August 28, 2008

10 things to look for on Saturday

T-minus two days.

Yes, we're a shade over 48 hours away from the start of another glorious season of Longhorn football, but with so few ticks left on the clock before the first kickoff, the are still a lot of unknowns to the players, coaches and fans.

With so few known parts, we thought we'd provide a primer for the first game of the season. Therefore, here's a look at the ten things we think would make for an outstanding first weekend of the season for the Longhorns, both in the short- and long-term futures.

10. The offense remains in the spread offense

When the coaching staff released the two-deep depth chart this week, the line-up included a tight end and a fullback for the first time since the 2004 season. Instead of listing three wide receivers, which has always been a staple of Texas' spread offense, the Longhorns hinted at something that indicated that the Longhorn offense might be headed towards something that would resemble a more conventional pro-style offense. The staff mentioned the inconsistency off the young wide receivers and even said that there will be more two tight end sets within the offense.

Cross your fingers that the coaches were just giving a good poker face because if that's the truth, it means that this offense has taken steps backwards instead of gaining steam and moving forward. The most explosive weapons on the Texas offense include guys like Fozzy Whittaker, John Chiles, James Kirkendoll and Malcolm Williams. If Texas is playing two-tight sets, it's a strong bet that none of those players listed will be on the field that much. The goal of this entire off-season was to get Texas' best playmakers on the field by any means necessary and that will happen best if they remain in the spread. If the coaches want to throw some curveballs during the game by occasionally switching to a power running game, that would be fantastic, but the pace of the offense needs to have its foot on the gas and not the brake.

9. Texas scores at least twice before Florida Atlantic gets on the scoreboard

There has been so much said about this team not playing hard at all times last season that I think it's important that the Longhorns establish their physical dominance over this team right away. The best-case scenario on Saturday has the team playing like their pants are on fire before a manic record crowd, with that momentum carrying them into a flurry of early scores. This game for the Longhorns has as much to do with reestablishing some moxie to this program as it does getting a win. Rome wasn't built in a day and there was a first brick that was placed at some point. Saturday night needs to be that first brick.

8. It's a block party

The Longhorns have been the nation's leader in blocked kicks on special teams since Mack Brown arrived at Texas, but last year his group wasn't special. Brown feels like having Duane Akina back in the role of kick-block guru is going to make a huge difference in this key phase of the game. Look for the Longhorns to bring the house in the first quarter. You can almost set your watch to it.

7. Offensive line dominates

The Owls are hurting with injuries and the Longhorns expect this part of their team to be a major strength. The line of scrimmage needs to be moving on Saturday night and the Longhorns need to be the ones moving it.

6. Sergio Kindle makes a big play or five

Everyone is tired about talking about his potential and beginning every sentence with a "but", which makes this season-opener really important for the hard-charging junior. You just get the feeling that if he can turn the corner and get to Rusty Smith, he's going to unleash two years of frustration in one strike and in the process; he might just turn the page on a new chapter in playing career.

5. Vondrell McGee runs for 150+

See No.7. The Longhorns should be able to run the ball well on Saturday night and McGee going off in game one with a couple of big runs and a big-time final rushing number on the stat sheet would go a long way towards establishing the point that the running game is in good hands without Jamaal Charles.

4. One of the fish extends his net

All of those freshmen are going to be on the field this Saturday in the Longhorn secondary and it sure would be nice if one (or two… or three…) of them could get their hands on a pass and build a little confidence with his first career interception.

3. Malcolm Williams catches a long touchdown pass

Ok, we've all head about the consistency issues, but turn that thoroughbred on the field and let him run. Roy Williams was far from a polished weapon when he played his first game and went deep to make that deep, juggling first catch of his career. None of that stuff mattered any more. Williams is the most dynamic downfield threat in this offense and the sooner he gets involved, the better this offense is going to be. Remember - foot on the gas, not the brake.

No.2 - John Chiles gets 10 snaps… in the first half.

See No.10. If the staff feels like Chiles is one of their best players like they suggested at the beginning of this month, then get him on the field and use him like it. We've heard about the special "Q-package", so let's see it. Play him at quarterback, wide receiver, running back and slot-back… in the first half.

1. Colt McCoy plays a clean game

Greg Davis said earlier this week that McCoy hadn't thrown an interception at any point in training camp and that kind of careful ball management will be critical for this team this season. McCoy doesn't have to be perfect, but he does have to be better. If McCoy improves, the offense is going to be good.

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