Texas Longhorns: Geoff Swaim
Until then, we’re counting down everything you need to know entering next season and the next era of Texas football. This week, we’re breaking down the five position groups with the most room to improve in 2014. Here’s No. 5 on the list.
The players: Geoff Swaim, Greg Daniels, M.J. McFarland, Blake Whiteley
Last year: Swaim, a junior college transfer, started nine games and caught three passes for 14 yards. Daniels also hauled in three passes and picked up 28 yards in six starts. McFarland did not record a reception and appeared in 11 games, mostly on special teams. Whiteley joined the program in January after one season at Arizona Western Community College.
What’s missing: You saw those receiving stats, right? The Longhorns haven’t had a tight end record 20 catches in a season since Jermichael Finley left campus. His last year in burnt orange? 2007.
Louisville made good use of Gerald Christian (28-426-4 TDs) last season, and Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson have relied on pass-catching tight ends in the past (Brandon Pettigrew at Oklahoma State, Mike McNeill at Nebraska). Is this finally the year of the tight end revival at Texas?
Moving forward: Swaim and Daniels were asked to be blockers in Texas’ power run-heavy attack, and on that front they did an impressive job in 2013. Bruce Chambers returns as the tight ends coach and knows what those two can do in the run game, but will either see an expanded role?
McFarland was supposed to be the long-term answer at tight end before his demotion last season. It’s time for him to put it all together. Whiteley is an unknown commodity but was a big-time receiver in high school. Getting him in the program a semester early is a real plus. There’s hope for these guys, and how they’re utilized in the new offense will be interesting to watch.
Arizona Western Community College tight end Blake Whiteley chose the Longhorns over Arkansas, Virginia, Purdue and several other offers, his father confirmed Wednesday.
The three-star prospect, a native of Canada, is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and has four years to play three seasons at Texas.
Whiteley took an official visit to Texas in December, on the weekend coach Mack Brown announced his resignation, and decided the Longhorns were the right place for him even with Brown resigning.
In his lone season at Arizona Western, Whiteley caught eight passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He had more than 70 catches during his senior season at West Vancouver Secondary.
Whiteley was offered in early December after tight end John Thomas of Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College decommitted from the Longhorns. He fills a major need, since the Longhorns will have two seniors at the position in 2014.
Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels emerged as trusted blockers in Texas’ run-heavy attack this season but were non-factors in the passing game, combining for six catches on the year. Whiteley provides a long-term option at tight end, but still has some growing to do.
Arizona Western coach Tom Minnick said Whiteley had little experience weight lifting or playing on the line coming from Canada. He learned plenty about blocking and lifting in his year of junior college ball.
“He was raw coming out of Canada,” Minnick said, “but he’s got the signs of being a great one when it’s all said and done.
Following the Tuesday decommitments of defensive tackles Trey Lealaimatafao and Courtney Garnett, Whitley is the 22nd commit of Texas’ 2014 class.
So let’s make life a little easier for Texas’ new head coach. Here’s an early breakdown of how Texas’ offensive depth chart might look in 2014, based on who’s slated to return and the incoming freshmen. On Wednesday, we’ll break down the Longhorns defense.
Keep in mind, a lot can and will change between now and the end of August. All of these players have to prove themselves to a new regime. You could see lots of movement, position changes and reshuffling between now and the season opener against North Texas.
David Ash, junior
Tyrone Swoopes, sophomore
Jerrod Heard, freshman
Malcolm Brown, senior
Johnathan Gray, junior
Joe Bergeron, senior
Donald Catalon, freshman
As long as Gray heals up 100 percent from his torn Achilles, Texas will have one of the best rushing duos in the Big 12. Brown was a revelation to end the season and could be in for a big senior campaign. Bergeron will work his way back into the mix. Catalon and D'Onta Foreman will provide depth as freshmen, and one could contribute early.
Jaxon Shipley, senior
Daje Johnson, junior
Jacorey Warrick, sophomore
Shipley is the leader of the group and should be in for a big season, no matter the offense. Will Strong’s staff give Daje one more chance? No guarantees he’s still on the roster by the fall. Warrick earned praise in practice and limited playing time.
Kendall Sanders, junior
Montrel Meander, redshirt freshman
Jake Oliver, redshirt freshman
This is the year Sanders can take a big step forward. He’s a legit playmaker whose role will expand. Meander made a strong impression in his redshirt year and is a big, athletic target. He and Oliver will battle for snaps and should contribute in 2014.
Armanti Foreman, freshman
Emanuel Porter, freshman
Johnson made some big plays and had a nice rapport with Case McCoy. He can stretch a defense and burn corners deep. Should see big opportunities this fall. Foreman and Porter are instant-impact guys among in large group of incoming freshman receivers, and keep an eye on Lorenzo Joe, too.
Geoff Swaim, senior
Greg Daniels, senior
M.J. McFarland, junior
Swaim, a junior college transfer, was a revelation as a blocker in 2013. Daniels got the job done as a blocker, too, but neither had many opportunities as receivers. Let’s hope the next staff can salvage the career of McFarland, who got stuck on special teams this season but needs to become a trusted pass-catcher.
Desmond Harrison, senior
Kennedy Estelle, junior
Mack Brown still believed Harrison will develop into an NFL first-rounder before he’s done, though his first season was a disappointment. If he’s not the solution at left tackle, you could see Estelle or several others move over. Estelle has mostly played right tackle and had some good moments in eight starts, but was suspended from the bowl for grades.
Sedrick Flowers, junior
Darius James, redshirt freshman
The departing senior linemen were big fans of Flowers, who they considered starter-quality throughout 2013 even if he was mostly a reserve. This is his spot to take. James needed a redshirt year to get back in shape, but he has the potential to be one of Texas’ best.
Dominic Espinosa, senior
Jake Raulerson, redshirt freshman
The new veteran leader of the line, Espinosa has 39 career starts under his belt and improved as a junior. Hard to see him losing his spot. Raulerson continues to put on muscle and will have a long, successful career. Texas also adds incoming freshman Terrell Cuney here.
Curtis Riser, sophomore
Rami Hammad, redshirt freshman
Riser is entering his third year in the program and seems likely to be the favorite for this spot, but don’t count out Hammad. He redshirted as a freshman and missed part of the season with an arm injury, but he’s as impressive as any first-year lineman the Longhorns had.
Kent Perkins, sophomore
Josh Cochran, senior
Perkins earned one start as a freshman and should be an All-Big 12-caliber tackle by the time he’s done in Austin. It’s hard to peg what’s next for Cochran, who lost enough weight from a shoulder injury to necessitate a move to tight end. The former starter could end up at either spot in his final season.
Nick Jordan, sophomore
Good luck to whoever must replace Anthony Fera, the All-American and Groza Award finalist. Jordan strugged as a freshman in 2012 but got a year off and seems most likely to assume the kicking duties, though there will be competition.
AUSTIN, Texas – Usually with these film reviews, we look into a short list of plays that swung a game. This week we’re digging a little deeper, because truthfully the Longhorns didn’t just beat No. 12 Oklahoma 36-20 on a couple momentum-shifting plays. They won on a mentality.
Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite defined the mentality as “playing your ass off.” He said it was about so much more than plays and schemes.
His offense won the day on Saturday by doing something few expected: Texas overwhelmed the Sooners at the point of attack and owned the line of scrimmage. This wasn’t about tricking or outsmarting OU. This was all about overpowering them.
So, after reviewing the tape, let’s take a closer look at five things we learned about Texas’ suddenly dominant power rushing attack.
1. No need for explosives
That’s part of what makes the rushing performance on Saturday so fascinating. Texas was grinding, plain and simple. Johnathan Gray gained four or more yards on 15 carries. Malcolm Brown got four-plus yards on 16. Together they had three carries of eight-plus yards.
Texas branded itself this offseason as having a high-tempo spread in the vein of Oklahoma State or Oregon.
In their biggest game of the season, in the Big 12’s marquee game year after year, the Longhorns played like a Big Ten powerhouse.
2. Attacking the middle
Of Texas’ 59 rushes, the running back went up the middle 40 times. Think about that.
The Longhorns didn’t set out to attack the edge with tosses and sweeps. They hit the middle of the field hard and were richly rewarded. Maximum credit must be given to Texas’ offensive line for their best four-quarter showing in a long time.
Gray attacked the middle on 22 of his 29 rushes. Brown did on 17 of 23 and was the more effective back in that capacity at 4.5 per carry.
As a team, Texas picked up nearly two-thirds of its rushing yards up the middle and averaged almost 4.1 yards per carry. It’s safe to say the Sooners missed defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and linebacker Corey Nelson on Saturday.
One caveat: Not all of these were designed dive plays. Over and over in this game, Texas backs read their blocks and changed direction to maximize their gains. Again, the credit goes to those big men up front.
3. Finding their formations
About half of Texas’ rushes against Oklahoma came out of the pistol formation. In addition to 29 plays out of that look, Texas ran 16 plays from a single-back set with Case McCoy under center and had as many plays from an I-formation (six) as from shotgun.
Gray’s 38-yard dash came on a draw play from a two-back shotgun set, but the I-formation and pistol proved most effective in the long run. Texas averaged a healthy 3.5 per carry in the pistol, and four of the six I-formation runs went for first downs.
The line about Texas playing like a B1G team is particularly fitting when you notice how often Applewhite used the two-tight end combo of Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels. Daniels was almost always next to the tackle and Swaim moved all over the field. They’re two of the unsung heroes of this offense.
4. First downs and third downs
I wrote last week that Texas would need to create more second-and-short situations for its offense to thrive. Guess not.
The Longhorns ran the ball on first down 25 times against OU and gained two yards or fewer on a third of those plays. So yeah, they dealt with more than a few second-and-longs and turned out just fine.
Interestingly, they went back to the run on second down 24 times and averaged an impressive 4.3 yards per carry. Texas also ran the ball 10 times on third down and picked up conversions six times. Mix in some timely deep passing from McCoy and it was enough to keep the Big 12’s No. 1 defense on its heels.
5. What this means
Texas doesn’t need to break out this blueprint week after week to win with McCoy as its quarterback, so don’t jump to that conclusion. This was the right way for Texas to attack Oklahoma. Don’t assume this is the rebrand going forward or that we’ll see another plan or performance like this one in 2013.
That being said, Applewhite and the offensive staff deserve serious praise. They kept it simple and let the run set up the big pass plays. Their players executed and manhandled OU up front.
Instead of dwelling on how McCoy could run an offense designed for Ash, Texas set him up to succeed and rode the talents of its top two backs. And yes, the Longhorns played their butts off.
With so few position battles in this year’s fall practices, it’s time to make start projections on how the depth chart will look when Texas takes the field Aug. 31 against New Mexico State.
Today, we look at Texas’ offensive depth. On Wednesday, we’ll break down the defense. Here’s where the Longhorns appear to stand with only a few days left in camp.
David Ash, Case McCoy, Tyrone Swoopes, Jalen Overstreet
No surprise here. Ash has been solid throughout the fall and pretty much exactly what we’d expected. He’s the unquestioned quarterback of this team, and his fellow Longhorns have bought in. A sore hamstring has limited Swoopes to some extent lately, and it’s still unclear if he’s the mop-up guys or a redshirt candidate. McCoy would still be the first guy off the bench if Ash gets hurt, but he’s got to cut down on his turnovers.
Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Jalen Overstreet
Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, Kendall Sanders, Daje Johnson, Marcus Johnson, Jacorey Warrick, John Harris, Bryant Jackson
The good news is Davis and Shipley are back and practicing. The bad news is that too many other guys aren’t. Sanders is the clear No. 3 receiver, but he’s suspended from the opener. Jackson had a chance for some first-team reps, but the foot injury he suffered Sunday drops him down this list. Everyone has praised Daje Johnson for his maturity this summer, and he’s going to be a dangerous threat in the slot. Warrick has garnered the most attention of the four freshman receivers, but several of them could be in the mix to play against New Mexico now that Jackson is out. The sleeper is Harris, who could get some play at outside receiver, and we don't know when Marcus Johnson will return.
Geoff Swaim, M.J. McFarland, Greg Daniels
This could be one of the few surprises of the preseason depth chart. Swaim has been better than Texas coaches expected, both as a receiver and blocker, and the juco transfer is definitely rising. Ash had strong praise for his play Monday. McFarland, the guy everyone expects to start, is still too inconsistent but has the potential to be a big-play guy over the middle in this offense. We didn’t list a fullback since Texas is going to more spread looks, but sophomore Alex De La Torre appears to be the favorite to hold down that job.
Donald Hawkins, Josh Cochran, Desmond Harrison, Kennedy Estelle, Kent Perkins
Harrison was expected to easily take over the left tackle job in fall camp, but he hasn’t practiced since Aug. 5 due to his academic issue. So, for now, Hawkins stays at left tackle and Cochran maintains his right tackle job. Estelle has made big strides entering his sophomore year, and of all the touted freshmen offensive linemen, it was Perkins who cracked the two-deep early on in camp and has impressed his fellow linemen. Until Harrison’s situation gets resolved, expect Estelle and Perkins to contribute right away.
Trey Hopkins, Mason Walters, Sedrick Flowers, Curtis Riser, Rami Hammad, Darius James
Hopkins continues to get a little work at center, but Texas must prepare for the possibility that Harrison is unavailable and appears likely to stick with Hopkins and Walters on the starting line. Hopkins says the starting linemen hardly consider Flowers a backup at this point due to his experience, and he’ll be one of the first guys off the bench to relieve Hopkins and Walters. Riser is also stepping up in his second year in the program. Hammad has been as good as advertised, and while James started in less than idea playing shape, he’s coming along. It’s hard to tell, though, whether those two freshmen play or redshirt at this point.
Dominic Espinosa, Trey Hopkins, Garrett Porter
Espinosa would likely be the odd man out if Harrison gets back in the mix and earns the left tackle job, but right now he’s safe. If he were to go down, it stands to reason that Texas would feel comfortable with Hopkins at center and Flowers or Hawkins at left guard. Porter is the No. 2 or No. 3 guy in this group and appears to remain ahead of freshman Jake Raulerson in the pecking order.
Anthony Fera, Nick Jordan
This is seemingly one of the few unanswered questions among starting jobs. Fera, the Penn State transfer, is healthy this fall and impressing with his leg. He’s likely the favorite to start off as placekicker over Jordan, but realistically the guy who loses out now could get another shot at some point this season if the starter struggles.
First Down: Up tempo is even faster now
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No. 81 Greg Daniels
Junior tight end
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But there are still players to be found who have not lived up to their potential but are on the verge of doing just that. And, like always, there is plenty of debate over just who those players might be. For our weekly debate at HornsNations, we decided to take on the question of just who would be the next player or players to step from the shadows and into the spotlight.
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No. 17 Miles Onyegbule
Expectations for 2013: It’s slightly surprising that Onyegbule’s career has not taken off yet. He was one of the early surprises in the fall practices of 2011. But Texas’s passing game was a mess that season and Onyegbule only caught four passes. Injuries complicated his 2012 season, as there was a knee injury in the offseason and an ankle injury during the season.
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In order for the Longhorns to realize and capitalize on their potential, there are some players that will have to step up for rest of spring practice. Here are five Longhorns who need to have a huge spring:
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"This isn’t junior college," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Texas found out on Saturday that Swaim had learned his lesson as he stayed low in his blocks and, surprisingly enough, on his feet. Consider it a learning curve successfully traveled.
Now all Texas has to do is learn how to most effectively use Swaim and the rest of the tight ends.
"We’ve got to figure out with what we are doing now and not substituting what Greg [Daniels] and Geoff Swaim can do as compared to [Miles] Onyegbule, John Harris and [M.J.] McFarland," Brown said.
Schedule: The Longhorns begin spring practice on Thursday and will host a spring game on March 30.
What's new: Offensive playcalling duties have fallen to co-coordinator Major Applewhite now, who was promoted when partner Bryan Harsin left to become Arkansas State's head coach. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz mulled a move after the season, but ultimately stuck around to help revive a defense that struggled in 2012.
On the mend: Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will likely be limited after undergoing surgery on a torn pectoral, but linebacker Jordan Hicks should return following a hip injury that cost him his 2012 season and a sexual assault charge that was eventually dropped stemming from an incident during the Longhorns' bowl trip.
Stepping up: Kenny Vaccaro's versatility will be tough to replace, but figuring out who will try and fill his role at safety will be huge for Texas' defense during the spring. My money is on Mykkele Thompson, but don't rule out junior Josh Turner or even a position move for physical junior cornerback Quandre Diggs.
New faces: Texas is welcoming a handful of early enrollees this spring, headlined by quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Offensive lineman Jake Raulerson, the 2013 class' first commit, is also enrolled along with linebacker Deoundrei Davis and tight end Geoff Swaim, the nation's No. 4 junior college player at the position.
Breaking out: Linebacker Peter Jinkens already made an impact as a true freshman, but don't be surprised if he leaves spring practice with a starting gig, beating out a few older players like Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson. Jinkens earned a start against Iowa State and snagged an interception in Texas' Alamo Bowl win over Oregon State, but the 6-foot-1, 213-pounder from Dallas could be a budding star in a linebacking corps that needs help after a disappointing 2012.
Under the radar: Texas struggled in the kicking game throughout 2012, making just 11 of 19 attempts, the lowest percentage of any Big 12 team. Nick Jordan had to carry the load as a freshman while Penn State transfer Anthony Fera battled a groin injury. They'll be back to battle this spring, and though it won't get much attention in a camp loaded with intrigue, its importance can't be overstated for a team that doesn't hang points by the buckets and played in six games decided by one possession a year ago.
All eyes on: Quarterback David Ash. Being just OK is no longer acceptable. He was reasonably efficient last season with a passer rating of over 153, but faltered late in the season and struggled with inconsistency. If Texas is going to be great, he has to be great, and most importantly, consistent. No more well-deserved benchings in favor of Case McCoy. Ash limited his interceptions and was fifth in the league in passer rating, but he's got to be even better as a junior.
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Help is on the way: The offensive line questions have been answered. Texas is set to sign one of the nation’s best classes up front with five commits, including No. 1 center Darius James (Killeen, Texas/Harker Heights) and No. 4 tackle Kent Perkins (Dallas/Lake Highlands). Contra Costa (Calif.) College tackle Desmond Harrison joined the class this week. Texas also landed ESPN 300 outside linebacker Deoundrei Davis (Cypress, Texas/Cypress Woods), who enrolled early and should contribute as a freshman.
Other key commits: Two more early enrollees, ESPN 150 lineman Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas/Celina) and Butte (Calif.) College tight end Geoff Swaim, should play right away. Texas also has pledges from ESPN 150 defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights), receiver Jacorey Warrick (Houston/Cypress Falls) and cornerback Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop). The Longhorns will pair Warrick with Jake Oliver (Dallas/Jesuit), who broke the Texas state record for career receptions.
Other key targets: Holding on to Robinson is crucial. He has taken official visits to USC and Alabama and could make a late-second flip on signing day. With a pledge from Harrison, the biggest remaining priorities are finding another running back and wide receiver. ESPN 150 receiver Sebastian LaRue (Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica) and Ole Miss running back commit Peyton Barber (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) could visit in January.
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