Another year, another Bill Snyder-coached team is on the schedule and thank God, Texas gets them at home this season. That may make the difference in this game. Yes, playing Kansas State at home may be the difference. Do you disagree? This is a great opportunity for Texas. Not only does the defense get a crack at Snyder-Ball, the offense will face a stiff test against a physical KSU defensive unit. Expectations surrounding this game are that it will be a war of attrition. Prior to this game, KSU lost a similar contest against Vanderbilt, yes, Vanderbilt. Though they came away with a win against Baylor, there were times KSU looked vulnerable in that contest. In Texas’ case, you can say similar. This team faced early struggles on defense, then faced continuing struggles on offense, especially after losing left tackle, Connor Williams. As you’ve read this week, I remain somewhat optimistic about the offense and I think this match-up presents some unique opportunities. You and I will see how that goes.
KSU – This team is solid all-around, a model of efficiency. KSU’s strengths lie in both running and defending the run, they do both well. Where they suffer some is in ‘explosive’ plays, consider them middle of the pack in that respect. Where they are weak is in passing and pass defense. That is where opportunities lie.
Texas – Texas has been solid on defense the last 3 games. They defend both the run and the pass well. Run defense has been particularly good the last two games. The offense, that’s a different story. This unit has not been efficient nor explosive. It’s only semi-bright spot is the pass game, led by Shane Buechele. As stated above, that’s where opportunities lie.
N.B. Something not oft paid attention to is field position. The field position game is one that carries influence and something KSU excels at and Texas does not. Part of that, I believe, is because Texas is not efficient of offense. This will be something to keep an eye on.
You read Focal Points 2.0, there is room for optimism regarding the offense. The KSU defense’s strength is run defense. On the surface, that is bad news for Texas. Yards will likely have to come through the air first. That doesn’t mean abandoning the run game. Only, that complimentary screen and quick passing should be used to help ‘soften’ the box. For that, Shane must be decisive and quick getting the ball out. KSU pursues very well and closes down space with the best of them. It will be tough treading for a struggling Texas offense.
False Starts & Holding – Both have been problems and you hope to see less Saturday night. Far too often the Texas offense has operated behind the chains. Eliminate the penalties and you change the complexion of the calls. 1st or 2nd and 15 or 20 severely limits the call sheet and are gifts to defensive coordinators. Stop it.
Left Tackle – Something to keep your eye on is Nickelson OR Okafor at left tackle. This position is pivotal in both the run and pass game. If either plays a decent game, it goes a long way in helping this offense see better production.
The Pass – This is multiple and I’ll keep it very simple. This is Shane’s strong-suit, but what you saw last week was a defense intent on eliminating big pass plays. Some things I noted about both the offense and KSU defense follows.
– Take It Easy: You want to know what I hate seeing? Off-coverage outside with no simple ‘Stop’ or quick ‘Hitch’ throws. For an offense struggling with efficiency, why would you not take advantage of soft cushions. Throw it quick!
– 3rd Fix: ‘Tag’ the 3rd Fix more. Get creative, draws, slow screens (back or tight end), drag routes, and the sideline flat will be open for easy yards should KSU drop 7 or 8. If both Advantage and Concept are flooded with defenders, be quick to the 3rd Fix.
– Attack Deep: The glaring weakness of KSU’s defense has been pass ‘explosives’. Attack the safeties! A few main concepts here, ‘Sail’, 3-Level, and Verticals (3 or 4). All send receivers deep, seam and sideline. KSU has shown both 2-high man-under and Cover 1 Robber on passing downs. Use the safeties alignment and post-snap movement against them. Beck utilized the back in the pass, more please. One addition, route the back outside and up behind the field slot or to the boundary.
With Shane Buechele at quarterback, Texas achieves balance best by utilizing screens and quick passes to loosen the box. Much of this occurs via run-pass options (RPO’s). I’d like to see more effort to isolate match-ups by changing alignments. For instance, using Foreman outside and Johnson inside. Last season, Foreman excelled down the sideline. Add to that, Johnson inside, running the ‘corner’ option route against man or 2-high coverag. Lastly, Shane needs to see things faster or the staff needs to do a better job ‘tagging’ routes for him. On to the run game…
The Run – KSU is stout against the run. What I liked last week came as a surprise, freshman right tackle Derek Kerstetter run blocking. He tended to pair well with right gaurd Jake McMillon. If that continues, it may be a good idea to scheme runs behind the two of them. When it comes to the Texas run game, execute!
False Start & Holding – Again, same as before, the more these occur, the more you can kiss the run game goodbye. Stay ahead of the chains and let the calls flow.
Stick To It – Texas may not be good now, but that is no reason to give up on good concepts. Better execution, at every position, that’s what’s missing. Begin nailing blocks and suddenly, Texas looks more efficient and explosive. You also see the addition of more caustic players in the backfield. Can Humphrey or Carter make something happen this Saturday?
Read-Option & RPO – With Shane in the game, read-option is less a threat and defenses can scheme to force Shane to keep and run, yikes! This is where planning comes into play and the utility of the RPO. Against KSU’s 2-high defense, there should be plenty of opportunities to eat away at space to the alley or sideline flats. The Texas Swing Screen and Stop Screen should see plenty of action, block them well.
– Double Stack: KSU’s adjustment for 2X2 double stack sets was to play single-high with one-up and one-back over the stacked receivers to each side. This clarifies the box and offers some space above the 2-receiver surface should the up-receiver block well enough. Twins route concepts against 2 defensive backs with the safety in the middle of the field, I’ll take them.
– Sweep: On top of Zone, run Sweep with Texas’ Counter blocking, leading with the tight end or H-back. This can be run with a read-option element to it or as an RPO. KSU pursues hard and fast. If the ‘wall’ can be built, slowing ‘scraping’ linebackers, Texas could see favorable numbers play side.
KSU is incredibly efficient. They are multiple, using tight ends and a fullback to create all kinds of unique backfield alignments. What’s most important is always counting the quarterback as a runner. This is what makes KSU tick. From there, they utilizenread-option runs, RPO’s, and designed quarterback runs. It’s going to get messy.
Personnel – This is tricky. Even with ’11’ (1 RB, 1 TE) personnel, the KSU offense is physical and will use the running back as a lead blocker. I’m tempted to say Orlando should stick with base 3-4 personnel on standard downs. On passing downs, keep base 3-3-5 personnel on the field, as KSU will run the ball on 3rd downs.
Leads & Pullers – KSU can quickly create an extra 3 to 4 extra gaps play side when they run the quarterback. Defensive personnel must always be on alert. Look for pullers and lead blockers. The question becomes, how to get numbers quickly to the play side?
– Attack The Field: Force more calls to the boundary, where speed and pursuit to limit damage. 3-4 personnel places Malik and Locke to the field. To the boundary, you have Hughes and Elliott, not to mention Boyd occasionally coming off the corner. The goal here is to force KSU’s offense to operate in more confined space, the boundary.
– Ertz: Always having a plan for the quarterback is paramount. Whether it’s simple read-option or designed quarterback runs, Ertz navigates blocks well and gets upfield quick. ‘Spying’ him doesn’t always work, as they often lead up to the ‘spy’ with the running back or fullback, especially on the nasty delayed draw they run. You have to account for the quarterback and the back in protection. Yes, it’s crazy!
The Pass – KSU is not a good passing team. Their passing game fits into their run game via RPO’s and play-action. If you’re not stopping the run, KSU may never pass. That is Snyder-Ball. That said, this is where Texas can cheat a little. They need to bring numbers against the run and while KSU’s ‘shot’ pass game is decent, that’s not a primary concern. expect some cushions given against the pass to encourage Ertz to throw. This doesn’t allow KSU to sink it’s fangs into the defense.
– Draw: I know this is a run. They’re just so good running draw on pass downs. You have 5 offensive lineman and a back in on protection. You typically don’t keep six in on pass downs. Do you see the problem? Remember, you have to account for the back and quarterback with at least 5 defenders. That means Cover 1 Robber, Cover 6, or Cover 4 (Solo or Special), to name a few. All keep at least 6 defenders underneath. Is there risk involved, sure. Texas doesn’t recruit freaks at DB for nothing, cover and attack!
– POP: KSU pokes and prods for play-option passes. They are pioneers in the field. With their multitude of lead blocks from the tight end, fullback, and running back positions, they constantly try to take advantage of teams aggressively playing the run downhill and allowing a lead blocker entry past coverage. Beware!
– Shots: Outside of some simple quick passes, KSU likes to attack off of play-action. Ertz has a decent arm and can push the ball downfield. The defensive backs will need to stay disciplined, especially the safeties who will often have run-pass conflicts. Expect a variety of mixed man and zone coverage from Orlando to help bring numbers against the run and stay safe against the deep pass. Don’t get roasted!
Expect a good one. The hope is Texas lands a few hay-makers, enabling to put up more 6’s. KSU is tough as nails and will try to slow-play the game all night. This won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Purple Merlin always seems to make this one interesting, for better or worse. Speaking of which, when is the last time Texas blew out KSU? Whenever it was, it’s been too long. Godspeed to the offense this weekend, as I’m sure Longhorns faithful everywhere are praying for production. To the defense, stay thirsty, my friends. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.