September 26, 2010

The grades are in - UCLA report card

Grading scale

A - All-American level
B - All-Conference level
C - Average
D - Below average
F - Complete failure

Quarterback - Garrett Gilbert has to play better, he simply has to. However, a review of the game found a young player that played pretty well and was surrounded by a supporting cast that did the opposite. There's no question that Gilbert had some plays that he'd like to have back, especially in the first half when he missed James Kirkendoll for what would have been a touchdown and then on his interception when he just made a bad decision. Those plays ended up costing Texas seven points and in a game like this, when everything was going wrong, you have to have those seven points. However, I don't know how to grade a quarterback that is surrounded by failure. How do you grade a guy when he has zero running game, zero tight end play, zero consistency from his receivers and an offensive line that stares at him when they give up free hits on him? That being said, I'm one of those guys that believes this position is all about leadership and finding a way to win. Gilbert isn't the problem, but he wasn't the answer on Saturday, although his teammates did little to help him.

Grade: D

Running backs -The three players that accounted for the entire running game through the first of the season gained five less yards thanGilbert (after the sacks), and two of those players didn't even see the field. Starting running back Fozzy Whittaker gained 14 yards on seven carries and didn't run with the same abandon he showed the last two weeks.

With the Whittaker/Newton/Johnson trio rendered completely useless, the staff dusted off D.J. Monroe, who averaged 8.5 yards on six carries, but received only one carry after his second quarter fumble exchange with Gilbert. Odd that he never returned when similar poor play wasn't punished nearly as severely.

The good news is that the staff finally seems to realize that Monroe needs to play. The bad news is that this position is back to square one after four games in a 13-game schedule.

Grade: F

Wide receivers - The team lost its only true playmaker in second quarter when Mike Davis was injures when he got his feet tangled with a UCLA defensive back. Through the first three quarters of the game, the trio of John Chiles, James Kirkendoll and Malcolm Williams were non-factors. All three receivers are fourth-year players and at times they just disappeared from the field.

The story of the game at this position can be wrapped up in a snapshot - when Chiles needed four yards on fourth and four and cut his route two yards short of the marker. I expected more of this position, a lot more coming into this season and I don't know who the go-to-guy in this group is outside of Davis, if there is one.

For a team that's trying to be a pass-first team suddenly, that's a scary development. Only when this game was out of hand did a player step forward and truly make a play.

Grade: D

Tight ends- I feel for Barrett Matthews because I could see in his face that he was frustrated with himself and I know he wants to play well, but he just had a very rough game. When you consider the lack of help at receiver at times, this is a position that could be a huge friend to a young quarterback, but the Longhorns don't have anyone that Gilbert can truly lean on. Dropped passes, missed blocks and penalties have defined this position this season and it was the case again on Saturday. It's been almost three seasons since Blaine Irby was injured. Dear Bruce Chambers, when does this group become a net-positive again?

Grade: F

Offensive line -Well, the Longhorns have essentially conceded the running game and line of scrimmage because this group isn't capable of controlling any defensive line they've played. Texas' best running plays on Saturday were Garrett Gilbert scrambling for his life (where have we heard this before?) and D.J. Monroe running as fast as possible to whatever bit of space he can find.

The pass protection was solid considering the complete disaster of a running game, but there were times when the pass protection gave out and the coaches don't seem to have a lot of confidence that this group can hold up based on the short, conservative routes in the passing game. Senior Kyle Hix had another critical red-zone penalty and he's emerged as the Flozell Adams of the Texas offensive line with five penalties in four games. He compounded those issues with a sloppy block attempt on Akeem Ayers, which led to the first turnover of the game.

Overall, Michael Huey and David Snow were ok at times, but were blown up on a number of occasions, including the Monroe fumble. The coaches tried to tinker with the right side of the line by playing Trey Hopkins, but he's not ready yet for extended playing time in big games. If they wanted to play him in important games, he probably needed more snaps in the first three games. Still, I think you probably have to live with the mistakes of a young player than the mistakes of an old player, whose ceiling is limited and reached.

This play at this position is just not good enough. They aren't physical enough or consistent enough or smart enough, and they don't give maximum effort at all times.

Grade: F

Offensive game plan - UCLA figured out Texas pretty quick. With a running game that UCLA was able to control with five or six in the box, they played their safeties deep to avoid the big plays in the passing game and gambled that Texas couldn't execute well enough to sustain drives all the way to the end zone.


By the middle of the second quarter, it appeared that Greg Davis was grasping at straws, jumping between five wides and playing DJ Monroe and then going back to the same old stuff, but what are you going to do when none of your players are playing above average football. It's hard to call plays when your players are playing poorly.

The scary thing about Davis' game plans the last two weeks is that they have come out fairly hot with what appears to be a scripted start, but they've had nothing once the game gets into the third series or so. Everything about Davis' work through the first third of the season has been underwhelming and it all came to a head in this game. It's a unit that's in worse shape today than when they started. That's not me picking on Davis, that's me pointing out reality.

Grade: F

Defensive line -The good news is that the defensive ends played pretty well in this game and whatever plays were made by the defense on Saturday came from the ends and Aaron Williams. Both Jackson Jeffcoat and Sam Acho created huge plays off of sacks, but even the effectiveness of the ends was only good for two quarters. The bigger problem on Saturday was that the defensive tackles had a miserable day. Too often they got pushed off the ball and too often they stood up too high and didn't get good pad level. By the third quarter, UCLA was running the ball pretty much at will. The play against the zone-read was wretched. It was an incomplete performance by a group that should be better than that.

Grade: C

Linebackers - This position played a lot like the defensive line - very well early and then progressively worse as the game continued. The trio of Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho and Dravannti Johnson combined for one tackle for loss against a team that ran the ball on almost every play. Too often this group played the zone-read poorly or was out of position or missed tackles or got trapped inside. After Johnson had a tough series to start the third quarter, the Longhorns went to other players for answers, but I'm not sure they found any. When a team runs for 262 yards without a passing game, your linebackers didn't play well. When Johnathan Franklin is finishing runs and powering through tackle attempts by your front seven, your linebackers didn't play well.

Grade: D

Secondary -UCLA is incapable of throwing the football on Texas, so you can't pick on the coverage skills of the secondary this week, but the tackling across the board was dreadful. I'm not so sure that Curtis Brown didn't have the worst game of his career and he didn't give up a reception. Also, Chykie Brown's open-field play against the run was awful. On top of that Blake Gideon was bouncing off of players left and right when coming downhill. He's not big enough or strong enough to not attempt to wrap up. The good news is that Aaron Williams played like an All-American on Saturday and Kenny Vaccaro played well in replacement of am injured Christian Scott.

Grade: C-

Defensive game plan -The Longhorns looked like they had never seen the zone-read and to say they were awful in defending it would be giving too much credit to the word awful. The Longhorns knew that UCLA couldn't throw the ball and yet it didn't matter. Over time, UCLA grinded down the defense and out-executed them by a mile. There wasn't a lot to the game-plan this week, except the ability to execute things like tackling and play-integrity, which the unit failed at. My biggest problem with the defense is that they played as bad as the offense in the second half when the team needed the alleged elite unit to stand tall and give the team a chance to win. With the score 13-3 and the Bruins getting the ball to start the half, they weren't ready to play. Don't blame the offense for that or the heat. Blame the players and coaches.

Grade: F

Special teams -This group needs to be special every week and they've been a liability. Curtis Brown's fumble was the critical mistake of the day and it changed the complexion of the game for the rest of the day. The Longhorns are a third of the season into the game and they don't know what the hell to do in the return game right now.

Meanwhile, when the Longhorns scored to cut the lead to 20-6, the coverage unit allowed a 45-yard return on the following kickoff that was aided by a short kick by Justin Tucker with the wind at his back. Oh yeah, there was also the substitution penalty.

Grade: F

Overall -Mack said it best - it was an embarrassing, and it was embarrassing on every level imaginable. This wasn't a case of one side of the team failing to play well because this was a systematical collapse from the entire team on every level. To say it was an eye=opener is an understatement. Now the team must figure out who they are real fast with the two most important games of the schedule looming. A win over Oklahoma allows them some wiggle-room and the ability to control their own destiny. A loss will have them staring at a 3-3 record and an unranked position in the polls. This is their reality and they have a week to make the best of it.

Grade: F

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