Inside Texas Blog: A Good Start...

Last week, IT's Clendon Ross had several preparation suggestions for the Horns as they tune up for OU. Today, he reviews how well the Horns addressed those areas vs. Rice at Reliant.

Last week, I discussed several things I wanted to see from the coaches during the three-game stretch leading up to OU that I thought would prepare the team for its next big test. I just finished watching my DVR of Saturday's game, so let's review those suggestions from last week, with an eye towards what we saw from the team in the 52-7 win over Rice at Reliant:

Get Jevan Snead a lot of work. Mission (mostly) accomplished. Colt McCoy and Snead received almost equal snaps, and Snead's snaps were not simply in mop-up duty. He took over for the first Longhorn series of the second quarter, and more importantly, he worked with first-teamers (except for Chris Hall, who subbed for starter Cedric Dockery at right guard for the series) and he threw the ball downfield (an 18-yard completion to Jermichael Finley over the middle near the goalline). Sure, ideally I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Snead in the first half, but circumstances conspired to keep the entire Texas offense off the field for much of the remainder of the half. After Snead's series, the Horns registered a defensive TD by Tim Crowder and then a punt return touchdown by Aaron Ross, so the offense didn't return to the field till under four minutes to play in the half, and McCoy needed the work on a potential, half-ending, clock management drive. Snead returned again for the third offensive series of the second half (this time working with an offensive line of LT Adam Ulatoski, LG Charlie Tanner, C Dallas Griffin, RG Chris Hall and RT J'Marcus Webb) and remained till mop-up time. Snead's time on the field was indicative of the coaches' philosophy across the board. As hoped (and expected), Texas played much deeper across the board than last week vs. the Buckeyes. According to the official participation chart, the Horns played 39 reserves against Rice vs. just 21 against Ohio State.

Trust your players! Not enough information. We really won't know the answer to this till the Horns face off against a legit opponent. That could come this weekend vs. Iowa State, although the real test will be in just over two weeks in Dallas. I will say it was nice, but equally infuriating, to see the Jordan Shipley reverse. That is the play that basically proves the point about not trusting your players to make plays against quality opposition, instead saving that type of play for the Owls of the college football world.

Show Jamaal Charles his highlights from early '05. I don't know if the coaches showed Charles his '05 highlight reel, but I do know that Charles, particularly on his 23-yard shovel pass reception and run to the goalline that was called back due to, surprise!, a false start, again looked to be the runner with the great hips and vision capable of making full speed cuts. His final line: eight rushes for 109 yards (13.6 per carry), plus one reception for seven yards. Selvin Young had a more typical, workman-like week, with 15 carries for 101 yards (6.7 per carry), so balance in the Texas running back universe appears to have returned, at least for a week.

Throw to the tight ends. Mission (mostly) accomplished. After an opening scoring drive that consisted solely of runs, Colt McCoy opened the Horns' second offensive series with a strike downfield to Jermichael Finley for 21 yards. It was the second-longest completion on the day (second to the third quarter McCoy-to-Shipley 38-yard TD toss) and the first of two to Finley, the other being the 18-yarder from Snead mentioned above. That's still just half of the nearly four receptions per game that David Thomas averaged last season, but it's a good start in incorporating Finley into the offense. The tight ends definitely played a huge part in the success of the rushing offense vs. the Owls. The entire seven-play first series -- all runs -- came in a two-tight end, two-wideout, single back, shotgun set. The Horns didn't go to a one-tight end, three-wideout set until the fourth play of their second offensive series, and from then out, the coaches used each about equally.

Bring Robert Killebrew off the bench. 'Kill' got the start over Scott Derry, but Derry came off the bench to lead the LBs in tackles with seven, three more than Killebrew and Roddrick Muckelroy and five more than Rashad Bobino. The good news, aside from the depth that Derry brings, is that his presence may have threatened Killebrew's playing time enough that he turned in his "best game of the year" (according to Coach Venables in his weekly report card). The linebacker corps still needs Drew Kelson to return, but the fact that Sergio Kindle finally was healthy enough to lose the 'shirt, and three weeks before he'll really be needed to perform (against OU), is another very positive development.

Play Hunter Lawrence. Didn't happen, despite comments from Mack Brown last week that Lawrence was likely to play. Greg Johnson had a near-perfect performance at Reliant, but with a possible 14-game schedule, Johnson needs a break from at least one of his three duties to lower the possibility that he'll suffer from a dead leg later in the season, when the games could get tighter and more likely to be decided by the kicking game. I'll repeat: get Lawrence on the field.

What do you think?

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