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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Four downs: It all starts up front

By Sean Adams

First down: It all starts up front

I love football. I love big plays. I love pretty athletes with a beautiful stride breaking down angles and creating separation. How can you not love the special speed of players such as former Longhorns Jamaal Charles, DJ Monroe and Marquise Goodwin and current Longhorn Daje Johnson?

With that said, football is won in the trenches. Texas was better on the offensive line in 2013 but still had some issues in the middle of the line. The art of having great offensive line play starts with getting five great players on the field at the same time.

It might be OK to count Desmond Harrison as one of the top five. He is a mammoth of a man at 6-foot-8, 315 pounds. His junior college coach raves about his athleticism and his ability to play in the NFL.

Don't be so quick to think he will just be put in on the left side while 2012 left tackle Donald Hawkins slides over and solidifies the middle of the offensive line. Harrison will be able to play either side, and I wouldn't be shocked at all if Harrison was tried on both sides.

Second down: Pulling for Marquise

Marquise Goodwin is in Mobile, Ala., doing great things over the first few days of the Senior Bowl practices. I spoke to an NFL scout in attendance who said, "He's probably made himself some money. He was catching punts as well and was golden when he was catching the ball. He caught everything thrown to him."

He has to find a spot and an offense that will fit well with him, but if he can make a dent in the return game, he might find himself on an NFL roster.

It is safe to assume that much of the conversation between Goodwin and NFL teams will focus on what Goodwin wasn't able to display a lot during the course of the 2012 season. He and his representatives will champion what he was able to do when he was a focus of the offense, as in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State.

Third down: Walking into spring ...

If there is one position you feel good about, it is running back. While Texas really doesn't have many questions on offense, outside of quarterback, the position that has the fewest questions is the running back spot. Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray lead one of the most talented running back groups in the country. That does not even include Daje Johnson, because much of his success will depend on how Major Applewhite decides to use his immense talents.

The biggest question that remains for this mollified group of running backs is this: If Texas uses more of the spread attack that helped them during their championship years, which running back would be better suited for that offense?

The real question is what to do with Bergeron in the spread offense. Does he become more of a short-yardage back or goal-line back? And would he be OK with that role? While Gray and Brown both can catch the ball out of the backfield, I would give Gray the edge 51 to 49.

Every program, spread offense or not, needs two or three good running backs. Texas has that and then some.

Fourth Down: Around the Big 12

Texas Tech brought its child home and gave him the keys to the kingdom. A couple of years ago Kliff Kingsbury was making just more than $100,000 per year as the University of Houston video coordinator. Last year he moved with Kevin Sumlin and became the offensive coordinator for Texas A&M. This year he is the head coach at Texas Tech University, making $2 million per year.

Kliff Kingsbury
New coach Kliff Kingsbury assembled a young staff at Texas Tech, a move that has raised eyebrows.
I don't think anybody was shocked that Kingsbury was on a trajectory to be the eventual head coach at Texas Tech, but when Tommy Tuberville bolted Lubbock for Cincinnati, there was a gaping hole left for the Red Raiders.

The timing for everything was accelerated, as Kingsbury might not be ready for the title -- but he has it. I thought he would go out and hire a former head coach or experienced defensive coordinator. Former Miami (Fla.) head coach Randy Shannon was the linebackers coach at TCU. He would be easy pickings for a defensive coordinator role. He has run a program and certainly could run the defense while lending an ear to the green head coach.

Instead, Kingsbury hired his friends and former teammates. He has a lot of staff members that finished college in the 2000s.

They will have a lot of fun, but unless they can turn that youthful exuberance into something real, the golden boy won't be long for the South Plains.