By now you should know a little bit about the Texas Longhorns. But if you want to know a lot more, we can help you with an able assist from SB Nation’s own Ian Boyd. In addition to writing more generally about college football strategy and schemes at sbnation.com, Ian also covers the Longhorns specifically for InsideTexas.com.
Ian was kind enough to answer a handful of questions for me about the Longhorns’ scheme, personnel, and mental makeup coming into tomorrow night’s game. Ian is pretty confident in the Texans’ chances in this one, and I think you’ll agree based on these responses that’s not an illogical way to look at things. Take a look.
MD: Many Georgia fans likely remember Tom Herman and Longhorn OC Tim Beck most for their offenses at Ohio State. How has that attack changed after being brought to Austin?
Ian: The offense is pretty similar to what it was at Ohio State, particularly the Tom Herman version before he left for Houston. They like to stay in base 11 personnel and run inside zone a million different ways with a big blocking TE/H-back in Andrew Beck that gives them a blocker for everyone in a nickel front and then they have some spread passing and play-action off the run game. Sam Ehlinger is something pretty close to J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones, he’s essentially a fullback/quarterback hybrid that makes short-yardage a near guarantee for Texas and is also fairly quick on the option or scramble. His best quality is reading defenses and delivering the ball in the passing game and that’s where this Texas O is a little different than the Ohio State units.
Their two best weapons on offense are slot WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who’s essentially a full-time flex TE that moves around to create problems and replaces the normal “Percy Harvin type” that normally occupies that role and then outside WR Collin Johnson who’s a 6-6 jump ball weapon.
MD: I’ve been a little worried about how Georgia’s defensive backs match up against the Longhorn receivers. With the news that Thorpe Award winner Deandre Baker won’t be suiting up that worry now borders on panic. Am I overreacting, or is this perhaps Kirby Smart’s biggest matchup worry?
Ian: That was already a concern for Georgia, who I’ve noticed tends to rely on the CBs to hold up outside without help (especially Baker) as it’s hard to do that when a good throw to a 6-5 target can beat man coverage. Without Baker it’s pretty serious.
MD: On the other side of the coin, what position group matchup should Tom Herman be most concerned about?
Ian: The Georgia DL is probably the chief worry for Texas. They haven’t faced many fronts of this caliber and their LT Calvin Anderson is a little light and vulnerable against bigger DL, much of their OL is in fact. The big concern would be that Georgia can double up the main two wideouts without suffering much against the Texas run game.
MD: When I’ve watched the Texas defense this season I’ve gotten the impression that it’s a talented group that nevertheless suffers with some execution issues. Is that a fair assessment?
Ian: I think the more precise issue is that it’s a talented group that has some good answers for more traditional offenses but struggles mightily against a spread team. Imagine an NBA defense with good athletes on the perimeter and then a traditional, big rim protector at center. When they face teams that want to go at the rim (run the ball) they look really strong (USC, Iowa State) but when they face a team that uses a shooter at center and forces the big man out into space on the perimeter then they look terrible and get gashed for 3s and layups (West Virginia, Oklahoma). Maybe Georgia could line up and pound away at Texas but the bigger scare for the Longhorns would be the Dawgs flexing the TEs out and forcing the Longhorns to try and handle Georgia’s athletes while isolated in space.
MD: Speaking of which, what would you say the Longhorns’ defensive philosophy is?
Ian: Stop the run, blitz the formation. They’re fairly similar to the Georgia defense in style but closer still to LSU under Dave Aranda. They like to send extra defenders to stop the run, force the ball out wide where they have physical and fast athletes to close on the ball, and then force passing situations where they can bring zone blitzes. They aren’t as good in the blitz game this year, they just don’t have great blitzers at LB, they have most everything else to make it work including big, physical athletes at CB and S.
MD: Fill in the blank: Texas wins the Sugar Bowl if ______.
Ian: Texas wins the Sugar Bowl if Georgia isn’t highly motivated, doesn’t have answers for covering Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the slot, and falls into the trap of trying to run the ball early to set up the pass leading to TFLs against Texas’ aggressive front and then Jake Fromm becoming a stationary target for the Longhorns’ exotic dime pressure package.
MD: Because we must.....your score prediction:
Ian: Georgia doesn’t seem to have as much to play for and losing Baker certainly hurts. Plus Tom Herman thrives at getting his team up for big games like this and his defensive staff will be excited to face a similar, run-centric offense rather than another Air Raid. Texas pulls it out 27-24.
Thanks to Ian for taking the time to educate us on Bevo’s Boys. Be sure to check out his work wherever fine Texas Longhorn online content is sold. Until later....