Game Observations

McCoy running wild, a jumbo package that's exactly that (JUMBO), a proverbial return of David Thomas and more. Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger gives his observations from Texas' season-opening win over Florida Atlantic.

One of the biggest concerns heading into the 2008 season was whether or not the Longhorns were going to have enough explosive weapons on offense.

So much for that.

The Texas offense ran up and down the field on Florida Atlantic on Saturday thanks to big performances from players like running back Vondrell McGee and tight end Blaine Irby, but the biggest weapon turned out to be Colt McCoy.

McCoy picked apart the FAU defense through the air and did plenty on his own on the ground. If he plays the rest of the season like that, or heck, at least half as good as he did on Saturday, then the Horns will have little to worry about.

I said and wrote before the season that the hopes of the 2008 Texas Longhorns will be pinned on how well McCoy plays. After Saturday, hopes are high.

On to the observations...

Game Observations

-The first Longhorn to touch the ball this season was a true freshman. Justin Tucker lined up as the kick-off specialist...and immediately sliced the ball out of bounds. It was an inauspicious start to his Texas career, but he managed to straighten it out for the rest of his kicks and showed why he beat out Hunter Lawrence for kick-off duties, but Lawrence turned around and came out as the starting kicker for field goals and extra points. Ryan Bailey had a minor leg pull in the week leading up to the game and that contributed to him giving way to the junior from Boerne, but Lawrence looked solid. Kicking duties seem far from settled and each of the kickers seem fully capable.

-Texas gave the ball to McGee three times to start the game, twice on carries and once on a pass, before McCoy threw his first pass to a wide receiver, a flat-footed screen to Malcolm Williams, and the 6-3 Williams was able to easily make his way past the first defender on a 7-yard gain. Because of the difference in athleticism, those screens will work against FAU. OU? Not so much. I was a bit concerned about the offense when I saw Texas start out with that play, even though it was successful, but things started looking more promising in a hurry.

-One of those promising elements was the jumbo package, and I do mean jumbo. On the first drive, the Horns scored when Cody Johnson (255 pounds), ran in behind Roy Miller (295) at fullback, with Greg Smith (295) and Britt Mitchell (300) at tight end. When McCoy was hurt against Kansas State in 2006, it was on fourth down after the Horns were unable to gain a yard on three straight downs. That shouldn't be an issue this season.

-The McCoy-Chiles package is exciting as a concept, but on Saturday the offense was much more efficient when McCoy was in the game by himself. Perhaps Chiles needs to improve his route-running, perhaps he needs to be utilized differently, perhaps it's still a great formation that just didn't happen to work out in the few times we saw it against FAU, but it just wasn't as effective as hoped. It's still worth exploring, but it may not end up being a viable option, especially if McCoy continues to look solid running the Horns' traditional offense.

-Chris Ogbonnaya has gained some serious speed. The senior dropped 15 pounds in the offseason and looks more like an every down back than just the third down back many anticipated he would be. The best example was a 30-yard reception on a wheel route when he beat his man up the field and made a great diving grab. McGee is the starter and Ogbonnaya is best suited for the longer passing downs with his hands and great blitz pick-ups, but he also looks ready to play a bigger role.

-The safeties are young, they're hard-hitting, they often look confused, they're fast, they'll make some mistake and they'll make some big plays. A lot of good and a lot of bad from the DBs. The best example was when the young safeties gave up a 62-yard gain and two plays later Earl Thomas tipped a pass to Ryan Palmer for the pick. Thomas was also credited with the blocked punt, which was recovered by another young safety in Ben Wells. The consistency of the pass defense has to be a concern, but athleticism isn't.

-Texas needs to stop wasting its fakes. Impressive that senior wide receiver/holder Jordan Shipley could make the leaping first down that he did, but I was reminded of last season's game against Rice. The Horns attempted a fake punt where McCoy snuck onto the field with the punt team. Due to some confusion with the formation and the play clock running out, McCoy was forced to call for a timeout and Texas just went ahead and punted it. Texas head coach Mack Brown later commented, "It didn't work. Well, I guess we wasted that one." No. No, it wasn't that you wasted it because it didn't work. You wasted it because you used it against Rice. Even if the play had worked, what would it have accomplished? Another first down against an opponent you stomped 58-14? It was a brilliant play that was apparently never going to be used against the Horns' tougher competition. I like the Shipley fake. I worry that it won't be utilized when Texas needs it most.

-Didn't David Thomas already graduate? McCoy looked as comfortable throwing to sophomore tight end Blaine Irby on Saturday as Vince Young did throwing to Thomas. Irby led all Texas receivers with seven grabs for 62 yards and a touchdown. The tight end position may have suffered some serious attrition in the backups due to injury, but the starter is looking great. Not sure what the Longhorns will do if Irby ever gets hurt, but it looks like Texas has its tight end.

-On Saturday, quarterback John Chiles managed to quadruple his completion total from last season, completing four of five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. There was a lot of good and bad with his throwing. His one incompletion looked pretty bad and on a couple of his completions the receivers had to make adjustments. He had a great 29-yard touchdown pass to James Kirkendoll, but he also was hitting an open receiver with little pressure. I'm not sold on John Chiles as a quarterback...but I'm also not yet convinced he can't do it, given enough time. The Texas coaches may be having the same debate.


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