By way of promoting substantive football talk in hopes of avoiding the dreaded naming of fantasy uniforms (I favor circa 1961 NY Yankee pinstripes with the Roger Maris trimmed sleeves to show off Lionel Garr's sleek triceps) or all of us brainstorming to give Beau Trahan a nickname (I like Sirhan Sirhan Trahan cuz he's like an assassin and [censored]), I thought I'd throw out some Big 12 macro/micro trends which I anticipate for 2001:
League defense trends downward
Traditional defensive stalwarts like Nebraska, KSU, Texas and A&M will take slight dips from their historical levels (A&M plateauing on a discernible long term slide; NU in it's second year of recovery after losing the fantastic '99 defense; Texas probably breaking even to last year; KSU devastated by graduation). Nor will a scrub like OSU field a good D as they have in years past. Teams like ISU, Baylor, OSU and Mizzou will likely suck on defense while CU and Tech, though not horrific, will struggle mightily with top competition.
Big 12 Offenses Dominant
It won't be the league's top teams which will solely guarantee this trend. Texas should have a statistically excellent offense while NU and OU will have good to very good ones, but it will be lower to middle-tier teams like Colorado, Mizzou and Tech which guarantee that the scoring harvest will be bountiful conference wide. Mizzou & Colorado return their OL's largely intact with dangerous QB's and upgraded RB personnel. Kingsbury plays his second year in the spread with vastly upgraded WR talent and a healthy Ricky Williams. Even lowly OSU returns an intact OL and a fairly dangerous QB in Aso Pogi. Hell, even RC has a solid pass blocking OL and a QB who doesn't throw passes like a fag at a truck stop. Big 12 scrubs will be beaten 48-24 instead of 31-7.
We'll see the most prolific passing #'s the Big 12 has yet seen. Tech and Texas will go well over 3,000 passing yards while a half-dozen others break 2,000-2,500 yards. Look back at this league in '96 and you can't help but chuckle at the transformation.
Best Secondary = Best Teams
Given the Big 12's trend towards wide open passing offenses with a surfeit of experienced and competent QB's, it's not surprising to me that the three best teams in the league in 2001 are those which feature the three best secondaries: OU, Texas, and Nebraska. Interesting, no?
KSU takes a dip
I know this is hotly argued and I have profound confidence that Bill Snyder could coach a Brownie troop to a 6-5 record, but the losses are so wide and deep I can't imagine anything but 5-3 in the Big 12 for the Wildcats this year. The losses on defense simply stagger: standout cover corners Butler and Carter, who have started for KSU since the Spanish American War, are gone, and they lose 5 of their front 7 including All-Big 12 1st teamers Fatafehi and Chris Johnson. Imagine if, along with Hampton, Rogers and Greg Brown, we also lost Redding, Jammer, Babers, Rawls.....would we take a step down?
Offensively, their RB's are unremarkable, they lost Quincy Morgan, graduate their best O-Lineman and will start a very talented non-rocket scientist QB in Ell Roberson. Sorry, I just can't find the Top 10 team that the pollsters see.
A&M's offense will look like our '99 offense -- the one WITHOUT CAVIL
The three yards and a cloud of dust passing offense lives! Remember it guys? God, I get goose bumps thinking of Jeremy Jones as our deep threat. A&M has a solid QB in Farris, a very capable pass blocking OL and a competent bevy of RB's. But they completely lack quality WR's and TE's and have a slightly suspect running game. The result? A&M will bully sorry teams with a precision short passing game and look hapless against studs. Lucky for them they play few first rate defenses this year. And I'm sure the Wrecking Crew won't let them get outscored on the road against CU or Tech, right? Ummm, right guys?
Simms will shut everyone the [censored] up
Simms will have sickening numbers. Our offense will, at times, resemble an Atari game. Expect revisionist history from our Aggie/Sooner/Tech friends when the year ends along the lines of "Of course he had good NUMBERS, but you're team only went 11-2. He's simply not a winner. Look at Josh Heupel: he purposefully injured his bursa sac to make the defense play harder and bring the team together."
CU will be OK
Seriously. I even think they may make a minor bowl if they stay healthy. They'll have a solid running game with Houston and complement it with a good short passing game with Ochs. That miserable secondary will be better. This may be the year they finally beat NU, though I'm sure some act of God will prevent it.
The trends you have described, Scipio, would seem to work in UT's favor if the Horns' defense stays in the Top Ten venue.
That's an interesting report, and it's particularly enjoyable to read your projection of Simms' season. If that is correct (and I think it will be) -- and if UT can execute its offensive plays under pressure -- then it seems to me that a reasonably successful season for the Horns would almost be assured.
And there's the rub.
No one of us is just dying to have a "reasonably successful" season this Fall. We want something more substantive than that, in which case it appears from reading your analysis that in order to win the whole enchilada -- the Horns' defense is going to have to rise to the occasion against comparably talented (i.e., Top Ten) teams.
I hope we can do that, and wonder if the adjustments since Akina's arrival -- e.g., moving Lee Jackson -- will help in that regard. Also, is there any way an entering freshman (even as talented as Derrick Johnson) can help with the linebacking situation?
If we could close the gaps on defense to an extent that would make life more difficult for the OUs, Nebraskas and Oregons we may face in the coming season -- then I think, barring injury, the Horns could run the table.
And all I'm saying there is that under those circumstances it would be reasonably possible for the Horns to succeed at the top level -- we all know that for UT to get there, the football gods have to send more than a little good fortune our way.
Great post. I will believe CU when I see it. I hear what you are saying about their talent, and you have a point, but they have been a soft team for the past two years. When they stop being a soft team, I will be surprised, but until then I wont give them their due. JMHO.
1. Simms will have a good year but the Ags/Sooners/Techsters will say that
a. It was all because of Roy Williams and BJ Johnson.
b. If Major had started he would have doubled Simms numbers and ran for an additional 500 yards.
2. Given the loss of Hampton and Rogers, the ability for teams late in the year to kick our ass with misdirection plays, the fact that it appears we are retaining (for now) the same LB core and the ungodly amount of talent we have available to cycle into the defensive backfield, do you think teams may alter their plan slightly to try and take advantage of us in the running game even if it is not the strength of their offense?
(p.s.) I am hoping that the misdirection confusion will be fixed this year since it appears the defensive staff is trying hard to remedy it.
-------------------------------------------------- "I plan to ... give the Ags many headaches at Kyle Field and I have nothing to say to the Sooners. They probably couldn't read it anyway." --Rufus Harris
Your micro's are dead on. As for your macro's, I'll take exception to just one, and actually it's not an exception as much as an addendum.
I do believe that the best secondaries will carry the day this season, but there is a caviat to consider. We had an excellent secondary last season, yet were burned early and often by the two premiere passing teams on our schedule, OU an UO. Overrated secondary or some other problem?
I believe the defense in 2001 that is able to muster the fiercest pass rush along with a good secondary will rule the day. Our secondary is top notch comparing position by position. Our deficiency is the inability to get to the QB. That was the biggest difference between OU '99 and OU 2000. (well, that and an OU QB that seemed to be sprinkled with pixie dust)
Of the Big 3 in the Big 12, the secondary that gets the most help from the front 7 to disrupt the passing fancy Big12 will reign as champion.
It's time for Corey Redding to realize his vast potential and remove that tag forever.
kchorn: I'm doubtful that we'll see Derrick Johnson much at LB when it counts since the staff has shown such a reluctance to give some of the current LB's shots at spots in which the starters haven't exactly excelled. I expect he'll start next year though. Lee Jackson starting at SLB is, to me, a must. I hope it happens.
Frozen/Augie: I think Barnett can coach and CU will undergo some of the necessary hardening process in this offseason and in years to come. They literally could not run hitting drills last summer because of their terrible depth. CU's defense won't be great, but I really don't see a game on their schedule where their offense won't make a go of it. Barnett likes ball control and a controlled rollout short passing game with Ochs and Marcus Houston at TB should give him what he requires. The degree of their respectability will be determined by secondary improvement, whether Cedric Cormier (or someone) can be a dangerous WR for them, and general health. I wouldn't be shocked to see them tie KSU with a 5-3 Big 12 record.
1. You're right of course.
2. I think Tubbs/Lee/Doiron will be better at DT than most anticipate and our size at DE should help hold the LOS. I don't expect teams to have great success against us running the ball - at least not conventionally - simply because Reese won't allow it. He's shown time and again that he'll keep walking up DB's until the running game is stuffed, even if it means putting our CB's on islands more isolated than the Solomons.
I could see teams like Tech and OU hurting us with traps after they've spread us out. They'll be able to exploit young, hard-charging DT's looking to get a pass rush and a fairly reading-impaired MLB in DD Lewis, who might just take off sprinting to the sideline for no particular reason at all. I actually have nightmares about that. But no one, aside from perhaps Nebraska if we see them in postseason, is going to to be able to line up two TE's and run over us. A&M might try, but their weaktit WR corps won't garner the respect needed to keep us from mobbing the line like Seka in a Turkish bathhouse.
Bullseye: Thanks for your comments. Our secondary certainly isn't infallible, but they're damn good. I think if you rewatch the Oregon game, you'd have a different sense of who on our team was exploited. With the exception of one pass on Babers (which was a perfectly thrown fade he could do nothing about), Oregon did zilch on our secondary. You'll recall we even brought one back on them. RB Maurice Morris and their TE, however, murdered us. Pin that on our LB's and bad scheme. We just got outcoached and our LB's looked like dogshit.
As for OU, I truly don't judge anything from that game. Our players had no interest in being there. Really just a pathetic piece of coaching and (dis)motivation. Hell, OU even ran on us at will - it didn't force me to re-evaluate Casey Hampton as a player.
Pass rush is definitely key. I expect a pretty good one, not just because of Tubbs and Thornton, but because situational pass rushers like Gordon and McClintock will contribute heavily.
Baconbeard: I hear you. Snyder is an amazing coach. But you can't lose that kind of talent, experience and depth from your secondary and DL with impunity in today's pass happy Big 12. If KSU can replace those guys adequately, then consider me in awe.
Scipio, I think teams will definately test our run D up the gut first, regardless of whether it's their strength or not. If we stop it, like you suggest, then they'll go back to misdirections to see if we've learned anything in the offseason. IF we can stop both of those, our D will feast with the biggest meal coming T+1.
I would say Snyder will always schedule a potentially winning season rather than coach one.
Regarding the secondary, it's true the Horns had one of the best in the country last year and it should be absolutely the best in the Big 12 this year. But I certainly agree they need the help of a pressure rush to be successful play after play.
I have alot of confidence in the coaching staff to develop that rush based on their Spring moves. It will be interesting to see additional changes they make this summer. I don't see the three linebacker "starters" actually being on the field at the same time much this Fall. But rather a mix of match-up players that will be much harder to prep for.
"You have to have loyalty and teamwork from the janitors on up" DKR '69
Interesting post. Naturally, I disagree a bit. Clearly, NU has had a defensive drop off, but I am not sure I would call that a trend. I think it was just a natural rebuilding period. A&M had a drop off as well, but that is in comparison to some of the best defenses ever to play college ball. Did you realize that despite playing 5 top 10 scoring offenses last year, A&M was in the top 5 for lowest TD's allowed by a defense? Top 10 in scoring D as well, giving up a lot of FG's, but very few TD's. Not bad for a team with a top 5 strength of schedule.
I guess you guys just watched 1 game the Aggies played . . . .
I think A&M's D will be substantially better next year.
UT played its best D since 1990 last year, I thought, despite the OU fiasco, so I am not sure that fits the trend either.
Basically, my response is that big 12 offenses are getting more diverse and much more effective; not that the defenses are less capable as a trend.
PS: I think UT is in for a wake up call defensively, and that no-one over here realizes how important Hampton and Rogers were to the defensive scheme. I imagine that the UT D will have a whole different look next year, and it will not be as pretty as it has been the last few years.
PPS: I do agree a bit with your analysis of A&M's offense. I think that we are in trouble against the better teams unless our WR's can step up and start breaking some big plays. We had NO big gains from the air or ground against good teams last year. We had to execute all the way down the field to get points last year, and that cost us big. If we can't connect a deep threat, we will have trouble again this year.
Scipio-Very nice post and some great insight. Alas, I see our D slipping a little this year without Casey and Shaun. We'll still be good but running teams maybe our achilles heal.
I'd imagine the land thieves will put up 3,000+ if they can find a QB. Hyple's been through 3 spring trainings and can't lock up the job,not a good sign for the boys of red.
If Nebraska has a top secondary then we're in pretty good shape for Dec, the only passing attack they looked good against last season was NW and Vandebash(sp) had his best game of the season.
Having just watched Kansas and eaTme from last year with the Holiday bowl on the way to me, your quote about Simms is dead on. Anybody knocking Simms just doesn't watch football. Now I just smile when I read and hear the smack, I love rude awakenings.
cbramey-do you know anything about football? How is Nebraska not trending downward on Defense. In '99 they were Top 5, in '00 they were top 25 and last year they didn't crack the top 25. They lost several key players and the backups say little PT last season. Or sorry forgot you were an aggie, reality and logic don't apply.
I infer from your post that you think the 3 backups replacing 3 of your starting LB's last year are substantially better, where as the 2 backup defensive tackles replacing Casey and Shaun are substantially worse.
Ofcourse your post and my inference ignores the fact that Shaun wasn't effective in any game after the UH game due to injury, and the fact that tamu loses two other defensive starters.
I've tried to keep it simple to emphasize how illogical your post is.
"Fool enough to almost be it... Cool enough to not quite see it... Doomed."
I think we will have one the fastest d's in college football (if not the fastest). If I am an opposing OC, then I run right at the defense to neutralize the speed. I also follow the Ducks and use our athleticism against us with the trick plays since are guys play more with their physical talent than w/ their head. We are built to stop passing and 50/50 teams but I think we would be in big trouble trying to stop NU's running backs running straight up the middle.
cbramey: NU's drop off might be indicative of the graduation of one great class, followed by an expected recovery, but it sure looks like one doesn't it? Besides, I was commenting on a general league wide trend engendered by A&M's historical decline and KSU smarting from losing several NFLers who have started there forever. Throw in Texas losing Hampton and Rogers and I see a denuded defensive Big 12 (not to mention the lower tier teams).
I don't think A&M's defense will be substantially better for several reasons:
First, your secondary, which many Aggies consider a team strength, is ill-suited in personnel and depth to contend with three of the multiple WR Big 12 South passing offenses. Sammy Davis is an excellent cover man. Sean Weston is not. Nor would most honest Aggies relish the idea of Jay Brooks or Terrence Kiel isolated on another team's #3 WR. That's not either guy's forte. Teams like Tech, Texas and OU are going to hurt you with WR's #2, #3 and #4, particularly since you don't bring a great nickel off of the bench either. A&M's staff isn't dumb, so expect a lot of zone and bend-but-don't-break defense coupled with dropping 7-8 into coverage. Basically, more of the same trend that killed the old Wrecking Crew. Little pressure on the QB, playing the percentages, hoping for mistakes, few defensive big plays.....not inspiring stuff.
Second, the DL depth is dangerous. Even without injury, which is unlikely, the Aggies will experience a serious 4th quarter fade against passing teams with only two men to platoon (and uneven secondary depth). Ty Warren is going to have to pull a substantial load at NG. Jasmin is too young to pull it off against quality teams and his conditioning, though improved, won't allow him more than 40 quality snaps anyway.
Third, LB. This is a weak group by Aggie standards. No legitimate pass rushing threat outside and inside LB's who are above average (though you have several of them). Again, this only reconfirms that A&M will have to make a commitment to soft zone defense against quality teams.
I see a recipe for an Aggie team that has to grind it out on both sides of the ball to win. That doesn't jibe well with a road team, which, with the exception of a few successes, has a recent tendency to get blown out when things spiral out of hand. I don't doubt that we'll see games where A&M executes like a mother and puts a whipping on someone at Kyle, but my guess is you'll have enough hand-wringing close losses to make your season no better than 7-4. Then there's the bowl.......
Agreed that Linebacker play was inept and just sort of "nice" for the Horns last season. I want to see a snot-slinging, ground-stomping, head-ripping effort from these "athletes" who are lined up at LB this year. They hold more of a key to our defensive success than the success of Lee, Tubbs, Doiron and Gordon at DT.
CBramey, your opinion of our defensive future varies from Coach Reese. Reese doesn't oblige with "coach-speak" when answering questions. He is painfully blunt and doesn't try to tickle our ears or blow sunshine. When asked about our prospects, he said that he believes this defensive line will be better than last seasons. Note that doesn't mean the individual players will be better, he is talking about the entire defensive line.
Speed covers a multitude of sins. All of our DT's have clocked a sub 4.7 forty and 3 are converted from other positions. The word that comes out of the mouth first when describing any of the tackles is "athlete". Not run-stuffer, not bull, not fireplug. Athlete. I have a feeling that OL's are going to be working their collective butts of trying to corral these guys for four quarters, with our guys doing more damage late in the game than early.
Thanks for your insight, but I'll take Reese's word over your feeling.
Another excellent thread. I did not know about CU's difficulties last fall (I was busy moving). That might explain their lack of toughness when confronted with a brutal early schedule.
I second your thoughts on A&M's defense. This is NOT the wrecking crew of old. They have one high-end talent on the DL who will draw double teams. They have no linebacker that makes QBs [censored] their pants, and they have one good cover corner.
One of their top excuses for 43-17 was that the rest of their defensive secondary was in the game (and the Candy Man was hurt). That is bad news when they have to face the Big 3 again. RC has been tending toward the use of soft zones to mask his defensive inadequacies over the last few years. I, too, expect more of the same this year.
Don't count KSU out just yet. K-state fans have several reasons to look forward to this season:
1) Our QB this year will be a more accurate passer and much more atheletic then Beasley. Experience is the only question for this position.
2) KSU is deeper and more skilled at the running back position then ever. To state the KSU's running backs are "unimpressive" leads me to conclude that you didn't watch last years Cotton Bowl vs. Tennessee.
3) wr is a legitimate question mark. The only player with real experience is Aaron Lockett. However, most of the coaching staff and KSU fans are looking forward to oft-injured wr Brandon Clark getting some playing time. 6'4'', 220 lbs. and one of the fastest wildcats. With that said, there is no way KSU receivers can compare to UT's. I hope Roy Williams turns pro before we get you back on the schedule.
4) Offensive line returns 3 starters. Time will tell if they can come together.
5) Defensive line is the biggest question mark on the team.
6) Linebacking corp is as deep and talented as KSU has ever had. This includes the 98 team with Kelly, Siminoau and Ochs.
7) DB should be steller. Dyshod Carter will be replaced by the current big 12 100 meter champion, Terence Newman. There was a reason that Jermetrius Butler went pro after his junior year, and it was not because he thought he could get drafted (which he didn't). That reason is Deron Tyler. We lost Cooper, but he killed us in the OU game,but return Jon McGraw and the Big 12 newcomer of the year, Derrick Yates.
Perhaps the most important reason KSU fans can be optimistic for the upcoming year is that they have been in a similar situation before. If memory serves me, the 98 team lost 16 or 17 starters after the season. The 99 team with an inexperienced QB won 11 games and beat Washington in the Holiday Bowl.
Sorry for the long post, is it football season yet?