Latest news from Burnt Orange Nation - All Posts.
Texas HC Charlie Strong not concerned about DE Cedric Reed's production
The numbers haven't been there yet for the senior.
Should the lack of production by Texas Longhorns senior defensive end Cedric Reed be concerning?
Head coach Charlie Strong doesn't think so and shared those thoughts during Monday's media availability.
On the surface, there would seem to be cause for concern -- the preseason All-American and No. 1 senior defensive end on Mel Kiper's draft board entered the season with high expectations and hasn't accomplished much as a pass rusher.
Through three games, Reed has only .5 tackles loss, .5 sacks, and one quarterback hurry, hardly All-American production. And against BYU, the 6'5, 272-pounder had only three tackles.
Reed set the bar high for his senior campaign after recording 77 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks during his breakout junior season opposite departed defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Even the ancillary stats were extremely impressive for Reed -- 12 quarterback hurries, five fumbles forced, and four passes broken up.
Strong doesn't believe that teams are executing a specific game plan against Reed that is keeping him from making plays, but he does think the loss of Jeffcoat has made a difference.
"When you think about last year, you had [Jackson] Jeffcoat on one side and you had Ced on the other side. And with Jeffcoat being the force that he was, he was creating a lot of sack opportunities, and then they were able to get the flush to Ced, but Ced is playing fine."
Winning national honors like consideration for the Ted Hendricks award that Jeffcoat won last season and a place on the All-American teams at the end of the season means producing the type of gaudy numbers that attract attention.
As a head coach, though, Strong doesn't worry about the numbers.
"I think we get caught up; he's playing well enough for us," Strong said. "I'm not getting caught up in the numbers, because I know we see 10 sacks in the last season and each and every year it doesn't go that way for you."
Some of the reduction in numbers is a result of a change in scheme that Reed said at Big 12 Media Days would probably result in fewer sacks for him.
Some of the reduction also comes from the type of offenses Texas has faced through the first several games.
Against North Texas, the Mean Green were so atrocious through the air that head coach Dan McCarney attempted only 17 passes.
Against BYU, the Cougars attempted 28, a number that isn't particularly high either. And Reed and his fellow defensive linemen were concerned about BYU quarterback Taysom Hill getting free of contain if defenders got out of their pass-rushing lanes. It happened anyway, but the healthy fear of Hill's legs limited opportunities to go all-out in the pass rush in an attempt to get to the quarterback.
Against UCLA, the early injury to star quarterback Brett Hundley forced the UCLA passing attack to become more conservative, limiting the opportunities for the Texas pass rushers.
Overall, the result through the non-conference schedule is that Texas has faced only 79 pass attempts -- only 14 other programs in college football have seen fewer.
It's not an effort issue for Reed. And though he gained weight, it's probably not an issue of athleticism, either, Reed is just getting fewer opportunities to make plays.
And the bottom line remains that Texas merely needs drive-altering plays from the entire defense, not just from one player. In that regard, the Horns have been having some success with 13 sacks already, tied for 12th nationally even though Texas just had an early bye week. In sacks per game, Strong's defense ranks No. 5 with 4.33 per contest.
Reed also collected seven of his 10 sacks last season in the last six games, so with nine games remaining, there's plenty of time for him to get his. The impressive run to finish the season also happened to start against Kansas with Reed recording two sacks and a game-changing forced fumble returned by defensive tackle Chris Whaley for a touchdown.
The scheme this year may not help Reed out as much against the Jayhawks, but counting out such a talented player who is still clearly giving high effort doesn't sound like a smart move.
Big 12 Basketball: More Roster Turnover For West Virginia
Our Big 12 hoops series continues with a look at the Mountaineers.
When West Virginia jumped from the Big East to the Big 12 two seasons ago, it was seen at the time as a big take for the league. Coming off a run of seven NCAA tournament trips in eight seasons, including a trip to the 2010 Final Four, the Mountaineers were expected to have a big impact in Big 12 hoops.
But it hasn't yet happened. In its first two seasons in the conference, Bob Huggins' squad has finished in the bottom half of the league.
What Happened to the Defense?
A big part of the reason that West Virginia hasn't performed as well as expected has been a gradual erosion of the defense. Ken Pomeroy provides tempo free ratings for each Division I team's defense going back to the 2001-2002 season. From the 2001-2002 season through the 2010-2011 season, every team Bob Huggins' coached rated among the top 40 defenses in D-I. But Huggins' last three defenses have rated Nos. 83, 138, and 154.
The defensive drop off over the last three seasons can be almost completely attributed to the Mountaineers' poor field goal shooting defense. During the years where Huggins' defenses thrived, opponent effective field goal percentage was typically quite low. Last season, during Big 12 games, West Virginia allowed opponents to shoot the highest effective field goal percentage in the conference.
The interior defense has been particularly problematic in Morgantown. West Virginia has been getting clobbered inside the arc for the better part of the last three seasons. Last year, opponents' two point shooting percentage was 50 percent; it is hard to have a top level defense when you allow this high of a shooting percentage on two point attempts. The Mountaineers haven't been particularly good at limiting penetration, and for the most part haven't protected the rim well.
There might be an easy way to improve West Virginia's poor interior defense. That way is to find more minutes for 6-10 center Kevin Noreen. (Yes, this novel solution to improve the interior defense involves playing the biggest guy on the team more.)
When Noreen is in the game, the West Virginia defense has been solid over the last three seasons. When he has sat, the West Virginia defense hasn't been as good.
The West Virginia defense, when Kevin Noreen plays and sits.
||Def PPP (On Floor)
||Def PPP (Off Floor)
||Def 2pt FG% (On Floor)
||Def 2pt FG% (On Floor)
The downside of playing Noreen is that he doesn't contribute very much on offense. But he isn't actively harmful at that end of the floor. In fact, the West Virginia offense was actually better last season while he was in the game. I won't argue that he is a big help to the Mountaineer attack, but he is hardly dragging them down.
Will the West Virginia Offense Be as Good as Last Season?
While the WVU defense struggled, the offense kept the Mountaineers competitive. Last season, Huggins' squad scored 1.11 points per possession Big 12 games, the fourth highest rate in the league. The key player that makes the West Virginia offense go is lead guard Juwan Staten, who is among the best returning players in the conference.
Staten's game has steadily improved since his freshman season at Dayton. He is limited in one key way that is often problematic for guards; through his first three seasons in Division I Staten hasn't shown much ability as a jump shooter. But he compensates for this weakness by being good at all other aspects of guard play. Staten takes care of the ball (WVU had one of the ten lowest turnover rates in the nation last year), breaks down the defense with his dribble to attack the rim and set up his teammates, and is a one man fast break. Juwan Staten today is what Texas hoops fans hope Isaiah Taylor can become.
A season ago, Staten was surrounded by three point shooters. Eron Harris, Terry Henderson, Remi Dibo, and Nathan Adrian were all dangerous from the perimeter, making the Mountaineers the second best three point shooting team in the Big 12. But after the season Harris and Henderson transferred out of the program, and Dibo chose to return to France to pursue a professional basketball career.
To help deal with all of this turnover, Huggins has brought in a number of junior college perimeter players who can shoot. JuCo transfer Jaysean Paige made 45 percent of his threes last seeason while scoring 21.4 PPG, playing for Moberly Area Community College in Missouri. Tarik Phillip is a Brooklyn native who spent last year hooping for Independence Community College in Kansas. In JuCo ball last season, he averaged 18.7 PPG, shot 39 percent from three point range, and swiped more than four steals per game. BillyDee Williams, a transfer from South Plains (Texas) Community College, also connected on 40 percent of his threes last season.
So with new shooters added to replace the three that left, the formula of surrounding Juwan Staten with long range gunners still looks to be in play.
Even if the newcomers are good, after losing so many key offensive players from last season it hard to see how the West Virginia offense will be better this year. That means that without a significant improvement on defense, West Virginia likely will again struggle to separate itself from the middle of the Big 12 pack.
If West Virginia does improve, that improvement may very well come from two talented sophomores; the previously mentioned Adrian, as well as 6-9 Devin Williams. The issue that held Williams back as a freshman was difficultly finishing around the rim. It is hard to imagine that Williams will continue to convert fewer than 50 percent of his layups and dunks this season.
Still, the problem for the Mountaineers is that they play in a very difficult league. Staten is one of the best players in the conference, but that just doesn't feel like enough.
In case you missed it, this series has previously examined Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas Tech.