Texas Football: 10 Things to Improve During the Bye
The No. 15 Texas Longhorns (8-2, 5-2) enter a bye week after matching their win total from last season. And with two games to go, the Horns are in a position to really do some BCS damage late in the season.
Winners of four straight contests, Texas is fielding its best product at the best time.
After some easy early-season wins, the Longhorns were kind of an unknown until losing in the ugliest fashion against Oklahoma.
Seemingly humbled by the 63-21 beatdown, which was even worse than what the score suggests, Texas has rebounded nicely. The Longhorns had allowed almost 50 points per game in their first four conference games. But in their last three, they have given up just over 15 points per game.
Granted, the competition was much less impressive, but the miscues that plagued the Longhorns early in the season have shrunk considerably.
In their second bye week, Texas looks to freshen up before buckling down to face the front of its final two games against TCU and No. 1 Kansas State.
Here are 10 things to improve during the week off.
Finding a Kicker
Still one of the biggest question marks facing the Longhorns this season is the uncertainty at kicker.
Nick Jordan started the season, but hardly made a dent in the expectations set by his predecessors.
Everyone wanted to breathe a sigh of relief when Anthony Fera finally made the depth chart as a healthy option, but since debuting with the Longhorns against West Virginia, Fera has converted 2-of-4 field goals and has missed twice in PAT attempts.
Jordan took over mid-game against Iowa State, and it only creates more uncertainty moving forward.
Working Malcolm Brown Back into the Ground Game
First things first, Johnathan Gray has done more than an impressive job in filling the void left behind by Brown and his ankle knock. Gray has compiled a team-best 607 yards rushing on the season.
But as good as Gray has been, the impact of Brown's game cannot be understated as arguably the most dynamic option in the running game.
With the best mix of power, strength and speed, Brown is a do-it-all kind of back, but he has shown a certain vulnerability to the injury bug.
Brown got some snaps late against Iowa State, probably to shake off the rust left behind from his five-game absence, but getting him back into the mix on the ground is an important factor in the grand scheme on the ground.
Defensive issues and Texas' defense has gone hand in hand this season, but just as the Longhorns have come on of late, so has a decrease in their defensive shortcomings.
Tackling and poor discipline were the root of those lingering problems, but Texas has shown the necessary improvement in those areas that have helped sustain its four-game winning streak.
With the well-coached TCU and Kansas State coming up, solidifying execution defensively is a critical piece during the bye.
Finding the Speed
D.J. Monroe, Daje Johnson and Marquise Goodwin all have fallen under an umbrella of underutilized speed.
The trio got some great touches early in the season, but it seems like those ships have sailed.
Through six games, Monroe had 12 touches, Johnson had 20 and Goodwin had 22. In Texas' four-game winning streak, the trio has six, 18 and 10 respectively.
Maybe it's a grand scheme that will allow them to explode for huge plays late in the season, but whatever the case, the three speedsters have been vastly underused.
Injuries are forever a part of the game, and they have hit the Longhorns hard this season in a couple of key places.
Sophomore RB Malcolm Brown missed the better part of five games with an ankle injury. Junior LB Jordan Hicks has a sustaining hip injury that he picked up against Ole Miss, and junior DE Jackson Jeffcoat is out for the season after undergoing surgery for a torn pectoral.
The Longhorns could use the week off to refresh before battling it out with a couple of the Big 12's toughest opponents.
Establish Consistency at Linebacker
Linebacker has been a position of huge concern for Texas ever since Jordan Hicks suffered a hip injury against Ole Miss.
With virtually no timetable on Hicks' return, the Longhorns have had to rotate through a host of young talent. While those youngsters bring plenty of future excitement, Texas has had to live with the growing pains.
Kendall Thompson has flashed some brilliance, but suffered a concussion two weeks ago.
Peter Jinkens took advantage of Thompson's absence with a strong outing of his own, furthering the rotation next to Steve Edmond.
Edmond has picked up his game significantly of late, but Thompson and Jinkens will have to do the same before the Texas defense can really look to take off.
The Horned Frogs and the Wildcats may be two of the toughest teams in the Big 12, at least from a physical perspective.
Texas has closed that gap in recent weeks with some dominant play on both sides of the football, but there is definitely more to be had if the Longhorns are to extend their winning streak before four.
Overpowering the opponent is part of the Texas running game, but defensively, the pieces are starting to show up as well.
With a week to energize, the Longhorns will be in a position to deliver some huge blows in the Big 12 and the BCS.
Sense of Urgency
At 8-2, Texas has matched its win total from a season ago.
But with much more on the line with two games left, the Longhorns are in a strong position to blow some things up in the BCS.
If Texas, which is already riding a good wave of momentum, can find a switch to turn the intensity and urgency up one more notch, Mack Brown's team could be heading into Manhattan with a chance to knock off the top-ranked team in the country in Kansas State.
If the Longhorns want that BCS opportunity, the mental and physical preparation will begin now.
The Turnover Game
The Longhorns have done nicely in securing a good turnover margin, sitting at plus-eight on the season.
Continuing that trend in the final two games will go a long way towards finishing much stronger in 2012 than in 2011.
A strong point is Texas' eight turnovers, which ranks fifth in the FBS. But Kansas State, Texas' final opponent of the season, comes in at No. 2 with just six giveaways.
But more than creating turnovers is the bonus when converting them into points on offense.
In the game within the game, winning the turnover battle is something Texas has done this season and has to look to do better in the final two weeks.
Incorporate the Tight End
One of the hidden positions on the Texas offense has been tight end, a group with plenty of numbers and a sincere lack of diverse options.
Many have flashed the pass-catching ability, and fewer have done so as the extra blocker, but perhaps there is a corner coming.
Greg Daniels was the recipient of the double-pass out of the Wishbone, but how likely is it that we will see more of that look down the road?
With just two games to go, a new-found contribution from the tight end would be a welcomed opening for the offense.