We’re supposed to be starting Spring Practice the 15th of April. Yeah, I rolled my eyes too when I typed that out. With 2 new coordinators on both sides of the ball, Spring Practice would have been a great time for players to get accustomed to all the new coaches and coordinators we’ve brought in this offseason. Not just their schemes that they’ll be implementing, but their personalities and what they are going to expect from the players, both on and off the field.
Now with #CoronaSzn in full swing and Spring Ball looking like it will be placed on the back burner along with everything else in this world, you have to wonder which players that will affect most on the team?
Cook’s last two seasons in Austin have been interesting to say the least. He came out of Lamar High School in 2018 as a highly touted coverage corner who could also play strong physical run protection defense on the outside. And while he’s been given all the opportunities in the world, starting in 25 games over the last two seasons, it’s safe to say that so far he has not lived up to his recruiting hype. Because based off that 25 game sample size, it looks like Cook’s pure coverage skills have slowly deteriorated in college. Now, is that a Cook problem or a coaching development issue, I don’t know. But I do know quicker, smaller WR’s seem to give Cook the most trouble in that he isn’t able to use his physicality with them, which in turn has allowed WRs to get separation and wide open grass.
But although Cook’s coverage skills have been slacking, he definitely was the most dominant corner Texas had in stopping the run last season. Week after week you could always find Cook at the top of the stat sheet with solo tackles. Bottom line, the dude love to fucking hit.
But how will he factor into Chris Ash’s defense? Texas’ main concern with their corners should be keeping D’Shawn Jamison and Jalen Green healthy. These guys are the best true coverage players on the team and can be used on any outside WR receiver in the B12. But Ash’s base 4-2-5 defense puts a lot of stress on the nickel safety, who is usually lined up over the slot receiver. Especially in the B12, you need a guy who is fast enough to stick with the shiftiest slot receiver but tough enough to help play against the run when you line up against the power running teams of OU and Kansas State.
This position is something that Cook could thrive in. Go look at Quandre Diggs highlight tape. This could be Cook in Texas’ new defense, However, it would take time to start understanding the new position and playbook. Texas will be loaded in the secondary next year, purely because of depth, but if they are not acting like a defense with a true identity (I am looking at you, Orlando) then it does not matter.
You have seen Cook’s speed and physicality, imagine what that looks like if he is a huge part of Texas’ 3rd down blitz packages. Bring him into this nickel position to help the defense and you could watch him be one of the best defensive players in the B12 next year.
Are you sick of reading about Jordan Whittington not being healthy? Because I am. It has been over 1.5 years of reading about his groin being nursed back to health. Everyone remembers what he did in the State Champ game so the excitement for him playing as a true freshman was warranted. And we did get to see him play! For about one quarter against the worst team Texas played and then he was out the rest of the year.
The silver lining was he was granted an extra year of eligibility and should be ready to go this upcoming season. But how healthy will he be? Whittington had the initial surgery back in the Fall with some doctor in Pennsylvania that is supposedly the groin guru and then had a follow up procedure late this winter. Nobody is really sure how ready he feels but there were positive reports coming after Xmas break saying he was moving well. But assuming he is healthy, Spring Ball would have given him the best opportunity to shake off the rust from essentially taking a full year off of football.
Assuming Whittington does stay healthy and gets back to where he left off his senior year of high school, the best comparable for Whittington in this new offense would be Jalen McCleskey at OSU a few years ago when Yurcich was his OC. Watch this highlight tape and it is very easy to see Whittington doing the exact same thing.
Out of the backfield passes? Motion sweeps? 5 wide, motion him into RB and hand it off? Lots of possibilities. It may take some time to really get Whittington and Yurcich dialed in though with the lack of Spring Practice but we can all have our hopes high for the fall.
Yes, I know this seems controversial to put the most senior QB in the B12 as someone who needs Spring Practice but hear me out. He has got a brand new OC. He just lost his 2 favorite receivers. He lost his center and LG. He has some lofty expectations from the fans of the 40 Acres, not to mention his coach whose seat basically depends on it.
Sam knows all of this. He is great at realizing the gravity of the moment and ultimately the season. Look at him before the Sugar Bowl a few years ago. Look at him in the past two Red River Shootouts. You think he might want that safety back in the B12 champ in 2018?
He knows that this is his year but the waters around him do not seem too calm. This kid has been through a lot of shit in his 4 years. This year is his for the taking. He knows that this team will go as far as he does. He makes the ceiling. Which is why no Spring Practice really affects him.
His new OC is proven to be a great QB whisperer. Look at what Yurcich did with JW Walsh, Mason Rudolph and Justin Fields. This new offense should make Sam really excited because it allows him to attack down the field more while still keeping the power run aspect. On paper, it seems very similar to what Texas currently runs but I think there are a few more wrinkles that will look very different.
Watch this play from Yurcich at Okla State in 2015 with Mason Rudolph. The Pokies started out down 17-0 against unranked Pat Mahomes Tech team. Yurcich finally got a decent drive going with a few trick plays and quick passes. On 2nd and 10 he calls 2 RB set, play action lead to quick slant over the middle.
Texas barely ran out of 2 RB sets last year (because they only had 1 healthy RB) but they still incoorperated a lot of quick routes over the middle. This play is a perfect blend of the new and old offense for Texas. Stick Rojo and Keontay as the RB’s and Jake Smith in the slot, its the exact same play. Concepts like this are simple to pickup in film but still need refinement it once you get on the field. Sam is fully capable of picking this up, no one is worried about that. But it does not change the fact that it is an awful year to have no Spring Practices to nail this down.
But just like with everything Ehlinger does, I am fully confident he, Yurcich and ultimately Herman will get this meshed together. Let’s just hope that can happen by the time we step foot in Death Valley Week 2.