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Halfway Point - 2012 vs. 2011 team

  • Seems like it's time to compare where we may be trending vs. where we've just come from.

    2011 team was headed for a 10-2 season until a rash of injuries hit us at RB.
    This further exposed our weakness at QB and lead to the 7-5 finish, pre-bowl.

    That's our reference point.

    OFFENSE:
    Pos - '12 vs. '11 Comparison - VERDICT - Comment

    QB - '12 Ash vs. '11 Gilbert/Ash/McCoy - SOME IMPROVEMENT
    - Natural maturation + Ash w/ full off-season of #1 QB reps. Still very young.

    RB - '12 JB/MB/DJ/JG vs. JB/MB/DJ/FW - GOOD IMPROVEMENT
    - JB and MB are stronger. DJ... no change. JG > FW. "GOOD" due to improved health.

    C - '12 Walter/Espinosa vs. '11 Espinosa - SOME IMPROVEMENT
    - Espinosa slightly better, simply by experience, but still weak head up. Walters is in if DE doesn't improve. Porter still not ready.

    G - '12 Walter/Hopkins/Flowers vs. '11 Walters/Snow - GOOD IMPROVEMENT
    Walters continues to stregthen. Flowers > Snow last year until concussion. Hopkins is at his best position. Riser could help.

    T - '12 Hawkins/Cochran/Kelley vs. '11 Hopkins/Cochran/Kelley - SOME IMPROVEMENT
    Potential for good improvement is there, but not until Hawkins stabilizes. Fingers are crossed. Hughes could add depth.

    TE - '12 Grant/Tarrell/Mathews/McFarland vs. '11 Irby/Grant/Mathews/Poehlman - SOME IMPROVEMENT
    We had trouble catching and blocking. In '12, we'll at least catch well.

    WR - '12 JS/MD/MG/JH/DH/CJ vs. '11 JS/MD/MG/JH/DH/DW - SOME IMPROVEMENT
    - Davis had slump, Shiplye/Harris injured, Hales no-showed, White was terrible. Davis/Shipley are back strong, Harris will be back, Hales is promising (again), C. Jones could help right away.

    FB - '12 Roberson vs. '11 Johnson - DECLINE
    - CJ was NFL terrific. Roberson may be adequate. We will likely put Mathews into FB role for blocking.

    OVERALL OFFENSE:
    DECLINE - 1 position (FB)
    SOME IMPROVEMENT - 2 positions (QB, C, TE, WR, T)
    GOOD IMPROVEMENT - 3 positions (G, RB)

    Overall, Offense has some or good improvement at 11 of 12 positions. Other than FB, progress is showing everywhere. Across-the-board improvement like that will have additional synergistic effects resulting in GOOD IMPROVEMENT overall.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    DEFENSE:
    Pos - '12 vs. '11 Comparison - VERDICT - Comment

    DT - '12 AD/DJ/CW/BM/MB vs '11 KR/AD/CH/CW/DJ - SOME IMPROVEMENT
    - we were good in '11, and we'll be very good in '12. If BM can get in shape well enough to last a whole series, we could be great.

    DE - '12 AO/JJ/RW/CR vs '11 AO/JJ/RW/CR - SOME IMPROVEMENT
    - we were good in '11, we'll be very good in '12 through maturation of all players. A Ridgeway and T. Davis can give more depth.

    MLB - '12 Edmond vs. '11 Robinson - GOOD IMPROVEMENT
    - Robinson struggled to get off blocks much of '11. No interceptions. Edmond is a beast, and can also drop back well. He'll dominate.

    OLB - '12 Hicks/Cobbs vs. '11 Acho/Hicks - STATUS QUO
    - Losing Acho is big. Hicks looking great. Cobbs return is questionable. Depth not good. Hicks improvement is a wash with other concerns.

    S - '12 Vacarro/Phillips vs. '11 Gideon/Vacarro - GOOD IMPROVEMENT
    - I know BG was smart, but athletic limitations really showed. Phillips is smart enough and much more athletic. Vacarro will dominate.

    CB - '12 Byndom/Diggs vs. '11 Byndom/Diggs - SOME IMPROVEMENT
    - They're already terrrific. Natural progression and experience makes them even better. Young Orlando Thomas, plus JT and LS give depth.

    OVERALL DEFENSE:
    DECLINE - 0
    STATUS QUO - 2 positions (OLB)
    SOME IMPROVEMENT - 6 positions (DT, DE, CB)
    GOOD IMPROVEMENT - 3 positions (MLB, S)

    Overall, Defense has 9 of 11 positions showing "some" to "good" improvement on a defense that was already exceptional. We could be scary good in '12.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    OVERALL TEAM:

    So, if '11 was an 8-5 season with 2 losses solely due to injury rash at RB, I see us IMPROVING by 4 games.

    Big wildcard still unanswered is Kicking game. Very probable DECLINE there, costing us at least one game.

    Your thoughts?

    This post has been edited 4 times, most recently by jjloehr 2 years ago

  • Nice write up... Imo, the T position most likely will see 'some improvement'... Cochran will be better, and Hawkins will at least be as good as Hopkins... Most likely better...

    I also think LB core could be 'status quo' or even slight decline if Cobbs doesn't come back...

  • There is no game on the 2012 schedule that is a sure loss and the Horns can certainly win all of them.

    I think there will be a possible upset loss, but still a conference championship season for the Horns and a BCS bowl.

    The defense and running game will be sick in 2012.

  • I absolutely agree that Cochran will be somewhat better, although now at the RT position. I think he is slightly better than Hopkins was. However, it is not clear to me that Hawkins at LT, in his present inconsistent form, will be better than Cochran. And at LT, to be inconsistent is fatal. So, until that settles out, I think it's a wash.

    I do have high hopes that the summer will do Hawkins some good and lead to the consistency required at LT. Until then, "status quo".

    At LB, I think we'll go to a 4-2-5 if we cannot find a good OLB to replace Cobbs, should he not return. Additionally, it's not that T. Jackson is bad. He just hasn't yet jumped out at anybody yet. It is his first spring as starter, so he gets some time to find his old "high school" form. With Edmond and Hicks looking so strong, if Jackson just holds his own, we'll be better than '11. We really only had 1 linebacker playing really well most games in '11. Towards the end of the season, we would have 2 LB's play well. In '12, we are going to start out with 2 LB's playing well, and hence the "some improvement".

    good discussion.

    This post was edited by jjloehr 2 years ago

  • True there is no "sure" loss.

    That said, if our kicking game is erratic, or very inexperienced, it is very likely that will bite us at least once sometime in the season during a close game.

    Additionally, Ash is still young. He's only going to have one full spring at starting QB rep level. He does not yet know his limits. He will have an off day or two. If he does that against a team with a good run defense, we will be challenged.

    I think 1 loss for sure, and probably 2. We could still win the B12 with that, and possibly a BCS bowl.

  • Definitely not a sure loss but there are plenty of tough games that aren't close to sure wins either.

    Lead Writer Hookem.com___EMAIL:atrubow@statesman.com___TWITTER: http://twitter.com/#!/aTrubow

  • To name a few:

    WVU
    OU
    KState
    TCU

    Any one of those teams could keep it close. Whichever have a good front 7 have the best chance.

  • I agree with most of your analysis with one exception - the OT spots. While Cochran improved dramatically from the OSU game to the bowl game; we started with Tray Allen at LT which wasn't good. Hawkins is an upgrade over the Cochran/Allen combo. A stronger, more experienced Cochran is a big upgrade over Hopkins who was playing out of position.

  • Not sure about DT. I think everyone will improve and Tank is making a lot of noise, but Kheeston was a player. I am not sure there is anyone that can consistantly produce like he could. He wasn't flashy, but he will be missed. Overall there is more talent there and the position will "flash" more, but with youth you tend to get mixed results. I hope you are right, but I have to say it will be flat. LB is another. Replacing 2 guys that are going to the NFL, very hard to predict higher performance. The potential at both spots is higher this year, but so is the volatility

  • AllenHorn,

    True points you've made for sure.

    I am using the '11 team as a reference point, and considering their whole year. I want to bump the OT up as you've said too, but Hawkins is not quite ready. He was splitting time with Kelley in the last practice. That is a sign that Searles doesn't trust him yet, so neither do I. An inconsistent Hawkins plus Cochran will be no better than what we had with Hopkins/Cochran/Allen. Allen played very little at OT btw after game 4.

    I need to hear Hawkins has won the job and isn't getting lots of hats thrown at him before we claim improvement... He is at LT, and that can be disastrous if our LT isn't consistent.

  • You could be right about DT being flat. I like the depth there better than '11. I'm trusting Dorsey to be pretty good... about even with KR. I may be overplaying that...

    At MLB, I stand with my assessent. I watched this position most of the time in '11, and it was very painful. Acho was quite good and scrappy and deserves his reputation. Robinson, on the other hand, although "great on the hoof", did not help us much at all until the end of the season. He killed us vs OU and OSU. He's a great guy, and seemed to turn a corner the last 3 or 4 games of the season, and looked great vs. Cal. The truth is Keenan was out of position... he is an outside linebacker, not MLB. He'll be outside in the NFL too. It will not be hard to improve on KR's game vs. the run. Edmond is on an entire different level than Robinson vs. run, and appears to be good vs. pass enough for Diaz to leave him in on nickel.

    Mark my words: MLB will be a dominant strength of ours this season. Teams will try to avoid Edmond.

    At OLB, Hicks is back, and reports have him significantly stepping up his game, so we only need Cobbs or Jackson to play as well as Hicks did in '11, and let Hicks fill in Acho's role. I think they are able to do that, as Hicks was slightly disappointing in '11. I'm betting on it, but you could be right about OLB.

    This post was edited by jjloehr 2 years ago

  • Don't see a young MLB being dominant in this league. Just me though.

  • Kheeston is most certainly replaceable with an upgrade at the overall position a definite possibility. Basically, you're trading Kheeston and Howell with Moore and Whaley (was Whaley a DT at the halfway point of spring ball last year? if so, don't think much was expected). Tank and Dorsey are both a year older. And M. Brown may be the best of the bunch. I'd say an upgrade at the position is likely.

    I agree with you on LB. While my expectations for Edmond and Cobbs are very high, they are replacing very productive multi year starters. Until I see the production consistently in real games, I'll hold off on calling it an upgrade.

  • Last year at this point, it was GG at QB, not Ash/McCoy.

  • I agree about MLB. Edmond is a natural there. If we were in the SEC, I would agree with you completely. The issue is how the new guys perform vs the spread offense. You do not notice your LBs in coverage until there are 5-6 slants in a row going for 8-10 yds. Cobbs and Hicks certainly have the ability to excel in that regard, due to their athleticism. Cobbs needs to stay healthy. I think there is a legitimate concern about Edmond being able to stay out of the field vs teams like OU and Tech. I think our base defense has a chance to be much better, but I have concerns about how the new guys will perform in the 4-2-5 look. Potential is certainly there, but to be better, but I a would temper those expectations. There could be a few lessons along the way.

  • I would evaluate a bunch of positions differently, for a couple of reasons.

    1) The value of experience. We had true Freshman starters at a bunch of positions, and many of them without Spring reps or even Summer reps. Ash didn't even have the lion's share of August two-a-day reps.

    For those reasons, these players will be hugely improved: Ash, Cochran, Shipley, Brown, Bergeron, and Diggs. Some players will be somewhat improved, because they are returning starters rather than first time starters. There are a bunch of these.

    So I would call the improvements on the offense incalculable. Quarterback will be hugely improved, Good improvement on your scale. Same goes for wide receiver, tackle, and center.

    2) A player's fit for the schemes that we're playing against. Edmond is a very good player. But he's a first year starter, and a big middle linebacker in a league that is full of passing teams. I find it hard to believe that we'll be better at linebacker this year. I think we'll slip a bunch at two spots and see some improvement with the third. We undersold Robinson all year.

    In short, true Freshman Ash is not returning starter Ash.

    3) Scheme and conditioning. We're going to have a full year of conditioning under the new regime. We are also running known schemes, with a full season, bowl game, bowl practices, Spring practices, Summer seven on sevens, and two a days. That's a lot of practice reps, and a lot of time for the coaches to understand what we have and rework culture.

    4) The injury situation. It's tough to predict, but a bunch of it is from us being so young. The injuries that hurt us the worst were Shipley, Brown, Bergeron, Harris, and Whittaker. Four of the five were Freshmen. Three of those were true Freshmen.

    I would expect big time improvement at QB. We can't help but be better based on the number of snaps Ash has seen.

    I would expect big time improvement at OL (both inside and out) based on getting older and more experienced, and based on bringing in a Juco to fill our biggest need. That we believe Hawkins is a better player than Sophmore Cochran is great news. I think that means we'll be significantly improved at tackle. That also improves us inside as Hopkins is our best guard, allowing us to use him inside. Espinosa is the wild card, but he'll too be significantly improved with experience.

    I think we'll be much better at RB and WR based on health, experience, and a talent infusion. And tight end was a train wreck last year. Irby was basically a non-factor. We return everyone else, and add both Terrell and McFarland to the mix.

    Every single unit but fullback will be significantly better. Depending on how we deploy our running backs, that position could actually improve too.

  • Hawkins has all the physical tools by all accounts so I am really not concerned about him. I would be shocked if he didn't have some mental mistakes & issues gelling with the other OL given his lack of time in the program. The thing that would have concerned me is if we were hearing reports that he lacked the quickness or strength for the position and I haven't heard any of that. Also the reports of Cochran's battles with Okafor give me a great deal of confidence that he will develop into a RT capable of earning post season honors. This tackle duo is definitely better than what we trotted out in the first game last year and it's only going to get better.

  • find film on Edmond for his special team and/or backup action last year and watch 10 plays, then come back and tell me what you think.

    Better yet, make sure to watch the spring game, and then let me know your thoughts.

    The guy is a fast oak tree.

  • Correct. I'll adjust that. Although I'm really referencing the '11 season in it's entirety. Not trying to compare spring to spring. Trying to compare what it's looking like for us in Fall '12 versus what we had in Fall '11.

  • Good point for sure. So far, reports on Edmond's pass coverage have been very positive. I watched one open practice and I was surprised how fast he plays for his size. He has great anticipation and reaction time, combined with quick first steps. People are forgetting how much we were hurt in the middle of the season by KR's inability to play tough in the middle. Remember those 2 runs up our gut vs. OSU? Remember Whaley inside the LT for the TD vs. OU? Keenan played much better by the end of the year, and/or we weren't playing as good of running teams, so he ended on a very good note. He played great vs. Cal. But our "gut" was a weakness at very crucial moments last year. Additionally, I think folks are going to be surprised at Edmond's speed for both pass rushing pressure and pass coverage. I look forward to the spring game for some more obvious demonstration of this.

    I'm more worried about WLB. Not sure Cobb can play vs. the run, or if he'll even be back. Not sure Jackson can play vs. the pass.

    Reports on Hicks have been glowing so far, so based on that, I'm saying SLB gains and WLB concerns are a wash compared to last year.

  • Bat,

    First off, you make some of the best comments. Thanks for your time spent on it. Here's my best shot at some counters:

    Re #1: I agree with you, except for the "hugely" part. Agree in direction, but not scale. I could offer quite a few examples of "sophomore slumps" over the years, most recently, Mike Davis.

    But I do agree and did factor in game experience as a contributor to expecting improvement. Just not a quite the "huge" level as you might have.

    Re #2: I'll post some interesting stats from our 5 losses last year, but in short, we collapsed in our run defense in 3 of them. With Edmond, this will not happen. And I respectfully disagree strongly with you about underselling Robinson. He was truly bad the first 2/3's of the season. He was fast, but he could not get free of a one-on-one block. I watched this repeatedly in disbelief. I know he is a great athlete. I'll even grant that by the end of the year, after our fate was sealed, he turned a corner and began shucking blocks. But Edmond should have been in against the strong run teams much more than he was. Everytime Edmond did go in, he showed what I'm talking about. Do you recall his goalline stop vs. MU? I used to watch him on kickoffs as he was the wedgebuster. It was almost comical watching guys try to block him, at least when the cameras stayed on him long enough to see.

    Re Ash: I agree with your points again, just not the scale. He is still in his 2nd year. See Colt's 2nd year for reference.

    3) this is a great point, and effects the entire team. In fact, it is my highest hope that both Brandon Moore and D. Hawkins can benefit from the upcoming months of Wylie's tutelage.

    4) some of my improvement forecasts included returns from injury, as well as expectations of fewer injuries due to more conditioning and depth.

    Re "Big time improvement at OL": I think the interior will be excellent, but it was pretty good in '11. Espinosa, however, was exposed and exploited by the end of the year, and required constant guard help. I'm trusting Searles will fix this with Walters or Hopkins to C while Espinosa gets stronger and is ready by '13. As for the OT positions though, no way is it "big time improvement" so far. The spring practice reports consistently spoke of Hawkins being up and down. By the last practice, he was splitting reps with Kelley. That position is currently unsettled, and it is a technique problem, not conditioning. It will all depend on how fast Hawkins adjusts his technique. Time will tell.

    Re RB: I agreed with giving a "GOOD IMPROVEMENT"

    Re WR: outside of Shipley and Davis, no one has been consistent yet. Some due to injury, some due to track, some due to changing QB's too much. I agree there is room for much improvement, but I'm not yet convinced it is there. Practice reports of anyone besides Davis/Ship/Hales have been little to nil on the positive for other WR's. Let's wait and see if Ash's improvement plus better line play can lift the whole WR corp. I gave it a "SOME", but not quite ready to go more than that until I see it happen...

  • Hey guys,

    for all of you advocating for higher levels of improvement, please understand this:

    The total combined improvement described above is enough to lift a team from 8-5 to 10-2 or 11-1. I'm convinced of this. Just to be sure, I've reviewed the stats from our 5 losses. Look at these key numbers:

    Game | UT/Opp T/O's | INT's | Opp Rush | Opp Pass | Opp Ttl | Opp-UT
    OU:--------- 5/1 ------------ 2 ---------- 86 --------- 367 -------- 453 ------ 194
    OSU:------- 3/1 ------------ 2 --------- 202 -------- 218 -------- 420 ------- 50
    MU:--------- 2/1 ------------ 1 --------- 152 -------- 186 -------- 320 ------- 91
    KSU:------- 2/0 ------------ 2 ----------- 38 ---------- 83 -------- 186 ---- (-189)
    BU:--------- 6/1 ------------ 4 --------- 191 --------- 320 -------- 511 ----- (-45)
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Totals----- 18/4 ----------- 11 --Avg: 134 --------- 235 -------- 389 ------- 20

    Observations:
    * 18-4 turnover ratio against us in our 5 losses
    * turnovers lead to defensive fatigue, breakdowns, and allow offenses to figure out how to exploit them
    * just unbelievable that we lost to KSU after out-gaining them by 189 yds.
    * QB turnovers dominated: 11, plus some fumbles too, eg, Case fumbled 2x vs. OU
    * Our run defense was weak 3x (OSU, MU, BU)
    * OSU, a turning point for the season, we gave up 2 50+ yd runs off tackle
    * Our pass defense was weak 2x (OU, BU)

    Conclusions:
    1) If Ash does nothing but keep our turnover ratio at 1:1 or better, we win. This is what he did against Cal. It allowed our defense to feast.
    2) If we can close off runs in between tackles, we'll win 1 or 2 extra games.
    3) Our pass defense was exposed vs. top QB's. Our upgrade at Safety is crucial, in addition to stronger pass rush from DE, and other pressure. At the open practice, I watched Edmond blitz without being stoppable. This must continue to add the missing pressure from '11 vs. elite QB's. All too often we brought extra guys for pressure and got stymied. Cobbs, if healthy, could aid here as well.

    This post was edited by jjloehr 2 years ago

  • I agree. Tackle is the biggest up-grade on the team at this point. No other position close at this point. Long run; it may be Ash at QB, but the verdict is out there.

  • I just don't get all the excitement at Tackle right now. I know there was a lot when they first started in shorts, etc..., but by the last day of pads Searles was sending messages to Hawkins by having him split 1st team reps with Paden Kelley.

    Am I the only one who saw this???

    Searles is not yet confident in Hawkins, so I'm trying to figure out why so many of you are...

  • This is an excellent write up and a great topic of discussion. Thanks for taking the time to write this! Awesome tool for making comparisons.

  • a few things you left out
    1. the kicker (we all know that's a decline right now)
    2. RB Jeremy Hills who stepped in and did farely well for his situation

    I feel Joe B. is going to see the FB position on certain plays and even though CJ did great at FB I don't think they will need too much out at the position that JB won't give them. Also I think you were wrong at the OT grading, it should have been good instead of some improvement. All though Hawkins is the only difference from last year they feel he's good enough to play LT instead of RT and that moves Cochran to right and that moves Hopkins to his natural position Guard and that is why I feel the line is in better condition than last year.