the time to consider what was best for the student-athletes before making their decisions. Then, he touched on pay-for-play, adding that if the process was going to be driven by money, something should be done to give the athletes a share of the take.


4) The Longhorns played the most true freshmen in the country with the 18 that saw the field on Saturday. Counting redshirt freshmen, Texas rolled out a total of 25. We'll have more on this in the next couple of days.


5) Gilbert says he's a bad actor. Or at least he joked it. Gilbert was asked why he was pulled for all of the trick plays, and quipped that he was a good enough actor to pull them off. When he was asked about whether he would be in on any trick plays in the future, Gilbert laughed again and said "I can't tell you guys that." Harsin had a more serious explanation, stating that the Longhorns were able to take some work off Gilbert's plate by giving those packages to another player, in this case freshman quarterback David Ash. "He has everything else to worry about," Harsin said.


6) At the same time, expect Ash's package to grow. The word on Monday was that the Longhorns hadn't even scratched the surface with their Ash package, which includes plays that are tailored specifically to his ability to throw and throw on the run. Texas didn't show much against Rice in that regard, but might wind up pulling out more on that front in the near future.


7) Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said the Longhorns' run-stopping issues were a matter of run fits, not any personnel issue. He said a similar issue happened when the Longhorns weren't sure of the new defense's fits in the spring. Essentially, stopping the run is like building a wall, he said, with the defense putting its bricks in the holes provided by the offense. But with the stunting and movement involved in Diaz's scheme, those holes aren't always totally defined. Saturday, that led to a little bit of hesitation, and Diaz said he was able to show players on film where, if they simply took the aggressive steps they'd been doing in practice, they would have had a tackle for loss or a big play.


8) For its reputation as a pioneer in the passing game, BYU under coach Bronco Mendenhall is actually a smash-mouth football team that throws as a change of pace. That was the verdict from both Brown and Diaz when talking about Saturday's opponent. Mendenhall is a defensive coach, and though Diaz said Cougar quarterback Jake Heaps is capable of making every throw, the Cougars' bread is actually buttered behind a big offensive line and physical running backs.


9) Because of how quickly Rice got rid of the ball, Diaz said he spent time showing players what would have been sacks under normal circumstances. In some cases, those plays were pressures. In more, they were simply plays where the player had already beaten his man — say, in a three-step drop — but the ball was gone. In others, he showed where a player came free on a blitz, only to have the ball gone before he arrived. Diaz said he expected BYU to attempt more plays downfield, opening things up for those same plays to become potential sacks.


10) As I mentioned, a number of true freshmen played Saturday. But arguably the most impressive freshman might have been a redshirt freshman. Dominic Espinosa earned the offensive lineman of the week award and looked the part of a savvy veteran. With his strength, athleticism and wits, he looks the part of a strong four-year starter in the middle, a luxury that most teams don't get at the center position.


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