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The Deep Dig: Longhorns Offensive Line

Digging deep on NFL and Longhorn football subjects
Alex Dunlap, 9:08pm, Wed. May. 22, 2013

Now Is the Time for David Ash

When Colt McCoy was entering his third season as Longhorns QB in 2008, he had a vice­-grip hold on the Texas locker room. The 2013 Texas team needs current third-year QB David Ash to take a page out of that book.

I'll give you an example.

I'll always remember a players-­only practice that occurred in the UT practice bubble during the Summer of 2008. No coaches, no equipment guys, just players. Basically, every opportunity possible existed for jack­assery and wasted time.

I got invited by a trainer at this gym my radio co­-host used to sell toilet paper to. My co­-host, Byron and I stood there in disbelief at the sheer organization of things.

McCoy would have players move benches to clear space for routes, or set cones up for future drills—even while working another group on the opposite side of the field. He would bark orders and everyone listened.

Byron said "It's like me yelling at my German Shepherds."

I told him his German Shepherds don't listen that well.

A Copy of a Copy of a Copy

Did you ever see Multiplicity? If you did, you'll recall that when Doug clones himself, the first clone—Number 2—was awesome. He called himself "Steve" and fixed things around the house.

When Number 2 cloned himself, though, they ended up with Number 4, a Doug with the mind of a four-­year old that basically just talked about pizza and made a mess.

The movie points out that since Number 4 was the clone of a clone, it was like an old cassette tape—the copy of the original is usually OK, but once you start making copies of copies, things get less sharp.

I'm not calling David Ash the "Number 4" in this scenario, but I'm certainly calling Vince Young the "Doug." The original.

We've seen the type of leader that is capable of taking over a team in Mack Brown's culture. McCoy learned directly underneath Young what it takes to steer the ship at Texas.

David Ash just has copies of copies to go on.

The Creative Process

Tool had an interesting creative process. Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer and frontman, would not be present or give input during the initial writing phase of a record.

The drummer and guitarist didn't want him around.

It's like the lead singer from the Killers. The band hits it big in Las Vegas, then he moves out to L.A. and has the band send demos. He puts scratch vocals on them while he works on other solo projects.

It must be nice as a songwriter. Just having everything there in front of you—not having to go through the growing pains each song experiences, or the long nights, or the fights about music that only musicians could understand.

Just getting the song and singing something on it.

That's where we are with this Texas offensive line. No more growing pains or long nights. It's time to put vocals on this thing and ship it to the A&R man.

We know exactly what we have in this group as all five starters return. It's all right there in front of us.

Well, except for maybe one wild card.

So the question is, what kind of song are we singing here?

The Texas Offensive Line and 25 Hours I'll Never Get Back

I charted and graded every snap every Texas offensive lineman took for four separate 2012 games. Three conference games in Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Iowa State as well as the Alamo Bowl vs Oregon State.

The first thing that must be noted is that Texas needs better play out of its offensive line in 2013. What else is new, right?

Sure, certain deficiencies are apparent without deep analysis, but in looking back closely, there are specific issues that crop up over and over again. There are areas for opportunity that line coach Stacy Searels is most certainly aware of.

The Deep Dig

LT Donald Hawkins (Senior, No. 51)

vs. Oklahoma State Snaps: 63
Run-­Blocking Grade: 67.2 D+ | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 72.6 C-­
3 QB hurries allowed, 1 QB hit allowed, 1.5 sacks allowed , 1 TFL allowed

vs. Texas Tech Snaps: 54
Run-­Blocking Grade: 73.2 C-­ | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 72 C­-
1 QB hurry allowed

vs. Iowa State Snaps: 74
Run-­Blocking Grade: 76 C+ | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 72.8 C-­
1 QB hurry allowed

vs. Oregon State Snaps: 62
Run­-Blocking Grade: 76 C+ | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 76.4 C+
1 QB hurry allowed, 2 QB hits allowed

LG Trey Hopkins (Senior, No. 75)

vs. Oklahoma State Snaps: 79
Run­-Blocking Grade: 81.8 B­- | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 70.6 C-­
1.5 sacks allowed

vs. Texas Tech Snaps: 54
Run­-Blocking Grade: 77.4 C+ | Pass-­Blocking Grade: 68 D+
1 QB hurry allowed, 1 QB hit allowed

vs. Iowa State Snaps: 74
Run­-Blocking Grade: 75.4 C | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 74.4 C
1 QB hit allowed, 1 TFL allowed

vs. Oregon State­ DNP

Hopkins was replaced by Luke Poehlmann (graduated) and sophomore Sedrick Flowers (No. 66). Flowers graded out with a 67.4 run­-blocking grade, and a 76.4 pass­-blocking grade, allowing one QB hurry and one tackle for a loss through 23 offensive snaps.

C Dominic Espinoza (Junior, No. 55)

vs. Oklahoma State Snaps: 79
Run-­Blocking Grade: 75.8 C | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 71.4 C-­
1 QB hit allowed, 1 total sack allowed (two assisted)

vs. Texas Tech Snaps: 54
Run-­Blocking Grade: 76 C+ | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 74.4 C
2 QB hurries allowed

vs. Iowa State Snaps: 76
Run­-Blocking Grade: 77 C+ | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 75 C
1 TFL allowed

vs. Oregon State Snaps: 62
Run­-Blocking Grade: 70.4 C­- | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 75.1 C
1 QB hit allowed, 2 TFL allowed

RG Mason Walters (Senior, No. 72)

vs. Oklahoma State Snaps: 79
Run-­Blocking Grade: 71.6 C­- | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 74.4 C
No hurries, hits, sacks or TFL allowed.

vs. Texas Tech Snaps: 54
Run­-Blocking Grade: 73.4 C-­ | Pass-­Blocking Grade: 68 D+
2 QB hurries allowed, 1 QB hit allowed, 1 TFL allowed

vs. Iowa State Snaps: 61
Run­-Blocking Grade: 83.4 B | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 73.6 C­-
1 QB hurry allowed

vs. Oregon State Snaps: 56
Run­-Blocking Grade: 78.2 C+ | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 76.6 C+
No hurries, hits, sacks or TFL allowed.

RT Josh Cochran (Junior, No. 78)

vs. Oklahoma State Snaps: 63 (at right tackle)
Run-­Blocking Grade: 71.6 C­- | Pass-­Blocking Grade: 74.4 C
2 QB hurries allowed, 2 QB hits allowed

vs. Texas Tech Snaps: 54
Run­-Blocking Grade: 73.6 C­ | Pass-­Blocking Grade: 67 D+
2 QB hurries allowed, 2 QB hits allowed, 2 TFL allowed

vs. Iowa State Snaps: 74
Run­-Blocking Grade: 76.6 C+ | Pass­-Blocking Grade: 71.4 C­-
2 QB hurries allowed, 2 QB hits allowed

vs. Oregon State Snaps: 62
Run­-Blocking Grade: 76 C+ | Pass-­Blocking Grade: 72.6 C­-
1 QB hurry allowed

The Takeaways

-Texas runs an offense that is clearly trying to develop a philosophy that is based in an attacking, downhill mindset. The problem is, a salty run game is a culture thing, not a scheme thing. It doesn't change overnight, even if the scheme does.

Donald Hawkins got better through the season, and by the time the Alamo Bowl came around, he was identifying things much quicker in pass protection and looking functionally balanced on the edge, save a few mental mistakes. Hawkins was much better at reach-­blocks on two­-man inside zone assignments versus a strong­-side five technique than Josh Cochran. Hawkins was also more adept than Cochran at getting to the second level and engaging linebackers when uncovered on the weak side.

In watching back the Alamo Bowl, look for the downfield block that sprung Marquise Goodwin on the big reverse touchdown as evidence. For these reasons, it is easy to make an argument that Hawkins' best fit may be at guard.

-Trey Hopkins looks the part of a Big 12 offensive guard. He anchors well enough to generate explosive power without getting overextended. Hopkins is a phone-­booth player who is at his best with a three-­technique on his outside eye, or head­-up on a two­-technique. The Texas blocking scheme calls for numerous pulls from the left guard, and that is an issue for Hopkins. He wastes far too much motion pulling out of his stance before taking his lateral power step. This issue persisted over the course of the season.

Furthermore, Hopkins struggles when engaging defenders in the open field, anyway. Some of the "bad" points he racked up for pass blocking might be misleading, because they actually had to do with sloppy efforts downfield in the screen game. Lord knows Texas runs a lot of screens.

Dominic Espinoza plays consistently smart football. It's obvious that he has the calls down and he plays with the most consistent motor of any starting offensive lineman that took the field for the Longhorns in 2012.

Unlike Hopkins, Espinoza hugs the line of scrimmage before turning up into zone lanes on pull­-blocks, and usually ends up engaging and driving. Espinoza is clearly not as physically imposing as the others, though, and when "firing out" at players, he gets bowed-­up and gives up his natural pad-­level advantage.

Espinoza is listed around the same size as Trey Hopkins—both right at 6'4", 300 pounds—but Hopkins plays bigger. Versus Iowa State, Espinoza made three truly game-­changing open­-field blocks that sprung explosive plays. But like most other games, he scored badly by allowing far too much penetration when forced to go head­-to­-head.

-­Mason Walters plays soft at times, so let's get that bit of bad "news you already knew" out of the way. He gets gassed during games and has shown a tendency to leave his partner hanging out to dry on two-­man assignments. With all of this said, Walters is not all "soft." He has a mean streak, and the Texas football team needs him to wear it on his sleeve in 2013.

It is clear that for whatever reason, the Texas offensive line simply operates better with Walters playing at a high level. In watching back the Iowa State game, you'll notice that Walters looks like a man possessed as a run-­blocker. His grade of 83.4 is just a few points down from the level you'll find elite guard prospects such as Arizona Cardinals rookie OG Jonathan Cooper or Lions rookie Larry Warford operating at consistently through their senior seasons in college. Texas had its second­-best Big 12 rushing output of the 2012 season versus Iowa State, and it started with Walters imposing his will.

-­Josh Cochran has a big, long body and quick, choppy feet. The bad news is, he doesn't have natural feet. His kick slide in pass protection is too frantic and he resets too often. This leaves his body mass in jeopardy of getting stabbed with a bull rush and not being in position to brace for it.

Cochran barely ever gets beaten around the edge, but it would be a task in itself to count the times David Ash had the numbers on the back of Cochran's jersey flying into his face on passing downs in 2012 from opposing bull rushes.

The Desmond Harrison Wild Card

Now there's this guy. Desmond Harrison. A sophomore JUCO transfer who analysts are already saying may be a future NFL player. Harrison is 6'8", 315 pounds and his coach at Contra Costa College said he runs like a defensive back.

The Contra Costa College Comets

Say that three times really fast. Jeez. And let's keep things in perspective here.

If you watch the 2012 highlight videos posted by Comets fans online, you'll notice three things immediately:

1. The Comets have fans who like bad rap music.
2. The Comets have very few fans.
3. The Comets do not play football at a high level and neither do their opponents.

The praises that have been heaped on Harrison seem deserving enough, though. Orangebloods.com reported that Harrison has been told by the Texas staff he will have an opportunity to compete for the starting left tackle position in 2013.

Harrison played right tackle in junior college, mostly out of a two-­point stance. He is quick off the ball and gets downfield with urgency. It is easy to see why the Texas staff would believe him tailor-­fit for the scheme they are trying to run. He looks bigger, faster and more athletic than his competition at all times.

Harrison does not come in as a finished product by any means, however.

You can see here and here that Harrison (RT No. 68) exhibits signs of struggling against an outside speed rush. What’s more, these two occurrences both happen during the same team highlight reel of only 12-­15 snaps.

Weren't we just saying something about no more growing pains?

The SeAdderall Seahawks

Another day, another Seahawk popping the little blue brain pills. (Or the pink pills if pass-rush specialist Bruce Irvin just so happens to take the 20mg variety.)

Today I Learned...

Steelers LB James Harrison was wearing a kevlar­-lined helmet when he rocked Colt McCoy in 2011, basically derailing McCoy's NFL career.

It brings up an interesting question—Did the kevlar protection Harrison had on possibly make the hit worse?

It's not a "level playing field" when only some people are wearing armor. If the technology exists and has been proven effective, the league should make every player use it.

The Texans Running Backs

The Texans brought a whole grip of undrafted running back talent to rookie mini-­camp in hopes of culling the field down to 2 or ­3 viable candidates for spot duty in 2013, and hopefully eventual transition into the role that Ben Tate is likely to be vacating after the 2013 season.

The first cut was George Winn of Cincinnati, who I was a bit surprised to see waived, and even more surprised to see clear waivers. Winn was buried on the depth chart behind Big East OPOY and current St. Louis Ram Isaiah Pead all through college until 2012, but showed a cut-and-­go style in his senior season that seemed perfect for Gary Kubiak's system.

It seems the Texans and OC Rick Dennison are favoring Dennis Johnson and Cierre Wood, who were both working quite a bit in kick-return drills as well during mini­camp.

Bienvidos a Miami

The new Dolphins logo and uniform may have drawn some initial criticism when unveiled, but first­round draft pick Dion Jordan sure does look slick in the new threads.

Go Now in Peace

Your thought for the week ahead comes from Mike Tyson.

“In order to be able to succeed greatly, you have to be prepared to fail greatly.”

As Tyson explained to Esquire in February:

TYSON: We got bomb threats when we did the show in New York. And then somebody tweeted and said they were gonna do to us like they did in Colorado. Just come in during my show and kill everyone.

ESQUIRE : That’s scary.

TYSON: You know what I was taught as a young kid? In order to succeed greatly, you have to be prepared to fail greatly. If you can’t do both of them, you’ve got a problem.

ESQUIRE: Yeah, but there’s a difference between failing greatly and having a guy come into a theater with a semi­automatic rifle.

TYSON: No it’s not. No it’s not. Not in the world of art it’s not.

ESQUIRE: I’m pretty sure you’re wrong.

TYSON: You stand your ground and you perform your art. That’s what the artist does. The artist is about perfection. You’re going to let this break your concentration?

ESQUIRE: Gunfire? Yes, actually, I am.

TYSON: Well that’s when we see what kind of a professional you truly are.


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