Coach's Look: Credit Where Credit Is Due

Just when you think you have a team figured out…just when you think they’ve given up…just when you think the tacklers from last year have reared their ugly head again, the Longhorns go out and prove me and the other doubters wrong. And at 35-7, there were many. I must admit…I doubted that the Longhorns could come back. They did, however, as we all know, and now it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

The last few weeks, I’ve started to work in some X’s and O’s into this article, but I’m going to take a break from that this week. There are simply too many good plays in the second half to focus on one or two. I want to rewind to two years ago. Will Matthews was a poor run blocker who seemed timid, Will Allen was a liability when he stepped on the field, Jason Glynn was a pariah, and the offensive linemen overall were the fans' favorite whipping boys.

Jason Glynn may have been the most maligned man in Austin, and that includes the much-maligned Greg Davis and Chris Simms. No one could figure out why Glynn was playing. However, he kept working and working, and he has become a strength on this team. In fact, he will be sorely, sorely missed next year (along with Derrick Johnson, Cedric Benson, and Philip Geiggar).

The offensive line has become a major strength on this team. Oklahoma State’s defense could barely stand at the end of the game. They had been worn down by the line, by Will Matthews, and by Benson. The punishment they dished out in the second half was inhumane. OSU wouldn’t make contact until Benson was five yards downfield. How can such a (perceived) team weakness turn to a strength? Well, several factors have contributed to it:

  1. Mack Brown selecting offensive line recruits based on speed, a lean frame, and a mean disposition. Gone are the days of the 360 lb. line recruits. People like to criticize Jeff Madden, but Mick from the Rocky movies couldn’t have trained some of those guys. A premium has been put on quickness, and you can see it Jonathan Scott, Kasey Studdard, and Justin Blalock.
  2. Greg Davis molding an offense around the talent he has. When you get smaller recruits on the line, you need to have an offensive game plan to take advantage of it. That means more screens, pulling plays (like the counter), zone blocking, etc. I don’t think you could ask for a more perfect offense for the Longhorns than what we saw in the second half Saturday night. Everything fit.
  3. Mac McWhorter has to be given a lion’s share of the credit. His arrival coincided with better play from the offensive line. It’s not a coincidence. He has made that much of a difference. A lineman’s first two steps will determine how well a block will be executed, and each type of block (down block, reach block, zone block, cutoff block, trap pull, long pull, etc.) has a different first two steps. Players good enough to be Division I offensive linemen have usually never been taught proper footwork. They get by on their sheer strength, speed, and size advantage at the high school level. Watching the offensive line now is one of my favorite parts of the game. Are they perfect? No, but they’re getting there, and that’s more than could be said two years ago.
  4. Jeff Madden probably needs to be given some credit. Although he is not the poster boy for good health (neither am I, Jeff, so don’t hurt me), there is a definite muscle mass difference among the offensive and defensive linemen.
  5. Finally, most of the credit has to be given to the players themselves. Players can be recruited, coached, fine-tuned in the weight room, and put in proper positions. However, when the lights come on, it still comes down to a physical battle between two teams comprised of young men. They are the ones out there who make the plays.

Vincent Young, Cedric Benson, Bo Scaife, Limas Sweed, and even Greg Davis have gotten credit for the victory this week. Game balls could be given to everyone, but I would like to tip my hat to the unsung heroes of the offensive line. I appreciate your hard work on the field, and the work you have put in to get to where you are now. You are truly a fun group to watch.

Mark Kissinger has coached high school football in Texas and Tennessee, coaching OL, TE, WR, DT, DE, and serving as both an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. In high school, he was coached by the legendary G.A. Moore. Mark recently retired from coaching and received his M.B.A. from Rice University and is in his third season of writing for IT. His 'Coach's Look' column appears after each game during football season on InsideTexas.com.


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