For the second time in the past four years Texas has failed to put a draft prospect into the first round of the NFL draft. The other time this occurred was in 2008. In 2008 such present NFL standouts Jamaal Charles and Jermichael Finley were selected in round three. If NFL teams could have a do over on that draft there is no doubt those former Longhorns would have made it to round two.
This year was different. Texas fans, NFL scouts, and general managers knew UT did not have a sure fire first round pick. We had guys that impressed during and after the college football season. One young man in particular, Sam Acho, was very impressive both during the season and in post season activities. Acho blew scouts, coaches, and analysts away with his performance against some of the top college competition in the country during the Senior Bowl. He registered only three tackles, but those three tackles resulted in two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. Acho was even named the South teams’ “Most outstanding player”. This acknowledgment was given to Acho over NFL draft standouts Von Miller, Brooks Reed, and Phil Taylor. Even after this performance NFL mock drafters and the “talking heads” of sports shows and radio broadcasts knew Acho would not get picked earlier than round three. Another Texas player that had a very impressive college career, Aaron Williams, was passed up by every team one time through and eventually landed with the Buffalo Bills at the top of round two. Williams decided to forgo his senior season and as a junior was still placed on the Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top defensive player and Thorpe Award, awarded to the nation’s top defensive back, watch list. This year Texas has only one player that has a legitimate shot at going in the first round and that is defensive tackle, Kheeston Randall.
So what’s the deal? Has Texas lost the ability to recruit? Are Texas fans no longer going to see the shock and awe of a Vince Young or an Earl Thomas, or the sheer dominance of a Brian Orakpo? After watching the Texas spring practice game I can assure you Texas will have plenty of the shock and awe factor this fall on the defensive side. This season’s young Texas defense is full of shock and awe. Our young defensive ends Reggie Wilson, Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor were an absolute nightmare for the UT offensive line during the spring scrimmage. The trio was constantly in the backfield busting up running plays well before the running back could decide on a new running lane because the first one disappeared the second the ball was snapped. Calvin Howell, who disappointed last year was very impressive. If his presence can be felt throughout the Big 12 the way it was felt during the spring scrimmage the Randall-Howell combination should be one of the best in the Big 12. The most impressive player during the Spring Game was newcomer Quandre Diggs. The four star recruit from Angleton High School put on a spectacular performance. He nearly intercepted a Garrett Gilbert pass in the end zone than later delivered one of the bigger hits of the day breaking up a reception by Darius White. Diggs could potentially be the next shut down Texas corner, following in the footsteps of Aaron Williams, Aaron Ross and Quentin Jammer. Safeties Kenny Vaccaro, Christian Scott and Blake Gideon will be fun to watch this year. All three are good in coverage and all three can “bring the wood” when it comes to delivering the big hit. I think it’s time to forgive Gideon for his dropped interception against Texas Tech two years ago. My hats off to Manny Diaz
Offense was a bit of a different story. There was very little shock and almost no awe. The offensive line struggled to keep our defensive linemen out of the backfield. Gilbert is starting the season the same way that he ended the last. Remnants of Greg Davis’s play calling remained with a couple failed wide receiver screens. There was very little to be excited about. Case McCoy was the best Quarterback on the field eventhough he looked more like he was running a pick up game than a ESPN televised spring game. Mike Davis can still stretch a defense and Darius White should the ability to make some big plays. The biggest problem with the offense was the offensive line. It appears a switch to a run first offense is going to be a difficult task for a group that has been trained for years to be pass blockers. The interior of the line led by Trey Hopkins, David Snow and Mason Walters opened up some nice running lanes but their backups struggled mightily to get any push. Hopefully our starters can stay healthy for the entire season. The two bookends that started the game with the first team offense, Tray Allen and Mark Buchanan, were beaten like bad dogs play after play. They had a very long day trying to keep Wilson, Jeffcoat and Okafor out of the backfield. The most surprising player I saw on the offensive side was Jamison Berryhill. Surprising, I know. Berryhill was a sledge hammer in the running game. He registered at least two pancakes in his limited field action and also reeled in two receptions. With a move to a more run oriented offense Jamison should prove to be a very quality lead blocker.
I still have faith. I have faith that last year’s 5-7 season was an apparition. Manny Diaz is young and has limited experience but his Mississippi State Bulldogs defense ranked 3rdin the SEC last year and held National Champion Auburn’s offense to a season low 17 points. During Diaz’s time at Middle Tennessee State the Blue Raider’s defense ranked second nationally with 8.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Bryan Harsin, on the other hand, is younger than Diaz by two years but has ten years experience under his belt. During his tenure at Boise State the Broncos offense ranked 2nd, 4th, 12th, 1stand 2ndin points per game. Harsin specializes in getting defenses out of position to result in the big play. Harsin did a great job turning the 6 foot, 186 pound Kellen Moore into a Heisman candidate quarterback. I have to believe he can do the same for the more highly acclaimed high school quarterback that he has in Garrett Gilbert. Given a bit more time to polish their offensive line, the luster of the Texas recruiting class will surely shine again.