Charlie Strong didn’t say it out loud but it sure does sound like we’ll be seeing a lot more 4-3 looks from the Longhorns moving forward.
“We need to help our defensive line,” Strong said. “We need to bring a fourth rusher.”
Strong mentioned that one thing they were doing with their three-man fronts that had some success against Rice was spreading the linemen out to where you had Hassan Ridgeway lined up across a tackle.
“We are playing so much three-down. If you wide them out a little and get them on the edge a bit it will change things,” Strong said. “Ridgeway is one of those players. With our defensive front, we are going to have to play some on the outside and beat the 1-on-1 blocks. That’s what’s key, we have to beat the 1-on-1 blocks.”
Expect to see a lot more of that moving forward.
Strong appears to be having the same thought as I shared with you all Saturday night in that he isn’t sold on Desmond Jackson's health.
“I don't know if Tank is at 100 percent,” he said.
But Strong definitely isn’t placing all the blame on the defensive tackles.
Plain and simply, as you all have stated numerous times, Texas has gotten next to nothing from its defensive ends.
“We need to win outside with Shiro [Davis], Naashon [Hughes] and Bryce [Cottrell], which we aren't doing,” Strong said.
Whatever the case, the fact that Notre Dame Fighting and Rice have both had success running the ball right at Texas is alarming. As Hassan Ridgeway said on Saturday, the Longhorns have to take it personally.
“You can’t allow a team to turn around and hand the ball off inside the A and B gaps,” Texas’ head coach said. “They aren’t trying to get the ball outside. They are attacking us right up the middle.
“We talk about being good up the middle and we weren’t very good the other night. We never really established ourselves and put our feet in the ground. We allowed them to get into our bodies.”
For those wondering if Derick Roberson is injured, Strong didn’t say. He didn’t play against Rice but Strong said he’d have an opportunity to play against Cal.
Regardless of who is lining up on Texas’ defensive line, the objective is still the same: Make the opponent 1-deminsional.
“They are having a balanced attack. We had opportunities but had so many missed tackles. I think we missed eight sacks. One time we had four people missed him on one sack.”
Here’s a Devonaire Clarington update for you: There’s nothing much to report at the moment.
“I think he took the test but we haven't heard anything back,” Strong said.
Is no news good news in this instance? I don’t think so necessarily. And Clarington hasn’t been giving off great vibes on social media regarding all of this.
As is the case with any running quarterback, you have a certain level of fear that he could get injured if he takes one too many big hits. That’s definitely a concern of Strong’s with Jerrod Heard.
“Jerrod needs to learn how to slide,” he said. “He doesn't know how to slide yet. He needs to learn how to protect himself.”
So, California QB Jared Goff is a baller. We know this. Strong knows this.
His numbers through two games: 41-of-56 for 630 yards and six touchdowns.
“He can make the difficult throws,” Strong said. “He's tall [6-4, 215]. Our hands are full. We can't give him a window. If you do he'll make the throws. We have to make him move his feet in the pocket and [we have to] dictate the flow of the game.”
Talk about a freshmen uprising. The Longhorns played 20 freshmen in its season opener. Only Florida State (23), North Carolina State (23) and Syracuse (21) played more freshmen in their season openers. Texas play 17 freshmen against Rice.
Daje Johnson parlayed his big performance against Rice, which included an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown, into Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
It’s been a long time coming for “The Dealer” artist, and Strong couldn’t be happier for him.
“It was fun watching him because he’s been through so much,” Strong said. “Even when he wasn’t doing what he should have been doing he still stuck to it. I think about this time last season he was suspended game after game after game. But he kept working, working, working. He never complained.
“He told me that he would show me that he would be the guy we wanted him to be. I told him, ‘You have the ability son. You have what it takes. It’s more on you and yourself to take the next step. I’m not going to give up on you. I want to see it happen for you. I’m so glad it happened. You are the one that changed it for you.’”
Johnson tallied 119 yards on punt returns with returns of three and 31 yards to go with his 85-yarder for an average of 43.8. His touchdown was the first touchdown by a Longhorn on a punt return since he did so against Oklahoma on Oct. 12, 2013.
His 85-yard return ties himself for the fourth longest in school history. It also gives him two career punt returns for touchdowns to move him into fourth as he trails the trio of Jordan Shipley, Aaron Ross and Jim Moore by just one for the school record.
I didn’t get a chance to ask Strong about DeAndre McNeal – meant to but ran out of time. I know there have been a lot of questions about why he hasn’t gotten any snaps on offense.
What I’ve gathered, though, is that Strong thinks there are enough playmakers on the outside right now that they don’t necessarily need him out there.
Confusing to some, I know. I get it. But that’s the vibe I’m getting right now.
Strong said that they don’t need to change the offense with Heard at QB.
“We just have to limit it to what packages suit him,” he said. “He can beat you with his legs and that can open up the power game and all of those things that will help him. And it gives him more confidence.
“One thing about a rush with him, if you rush him and he breaks you down he’s off and running, and once he’s off and running there aren’t a lot of guys that will catch him. He’ll make a guy miss.”
Strong is definitely pleased with the job Jeff Traylor has done with special teams. Sure, the play-making abilities of Daje Johnson help, but he’s got guys in all facets of that game playing tough.
“Jeff is doing an unbelievable job on special teams and that’s something we focus on every day,” Strong said. “We spend a lot of time on returns this season because we have a dynamic returner in Daje.
“We also have some coverage guys. You watch [Kris] Boyd run down on kickoff coverage. You watch [Adrian] Colbert. There are certain core guys, Colbert, [Kevin] Vacarro, Antwuan Davis, Kris Boyd. You have those core guys and I tell them, ‘That’s your roll right now is special teams,’ and they have really taken on with it Even [Alex] De La Torre. Our specials teams are improving and getting better.”
Strong: “Cal is a little different than Rice because they are going to be up-tempo. They are going to be on the ball. They score a lot of points. It’s going to come down to if we do give them the points, can we match them and go down and score.”
Strong on Malik Jefferson: “He is so much more mature for his age. He’s established himself very well by his play. He knows how to work and knows how to go about his business.”
Dylan Haines said coaches showed tape of every blown 3rd down conversion: “Not necessarily a highlight film. More of a lowlight film.”
Strong on if he has a favorite Foreman twin: “D’Onta because he works. I always tell Armanti that he has a lot of ability, he just doesn’t always play up to that level. But D’Onta, it’s all about work with him, a big old strong, physical back that runs behind his pads. He’s hard to tackle.