- May 29, 2001
Remember that 7-3 prediction from a few weeks ago?
I want to take it back.
It's not that I'm 1,000-percent convinced that the Longhorns are about to roll through their schedule like a hot blade through a Franklin brisket. After all, I still have reservations about a Texas offensive line that didn't dominate a UTEP squad that was otherwise pretty freaking dominated. Same with the Texas pass rush. Or depth in a few key areas. Or Sam Ehlinger's ability to stay healthy.
All of those concerns are still concerns of varying degrees, but there's something I just can't quite escape as the Longhorns prepare for a trip to Lubbock later this week.
Honestly, the league has looked so bad in the first couple of weeks of the college football season that watching all of the games closely instead of potentially better football that would otherwise exist if a full schedule was being played has made me question my love of the sport.
It's a hell of a thing to crave something for nine-plus months and then when you get a taste of it, you find yourself wondering if the Sun Belt has any openings, but that's where we are. One week after Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas were so poor that Texas Tech got a pass for allowing Houston Baptist to push it to the limit, it was Oklahoma State doing almost all it could to create more embarrassment for the Big 12 post-season resume before realizing in the final 15 minutes against Tulsa that it's actually ok to score points.
It feels like we're reaching a point where real questions should be asked if the Longhorns don't go at least 9-1. With all due respect to West Virginia and Baylor, two schools that haven't thrown up on their new school clothes yet, it's hard to point to a team that one could say with a straight face should be within a couple of touchdowns of the Longhorns outside of that one team that has won five straight Big 12 titles.
Oh, the How-To-Beat-Oklahoma puzzle still needs to be pieced together, potentially a couple of times, but the expectations of this season have been raised when viewing the rest of the competition through the lens of early-season play.
Yes, teams around the Big 12 will play better and Texas will always catch its opponent's best shot, but my eyeballs right now are telling me that if Texas plays to the standards it can reach instead of playing down to the other team's mediocre standards, it should win nine out of 10 games this season. Period.
It's up Herman and his staff to make sure that happens.
No. 2 - Future offensive line outlook ...
There's been so much discussion about 2021 offensive line recruiting and the failures the Texas program has endured in that area in the last few months that what often gets lost is that there are very few players available in the class that you could feel confident projecting as impact pieces of a starting offensive line before the 2023 or 2024 seasons.
It's pretty simple when you consider that most offensive linemen, outside of the elite of the elite, usually take two or three seasons of development before being ready to perform at a high level. Whatever the 2021 and 2022 offensive lines might consist of, they'll likely consist of what's already on campus, barring a potential grad transfer or two (or four).
So, let's take a look at what's currently on campus when projecting ahead with the acknowledgement that junior Sam Cosmi, along with seniors Derek Kerstetter and Denzel Okafor, could return in 2021 because of the eligibility that will be available, but probably shouldn't be counted on.
Money in the Bank
Junior Angilau (Sophomore/Junior) - Although Angilau hasn't yet emerged as a true plus-starter for the Longhorns, he'll be a three-year starter entering his fourth next season, which is right about the time he should start to reach whatever heights he has in him as a player.
The Big Prospects
Christian Jones (Sophomore/Junior) - It's hard to make out what Jones is as a player going into his third season on campus. Is he a future NFL prospect that is right on schedule with his emergence as a starter? Is he just the best that's available right now? Is it somewhere in between?
Tyler Johnson (Freshman/Sophomore) - In terms of upside, there might not be a better pure prospect in the program than Johnson (at least in terms of recruiting ranking), who is entering his second season in the program. It's clear the light switch hasn't come on yet and he'll rank as a player the team will hope gets his fingers on it headed into next season. He's just not quite ready for prime time.
Isaiah Hookfin (Freshman/Sophomore) - If it was Hookfin entering his third season instead of Jones, it's likely that Hookfin would be starting at right tackle, which means the margins at right tackle are such right now that the likelihood of multiple possible scenarios going into next season exists. Can he push Jones this season? That's one of the unanswered questions about this entire unit.
Andrej Karic (Freshman/Sophomore) - The good news is that Karic is advanced enough at this stage of his development that he's already on the two-deep as a true freshman. The bad news is that Texas doesn't have remotely anyone that represents a better option at this stage, which speaks to the black hole that exists behind Cosmi and the importance of Karic. You can make a legit case that he's one of the three most important young players in the entire program. He better hit ... or else.
Jake Majors (Freshman/Sophomore) - Ready or not, it seems pretty clear that Majors will be counted on to replace Kerstetter as a starter in his second season on campus. It seems clear that Tom Herman really likes Majors and he might be a future star, but he'll be somewhat thrown into the fire whether he's truly ready or not.
Major Question marks
Willie Tyler (Sophomore-Junior) - Not only did he opt out of this season, but it's tough to say whether he'd even be on the two-deep if he hadn't. After he's been out of the football program for an entire year, it's hard to see how he arrives with any real momentum ... if he ever comes back.
Rafiti Ghirmai (Sophomore/Junior) - He doesn't seem to be regarded as a real prospect by those inside of the program, so it might be fair if the expectations of him be limited to being a really nice back-up. At this point, not even that much is proven.
Reese Moore (Sophomore/Junior) - Moore was a player that generated some excitement when he first entered the program, but it feels like it's been a while since anyone mentioned his name in the context of being any good. He's currently out with a knee injury and for a player making a monster leap from Seminole HS to big-time college football, I find myself wondering where he's headed.
Too early to put into a category
Logan Parr (Freshman/Sophomore) - A true freshman who will almost certainly need 2-3 years of development before being in a position to challenge for serious playing time, barring a supersonic explosion of early and unexpected development.
Jaylen Garth (Freshman/Sophomore) - See Parr.
It's so tough to make a hard projection with nine games to play in the 2020 season, but there are three big picture things that stand out to me when looking at what Tom Herman and Herb Hand will likely have to work with going into next season.
1. Angilau looks like the best player on the 2021 line at this point and he's still finding himself in 2020.
2. Texas needs a perfect game in terms of development with the players in the "prospect" category and all of those developments need to be fast-tracked.
3. Recruit as many grad transfers with starting experience as possible. JUCOs aren't likely the answer.
No. 3 - Piggy-backing on Anwar's Sunday Pulpit ...
One added element to the discussion of the likes of B.J. Foster, Josh Moore and a host of others receiving second chances without harsh strings attached to them from Tom Herman is that the Longhorns potentially come out of the situation with a host of players feeling like they owe their head coach a solid.
For example, let's take a look at Foster. Eight days ago, he committed one of football's unforgivable sins when he quit on his team in the middle of a 56-point win. It was the ultimate "ME!" move and in making such a short-sighted decision, he literally risked his entire future in the process. I'm trying to imagine what the conversation with Foster and his mom might have sounded like after the game last weekend and the number of times she might have called out his middle name in the middle of that conversation.
When he showed up the next day for weights trying to pull a Costanza, I can only imagine the butterflies that would have been rolling in his stomach knowing that the matter of abandonment would come up with the guy who decides his scholarship status later in the day.
Herman could have made it hard for Foster, but he's welcomed him in such a way that he's apparently going to travel with the team to Lubbock and potentially be a major component of what Texas wants to do defensively.
No harm, no foul, ultimately.
I have to guess that deep down Foster knows he was given a valuable mulligan. Instead of pouting this past week, my guess is that he was among Herman's best practice players all week. I'm guessing he cut zero corners. I'd bet it'll be like that way for the rest of the season because Foster is going to want to prove to Herman he didn't make a mistake in giving him a second chance.
Maybe the best thing that ever happened to Foster was him doing the dumbest thing he's ever done. Well, let's hope it's the dumbest thing he's ever done. Let's also hope it stays that way.
No. 4 - Four things I want to see in Lubbock ...
1. Air it out in the first half. Feel free to work on the running game with a four-touchdown lead in the third quarter, but don't be stubborn early on because this Tech pass defense is begging for Sam Ehlinger to establish some new Longhorns school records.
2. A couple of sacks for Joseph Ossai. This is a guy everyone wants to see have a monster season, so Saturday in Lubbock is as good of a time for a 2020 coming out party as any.
3. Scores in all three phases. It's a tall to task to ask for, but I feel like we'll know this team is truly top-10 good when we see a level of explosiveness and playmaking in all three phases of the game in a road game.
4. More Josh Thompson goodness. Proving that the opener wasn't a mirage of things to come will go a long way for this Texas defense.
No. 5 - A few thoughts on Longhorns playing in the NFL on Sunday ...
... DeShon Elliott is a better NFL player than he was a college player. I gotta be honest ... I wasn't sure he'd make it. Good for him.
... Charles Omenihu got himself a sack of Lamar Jackson, which is something he'll be able to tell his grandkids.
... We've reached a point with Malcolm Brown that rushing for 47 yards and averaging 4.3 yards per carry isn't a great game.
... Before this season is over, Devin Duvernay is going to make some critical plays for the Ravens.
... One week after recording 10 tackles in his NFL debut, Miami safety Brandon Jones recorded one in a 31-28 loss to the Bills. Welcome to the NFL, Brandon.
... Justin Tucker legit having a shot in Canton gives me the warm fuzzies. Can you imagine his Hall of Fame speech?
No. 6 - Breaking down the ongoing research ...
Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I've been in the middle of a historical recruiting deep dig (sorry, Alex!) in an effort to just see what kind of journey it takes us on. My goal? I suppose my intent in the beginning was to establish further clarity on the value of individual recruiting tiers among positions, but more than anything, I just want to see what we learn along the way.
I still have a few more positions to focus on inside of the state of Texas, but eventually I will expand this research to spotlighting what all of this data means on a national level (similar to what I did with the tight end position two weeks ago in this column).
In the meantime, here are the quick bullet points to take away from the early research.
* Elite quarterback prospects from the state of Texas produce at elite levels. Simple as that. Same with running backs and defensive tackles.
* Four-star tight ends from Texas pan out at higher than five-star rates.
* Nearly 40-percent of all four- and five-star defensive end prospects from 2002-2015 in the state of Texas were drafted by NFL teams. FORTY!
* Never worry about losing a four-star wide receiver from Texas ever again.
* The offensive line position in the state of Texas is a train-wreck. Outside of a freakish Texas A&M 2010 offensive line class, which featured three future first-round draft picks, only five of the state's top 35 (14.3 %) other top offensive linemen from 2002-2016 went on to become drafted players in the NFL. These numbers are woefully low compared to how the rest of the nation produces offensive linemen.
* Big-time running back prospects from the state of Texas hit at extremely high rates among the five-star and high four-star tiers and then the floor pretty much drops out from under it, which follows traditional national recruiting trends.
* Big-time linebackers prospects from the state of Texas are generally disasters. Only three of the top 18 rated linebackers in the history of the Rivals rankings (2002-16) from the state of Texas have been drafted by NFL teams: Sergio Kindle, Keenan Robinson and Malik Jefferson.
No. 7 – BUY or SELL …
(Sell) Players want to play. Coaches want to coach.Teams/coaches that start badly will attempt to “opt out” of this season to save face; many by having too many covid tracing issues.
(Sell) I don't think Tech players will give three seconds of thought about Crabtree's return to Lubbock. I love this Texas fan confidence.The whole Michael Crabtree induction thing actually works in our favor as it gives TT a reason not to Covid their way out of this game Saturday.
(Sell) They've earned a hell of a lot more benefit of the doubt. Texas doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath yet.Oklahoma's win last week should be taken with a grain of salt as much as our win over UTEP?
(Sell) Full stop.You’re getting tired of hearing the phrase “With that being said”
(Sell) Nothing about 2020 has been easy. Nothing. But, thanks for indicating that we apparently made it look somewhat easy.2020 has been the easiest year, from a workload standpoint [re: sports] for the staff as a whole (I.e. not having to cover spring training/game, official visits, zoom conference calls from home); yet it has been the hardest year due to stress, amplified anxiety and sensitivity from the general pop. over social, political, and health issues.
(Sell) Bijan in week three.Roschon is first RB over 100 yards in a game this season?
(Sell) It'll be close, but I'm going to say no.Texas will rush for over 200 yards against Sand Aggie this weekend?
(Sell) I think there's less than a 5-percent chance he comes back, barring something unforeseen.There is a better than 25% chance Sam comes back next year.
(Sell)Jordan Spieth is done competing for titles?
(Sell) I wouldn't have purchased concert tickets between 2010-19.You purchase Miley concert tix in 2021.
No. 8 - Scattershooting on the world of sports ...
... In my lifetime, I've seen the Dallas Cowboys lose 25 games like they found a way to win on Sunday and I have to say it feels good to be on the other side of a completely inexplicable outcome. Therefore, I'm not going to complain. I'm not going to bitch about anything that happened in that game. I'm just going to be thankful that the football gods smiled on the silver and blue on Sunday. Amen.
... I know how you feel, Falcons fans, believe me.
... Baltimore is already a much better football team than the Texans, so asking the team to overcome Bill O'Brien things along the way was just too much to ask.
... The Packers are definitely peaking in September.
... Is Kirk Cousins going to get Mike Zimmer fired? Maybe not, but he's going to get someone fired.
... On the other hand, Kyler Murray might get Kliff Kingsbury an extension ...
... Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the New York Jets.
... I feel like I must have made a deal with the devil as a Phillies fan back in 2008 because I've been through all of the emotions a fan can feel in the last 12 seasons. My fan soul is on life support.
... Seriously, a watered down college football schedule without all of the good teams sucks. I feel like the value of power five players has never been more evident. Forgive me if I need something more than Texas State or UTSA or Oklahoma State.
... I'd have given a nickel to be inside the mind of Dana Holgorsen's thoughts on Saturday night while D'Eriq King was doing the damn thing for the U.
... Congrats to Bryson DeChambeau, but I really just didn't find myself caring much about the US Open this weekend. I blame most of it on being able to watch the golf on Thursday or Friday without Peacock.
... Speaking of Peacock, I hate what NBC has gone with bumping so much of its Premier League content to streaming. It's bad enough that the stream is two minutes behind the action, but having to deal with connection issues at any point in a game is a nightmare.
... All of my other soccer thoughts in a single paragraph: Liverpool slightly embarrassing itself against Leeds in week one was absolutely the perfect recipe for a fantastic performance against Chelsea. It was good to see my team locked back in. I'm going to love Thiago. I already do. If I could poach any player from another Top 6 club, I'd seriously give some consideration to taking Son away from Spurs. I'm not saying he's the best player from the other Big Six teams, I'm just saying I think he'd fit perfectly into the Liverpool squad and I can't think of a better compliment to give him. He's dope. Who could have possibly known that James Rodriguez and Everton have been waiting on each other their entire lives? West Brom and Fulham are definitely going down. United needs to spend $100 million on Kalidou Koulibaly more than man City does. Brighton look feisty. I am very, very clad that Chelsea decided to punt on Tariq Kwame Nii-Lante Lamptey.
No. 9 - The List: Top 10 Texas Wide Receivers of All-Time ...
I'm not telling you that Jordan Shipley is the most talented wide receiver in the history of the Texas program. What I am telling you is that in the biggest game of his life and on the biggest possible stage a college football player can have, Shipley pistol-whipped an all-American corner like he said something bad about his momma on the playground ... all without his starting quarterback.
In the biggest games of his career, Shipley came up big. Always big. Nothing about his career is remembered because of the things he never did.
Honestly, it's a no-brainer for me.
10. MIke Adams
9. Wane McGarity
8. Cotton Speyrer
7. Kwame Cavil
6. Limas Sweed
5. Devin Duvernay
4. Johnny Lam Jones
3. Quan Cosby
2. Roy Williams
1. Jordan Shipley
p.s. - There are only three multi-season all-American wide receivers in school history: Shipley, Jones and Speyrer.
No.10 - And finally...
Next weekend will really feel like the return of college football. The month of September has felt like pre-season college football, which is a definite kissing cousin with the NFL pre-season.