At Crump Stadium in Alief, Cotton and his Lion teammates began their season different than most others, without a scrimmage after having their lone scrimmage against Fort Bend Dulles cancelled last Friday due to a long-lasting lightening storm. As expected Alief Taylor came out of the gates sluggish, while still controlling the game against a Houston Bellaire team that features future D-I players in quarterback Adrian Nelson (6-4, 185, 4.65) and defensive end Joe Okafor (Oklahoma State commit).
Taylor got the ball to start the game and began a drive that would take 8:01 off the clock eventually leading to a 27-yard field goal after grinding to a halt inside the ten-yard line.
On Taylor's first defensive possession, Cotton lined up at the three technique. After Bellaire got a first down, the 6-3.5, 300-pounder made his first tackle of the season. On 3rd and three, the Cardinals attempted to run up the middle, but Cotton stood up the guard, tossed him aside and stuffed the Bellaire back for a yard loss forcing a punt.
Cotton followed with a quarterback hurry in the second quarter in what would be a quiet first half for the future Longhorn. In the first half, Cotton played 20 snaps, was double teamed on five of them and recorded one tackle and one quarterback hurry.
Taylor led 10-0 at the half behind a 37-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jordan Are' (6-1, 185) to junior receiver Devonta Felder (5-11, 180).
Cotton stormed out of the locker room a different player in the second half. After a first half in which Cotton wasn't firing off the ball or shooting the hands and playing with low pad level, he was the complete opposite from the first snap in the final 24 minutes.
The defensive tackle fired off the ball, packed a punch with the hands, played with lower pad level and ran to the football with more energy and determination. Cotton lined up over the football on several occasions in the third quarter and drove the center backwards and got push even against a combo block.
In the run game, Bellaire ran away from Cotton for the most part. Chasing the football outside the hash marks will not be Cotton's strength in college, as he will likely be looked upon to be an A-gap run stuffer.
Cotton made a pair of tackles on run plays is his direction in the third quarter, standing up the guard and pushing him aside with aggressive hands combined with a powerful lower body used to rock the guard back on his heels. Throw in a quarterback hurry and Cotton put together a solid quarter in which Taylor continued to dominate the Cardinals to the tune of 17-0.
In the third quarter, Cotton played 14 snaps, was doubled on four of them and tallied two tackles and quarterback hurry.
In the final stanza, Cotton recorded three more tackles as Taylor stayed in control winning 24-8.
The second half showed exactly why programs such as Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Texas A&M offered the 6-3.5, 300-pounder. He showed his first step ability, a good punch with the hands, the ability to play with low pads (still has to work on that), a very strong lower body (squats 515 pounds) and the ability to take on a combo block and hold his ground without being knocked off his feet much, if at all.
As is the case with many offensive and defensive linemen in Texas, they tend to play their way into game shape the first two weeks of the year and elevate their play the rest of the way. That will be the case with Cotton in 2009.