Taking Stock: Who's Up, Who's Down

This is the fourth in a series of post-game reports throughout the season that will evaluate players, positions, units, coaches, and any other thing that is worthy of scrutiny. No, it’s not your typical player X did well, so his stock is up. We will touch on some of those, but we want to provide a closer look at some of the less obvious and explain why the subject received a certain grade. Check back each week for the latest report. You might be surprised.

Cedric Benson — Can you say broken record? Besides an obvious error by omission on this writer’s part the first week of the season, Benson has been a stalwart in the "Stock Up" category. But how can you deny someone who consistently rushes for more than 180 yards a contest? You can’t. Benson had another stellar performance and even more so than the three previous as he earned all his yardage without breaking off a long one. Translation: Benson had a lot of carries, 34, and a healthy average of 5.5 yards per carry. He also passed Earl Campbell to move into second place on the all-time rushing list at Texas with 4,452 yards and now only trails Ricky Williams. Kudos to Ced. If he makes it into this category next week, then we will truly have something to talk about.

Derrick Johnson — Another case of a broken record. Johnson continues his spectacular play to start the season. Spectacular to the tune of 11 tackles including several bone-rattlin’ hits, one pass deflection that resulted in an interception and his sixth forced fumble, which leads the nation. What else can you say about D.J.? Quite simply — nothing.

Frank Okam — The final box score credits the true freshman with three unassisted tackles. That’s deceptive. Okam, starting in place of the injured Rod Wright, had a solid performance in his first start. While he never officially registered a sack, he consistently beat his blocker only to arrive at the quarterback a split second after the pass was gone. That’s not to say he didn’t have an effect. He did. In fact, he finished with five quarterback pressures and one pass deflection.

Tony Jeffery — At last. Finally, a Texas receiver caught a touchdown. The senior got into the end zone for the first time as a receiver after scoring a TD on a fake field goal last week against Rice. After catching his first touchdown on a nice pass from Young, Jeffery scored his second making a nifty spin move on two Baylor defenders. The touchdowns by the lone veteran in the wide receiving corps could possibly be the jumpstart for the Texas passing game. Jeffery didn’t rest on his laurels as a wide receiver and followed up his special teams touchdown last week by getting a piece of Baylor punter Daniel Sepulveda’s punt with less than a minute gone in the first quarter.

Punt Return Unit — The Longhorns looked solid up front getting a push early and often. In the first half Texas had two punt blocks, one by Tony Jeffery that considerably shortened the length of the punt by Baylor’s Daniel Sepulveda and another that was redirected out the back of the end zone for a safety by Michael Griffin. Special teams make special plays and this unit did it a couple times.

Stock Down

Cedric Benson and Ball Security — While his running performance was record-breaking and superb, he wasn’t flawless. Benson had trouble holding on to the ball. He had a pair of fumbles that took what are best described as "members" bounces including one that popped straight back into his hands after it hit the turf and one that looked like a bounce pass to tight end Bo Scaife in the end zone for a touchdown. You could blame Benson’s ball insecurity on the wet conditions but the pigskin wasn’t jumping out of the hands of other players.

Dusty Mangum — Like Cedric Benson in the "Stock Up" category, it’s becoming common to see Mangum’s name in this category. Again, for the third time in as many games, he missed a field goal. Granted, this one was from 49 yards, it’s still realistic to expect a make inside 50.

Punt Coverage Unit — Stats don’t necessarily tell the story. The Baylor punt return team received six punts and returned them 83 yards or an average of 13.8 per return. However, two returns exposed the Texas coverage unit — one in each half. In the first quarter Baylor’s Willie Andrews took the punt and looked dead in the water in the middle of the field. Andrews reversed field toward the outside and inexplicably, the normally sure-handed Phillip Geiggar missed, Michael Griffin overpursued, Albert Hardy overpursued and missed, and Andrews turned what realistically should have been a return of no yards or possibly a loss of a couple into a 13-yard return. Not too bad, you say. That one was saved for later. With just more than half of the fourth quarter remaining, Andrews received the punt at the Texas 49, made a few nice moves and then knifed right through the heart of the coverage unit. He was only stopped on a desperation grab by Texas second-team punter Greg Johnson 38 yards later at the 11-yard line.

Texas Pass Coverage — You almost felt bad for Baylor quarterback Dane King. He was making all the throws but his receivers had a bad case of the "drops." What’s problematic from a Texas standpoint is the receivers were open. In one case, the Baylor receiver was completely behind the Texas secondary and just flat-out dropped what would have been a touchdown. King finished the game with 165 yards on 18 of 37 passing but should have 25 completions easily. This unit has to tighten up before it faces the Heisman Trophy winner next weekend in Dallas or there could be huge problems.

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