Texas Longhorns: Greg Daniels

Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 81 Greg Daniels
Senior tight end


Recruitment rewind: A four-star recruit from Houston's St. Pius X, Daniels was a bit of an under-the-radar find when he committed at a 2009 junior day. He had offers from Oklahoma and Baylor at the time, and Alabama and Texas A&M after his pledge. He played both tight end and defensive end in high school, but took more of a liking to defense in his senior season.

Career so far: Daniels redshirted in 2010 and played in three games on the defensive line in 2011. After that season, he transitioned over to tight end and has stayed there ever since. He's played in 25 games and earned 14 starts since joining the offense, and has eight receptions for 118 yards in his career. Daniels had right shoulder surgery this offseason and missed spring ball.

Best-case scenario for 2014: This is a player who's poised to surprise. The new Texas staff knows Daniels can set the edge as a blocker, and he's going to see the field a lot on running downs. But don't forget that Daniels was on the receiving end of the 2012 Wishbone tribute to Darrell K Royal. That was a 47-yard reception, and Daniels could be in for more opportunities as a pass-catcher over the middle.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Texas has four pretty intriguing options at tight end now that Blake Whiteley has joined the mix, and it's the position group that has the most continuity since Bruce Chambers was retained. So as long as Daniels' shoulder heals up, the only setback he would face is falling to third or fourth on the depth chart. He will at least be a quality blocker, he just might not see many passes thrown his way.

Future expectations: Daniels has one season of eligibility left and, potentially, a chance to help reverse Texas' recent trend of unremarkable play at tight end. Unless one player rises up in fall camp, expect a committee of contributors at that position. He's not yet a well-known player among Texas fans because of his thankless efforts as a blocker, but you could see a lot more from Daniels as a senior.

Texas position groups to improve: No. 5

February, 10, 2014
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Texas is getting off to a later-than-usual start to its spring practices this year, with Charlie Strong set to lead the Longhorns onto the practice field for the first time on March 18.

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.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Geoff Swaim
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsGeoff Swaim (left) had three receptions but spent most of his time blocking for the Longhorns..
5. Tight Ends

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.

Juco TE Whiteley picks Longhorns

January, 8, 2014
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Texas picked up its first verbal commitment of the Charlie Strong era on Wednesday.

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.

Planning for success: Texas

November, 14, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas – The touchdowns are usually all most people notice, and all they remember days later. The little plays, the ones that don’t pop up during Sunday film review, get Mack Brown just as excited.

You don’t win games like Texas’ 47-40 overtime victory over West Virginia last weekend without sneaking in a handful of those small, but significant plays. Under Brown, Texas is 22-5 in games decided by three points or less. You don’t win those without getting the upper hand on a few sneaky-important plays.

[+] EnlargeSteve Edmond
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsTexas made just enough plays to beat West Virginia and will need more of the same against Oklahoma State.
There were plenty to choose from in Morgantown, W.V., last Saturday. Cornerback Carrington Byndom snuck in and blew up a run on third-and-1 late in the fourth quarter. Texas preserved its timeouts for its final offensive drive by stopping that conversion.

While nobody else was looking, tight end Greg Daniels dove on a Malcolm Brown fumble near the end zone on second and goal in overtime. Texas scored on the very next play.

On West Virginia’s first offensive snap in overtime, Mario Alford took a reverse 20 yards to the 5. He could've scored, but Texas safety Adrian Phillips fought off a block and managed to force Alford out of bounds.

On second-and-goal on the Longhorns’ game-deciding goal-line stand, cornerback Quandre Diggs got a finger on Paul Millard's pass to an open receiver. The box score didn’t credit him for a pass breakup. On the final play of the night, Diggs pressured Millard with a blitz off the edge and was smart enough to avoid roughing the passer.

Those aren’t glorious plays like Steve Edmond’s interception or Jaxon Shipley’s touchdown, both of which merited praise, but these details garner almost no attention from the public and they helped swing a shootout on the road that sent Texas home 6-0 in the Big 12.

Under Mack Brown, Texas has now pulled of 31 second-half comebacks and 20 fourth-quarter comebacks. The Longhorns might need a few more of those plays to go their way against a 12th-ranked Oklahoma State team that’s a tough out in all three phases.

What makes the Longhorns so proficient in these close games? You could chalk it up to practice habits or savvy play-calling or plenty of other factors. It’s a bit simpler than that to co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.

“Me personally, just my own personal opinion, I think you’ve got good players,” Applewhite said. “When you have Vince Young and Colt McCoy and you have Ricky Williams and you have Jaxon Shipley, I just think players usually end up winning the game over the course of time.

“I’d love to attribute it to something out there, but I think it’s good players making big-time plays in big-time situations.”

But contributions like the ones Byndom, Daniels, Phillips and Diggs made don’t go unnoticed. They’re the kind of detail plays that come from a 2013 team loaded with experienced veterans.

It’s also a group that has produced enough close wins and last-second victories to know how to thrive in these high-pressure spots.

“I don’t think anybody wants to be in a close game with us in the fourth quarter,” senior guard Mason Walters said. “I’m really confident the guys I play football with thrive in that. I really think it’s that pride in being able to win close games that really helps us.”

And by now, this Texas team has had enough close calls to know the “big-time plays” Applewhite seeks aren’t always the ones that put points on the scoreboard.

Film review: Texas' new power run game

October, 14, 2013
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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

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsTexas and Johnathan Gray made a living inside the tackles in their upset of Oklahoma.
Texas ran the ball 59 times on Saturday for 255 yards. The two longest rushes of the afternoon were for 38 yards and 13 yards. Texas had only one other rush of 10 or more yards on the day. So there was really no way to pad the stats, and by the traditional definition (12-plus yards) there was very little “explosive” rushing.

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.

Burnt Orange Breakdown: TE Greg Daniels 

July, 22, 2013
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During the summer, HornsNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Texas roster -- excluding the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class -- in our Burnt Orange Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 81 Greg Daniels
Junior tight end

Question of the Week: Horns on the verge 

June, 6, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- It’s difficult to fathom that a team such as Texas, a squad so meticulously picked over and scrutinized from every angle, could have any under-the-radar players.

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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During the summer, HornsNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Texas roster -- excluding the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class -- in our Burnt Orange Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 17 Miles Onyegbule
Junior H-back/receiver


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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AUSTIN, Texas -- Geoff Swaim was knocked down because he stood up.

Twice.

"This isn’t junior college," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

[+] EnlargeM.J. McFarland
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTexas' M.J. McFarland has improved as a blocker but needs to show more consistency.
Nope, to steal a line from Dan Hawkins -- sans the hysterical screaming voice -- it's Division I football. And Swaim, a junior college transfer working in his first spring practice with the Longhorns, found that out from the seat of his pants during practice Friday.

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.

(Read full post)

Position breakdown: Tight end 

February, 14, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- For two years Texas wanted a tight end that could block first, seal the edge and maybe occasionally catch a pass downfield.


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Horns Snapshot: TE Geoff Swaim 

February, 1, 2013
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To gear up for 2013 national signing day, HornsNation’s William Wilkerson is breaking down every commitment in the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Tight end Geoff Swaim, Chico, Calif/Butte College | 6-foot-5, 250 pounds


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HornsNation is counting down the top five moments of Texas’ 2012 season this week.

[+] EnlargeTexas Longhorns
Brett Davis/US PresswireTexas opened in the wishbone vs. Iowa State, a tribute to former coach Darrell K Royal, who introduced the formation in 1968.
Play No. 1

The game: Days before the Iowa State game, Mack Brown knew he wanted to honor the recently deceased Darrell K Royal. And the Texas coach told the world the Longhorns would do just that against the Cyclones. Brown’s team, which had been Royal’s long before Brown arrived, would line up in the wishbone on the first play of the first drive. It was a tip of the cap to the man who made Texas football and who made Brown feel at home in the program.

The play: The wishbone was famous for its multiple options. Texas had just one on this day. Backed up at their own 6-yard line, the Longhorns lined up in the wishbone and hoped for the best.

"When we were backed up [co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin] said, 'What do you think?' " Brown said. "And I said, 'Heck run it. What the heck -- he’s watching. He’s got enough spunk, he’ll like the fact that we took a shot at it.' And you could tell it was going be open from the beginning, so it was a fun play and maybe had a little intervention from up above on that one."

(Read full post)

There was a lot riding on Texas’ first play from scrimmage against Iowa State.

Everyone knew the Longhorns would line up in the wishbone in honor of Darrell K. Royal for that one play, but no one knew what was going to come of it.

[+] EnlargeDurham Smythe
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comClass of 2013 tight end Durham Smythe could see earlier time for the Longhorns.
Snap. Pitch to Jaxon Shipley, who throws it back to David Ash in the endzone, who then throws it to ... a tight end, the same position that Mack Brown listed as one of his two chief concerns heading into the season? Gulp.

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The Texas 10: Week 11 

November, 12, 2012
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Each week, HornsNation will rank Texas' top 10 performers of the season up to this point:

1. David Ash: The quarterback threw for a career high 364 yards and has fully bounced back from his benching at Kansas.

2. Mike Davis: The wide receiver has back-to-back 100-yard receiving games as well as touchdown catches of 75 and 61 yards. He remains the second best deep threat in the Big 12 behind Baylor’s Terrance Williams.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Texas 33, Iowa State 7 

November, 11, 2012
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With a balanced offense and a defense that appears to now at least in position to make plays, Texas has become closer to the team coach Mack Brown thought it would have back in September.

"It is the team we wanted to get to," he said.

THREE UP

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