Four downs: More needed from 'backers

Each week Sean Adams takes a look at some topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

1st Down: The “big-time” defense

John Gruden once said, “There’s one thing to be talented and another thing to be good.” The University of Texas defense is floating somewhere in the middle of really talented and good. That is a good problem to have but as of the end of the nonconference schedule it is a problem.

The defense is loaded with NFL-caliber talent on every level. The position in particular that probably causes the most concern to head coach Mack Brown and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is the linebacker group. DeMarco Cobbs and Steve Edmond are the two of the players that I would identify as guys that could improve their play and impact on the defense. A related issue to that could be that Jordan Hicks might miss some time due to his hip injury suffered against Ole Miss. He is the leading tackler on the team and the leader of the defense.

Where do Dalton Santos and Kendall Thompson fit in the rotation? A big-time defense has big-time linebackers and they need to figure that out.

As for the entirety of the defense and their giving up big plays, All-American candidate Kenny Vaccaro said one word: “Disappointed."

The Texas defense has problems that can be fixed and I still believe they will be one of the better defenses in the country by season's end.

2nd Down: Are you a believer in the offensive line?

The Texas tailbacks ran the ball 54 times for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns vs. Ole Miss. They averaged 6.5 yards per carry with a long rush of 69 yards.

While the talent of the running back position at Texas is undeniable, the offensive line under the coaching of Stacy Searels has answered the bell. The middle of the offensive line harbored many of the questions in 2011 and that group with Dominic Espinosa, Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins got it done against Ole Miss.

I have never been a huge fan of big changes with the same personnel on the offensive line. This offensive line will not be great but it can play as more of a unit and play with better technique and more attitude.

The biggest question is whether the interior of the offensive line plays well against the better defensive lines left on the schedule. I am a believer right now but they need to get better in order to experience greater success for this offense in 2012.

3rd Down: Spreading the wealth

Remember just a couple years ago when Texas was trying to figure out what it had on offense? Did the Longhorns have any weapons to count on?

Now Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Johnathan Gray and D.J Monroe give you all you need in the running game.

Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis, Marquise Goodwin, Daje Johnson and a host of others give you all you need in the passing game.

In actuality the runners can catch the ball and pass catchers can run the ball. Bryan Harsin, Major Applewhite and David Ash are charged with the responsibility of trying to keep everyone happy while scoring enough points to win football games for the Longhorns. Recruiting gives schools possibilities. Over the last couple of years, the Longhorns have replenished the roster at the skill positions. Like many of the other positions on a team that starts 3 seniors, growth and development has to happen. When it does, look out!

The skill is in place. But the question remains: Are there enough balls to go around?

4th Down: Ash answers the bell

For all of the noise about his schooling, his upbringing and the fact that he grew up without a TV, Ash is just fine.

He told me earlier in the season that “Players will follow the guy that puts the ball in the end zone.”

In the first three games of the season, Ash has done just that. He has connected on 55-of-72 passes for 703 yards. That is a 76.4 percent completion rate to go along with his 7 touchdowns and no interceptions.

For a kid that has had his fair share of criticism, he has answered the bell just fine.

Extra Point: Adams’ Big 12 Power Poll

  1. West Virginia (No. 1 last week): The Mountaineers are at the top until they lose.

  2. Texas (2): I feel better about this team after the offensive output at Ole Miss.