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Buy, Hold, and Sell: Week 5
As the BON resident bookkeeper, nobody knows the Texas balance sheet and income statement quite like me (no statement of cash flows here, amateurism and all that). And because I took a financial statement analysis class at UT, I feel best qualified to dish stock advice on this year's team.
Buy: Texas Pass Defense
Now, I wouldn't normally recommend a Buy right before something is about to take its toughest test of the year, but it's worth owning stock in the pass defense if it comes through against Baylor. I could rattle off a list of what the Baylor passing game brings: 7th nationally in yards per attempt and passing TDs, 4th in passing yards per game, all rolled into the top scoring offense in the country.
Fortunately, segment earnings for the Texas pass defense have been solid through the first third of the season: 7th nationally in yards per attempt allowed, 8th in passing yards per game, 8th in sacks per game, and tied for 1st in interceptions per game.
Much will be asked of the pass defense as it faces the multiple Baylor offense. Art Briles' wide splits will force Strong's defense to make choices in defensive alignments, either to let corners Duke Thomas, Quandre Diggs, and Mykkele Thompson take the Baylor WRs in man coverage with little help, or trust a light box to control the Baylor OL and run game. Regardless of the choice, the corners will be tested.
But the biggest key will be the play of the young Texas safeties. True freshman Jason Hall was the first true freshman to start at safety for Texas since 2008, and he'll need to be ready and not get manipulated by Heisman hopeful Bryce Petty. Sophomores Adrian Colbert and Dylan Haines will also need to play mistake free, with experienced option Josh Turner being an unreliable option at this point. With the youth at safety, we're buying in early and riding whatever storm may come.
Hold: Texas Passing Game
The Texas passing game is a combination of a bunch of high beta pieces: developing OL, young but promising QB with tangible qualities, and experienced and talented WRs. The strength of the Texas offense is certainly in the WR group, where John Harris and Jaxon Shipley are the most consistent performers on that side side of the ball, Marcus Johnson provides an experienced third option, and young upstarts like Lorenzo Joe and Armanti Foreman provide a solid change of pace.
The constraint on those assets is the development of a young QB and ability of a remade offensive line. Last week, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson continued to put more on sophomore Tyrone Swoopes' plate to mixed results. He connected on a deep ball to Shipley on the run, missed a number of open deep receivers, continued displays of arm strength and accuracy outside the hashes, and showed just enough that the performance wasn't a concern.
The deep balls were there, and he had the time to find it, mostly. But the two best defensive fronts on the schedule are up next, and they will test Swoopes' internal clock. If the line (and any TEs and RBs that can hang back) can buy him time, he'll need to connect on those shots.
We're waiting to see the payoff for these WR assets. If the passing game can get through the next couple weeks and show us something, we could see this moving to a solid Buy.
Sell: Texas Run Game
Several years of mismanagement and questionable investments have led our new management team to significantly mark down impaired assets on the offensive line. Injuries, dismissals, transfers, and suspensions (and lions and tigers and bears oh my) have left the Horns with few options and fewer positive results. Johnathan Gray, who I'm not convinced is altogether recovered from last year's blown Achilles, has put up a solid yet unspectacular 50 carries for 222 yards (4.4 per carry), with a long of 42 and no TDs. Malcolm Brown has cooled off from his strong finish to 2013 to contribute 53 carries for 191 yards (3.6 per carry) and 2 TDs on the ground.
Absent a sudden infusion of options, such as Darius James stepping onto the scene in a big way or Desmond Harrison getting his act together and stepping right into action, the chances of immediate improvement are slim. Contributors now are either out of position, not yet ready to carry the load, or simply nothing more than capable options. Revelations at ball carriers could help the situation, likely in the form of an electric talent like Daje Johnson (figure it out, Daje), Armanti Foreman, or the newly un-redshirted Roderick Bernard.
Until something changes,or maybe in a few weeks if we start seeing consistent results, we're going to advise selling your stock in the run game. In the meantime, we'll likely be heavily invested in other areas to carry us ahead in 2014.
Texas could receive visit from Michigan TE commit Chris Clark
The Horns could soon enter the mix with the out-of-state prospect.
Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke is on the hot seat in Ann Arbor and the Texas Longhorns could take advantage on the recruiting trail.
Multiple reports on Monday suggest that the Horns could eventually receive a visit from Wolverines tight end commit Chris Clark, a 6'6, 250-pounder from Avon (Conn.) Old Farms.
Clark has been committed to Michigan since June, but there is some thought that he doesn't currently consider himself a pledge to the Wolverines and a potential coaching change could force him to officially open up his recruitment. A report from 247Sports indicates that he's already been in contact with a current Texas commit.
Michigan is currently reeling from yet another loss, while Hoke has come under fire for continuing to play quarterback Shane Morrison Saturday after Morris appeared to suffer a head injury. Many fans are calling for Hoke to be fired as a result.
Holding a number of offers from around the country, Clark visited schools like North Carolina, Arizona State, Ohio State, and Tennessee before and directly after his pledge to Michigan. Notre Dame and Georgia were also considered strong contenders for his services at one time.
He's a consensus four-star prospect ranked as the No. 2 tight end nationally, the No. 2 player in the state of Connecticut, and the No. 79 player overall in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
On film, it's not hard to see why Clark sits near the top of the rankings at his position. Capable of creating separation from an inside receiver position or road-grading opponents from a three-point stance, Clark is a fluid athlete who can high-point the football. Just as importantly, he projects as an early contributor because of his blocking experience and the fact that he doesn't need to add mass to survive as a blocker.
An official visit may be in the works for Clark and the Horns are entering his recruitment at a late date and, if or when Clark officially opens up his recruitment, will be going head-to-head with top programs that have already built a relationship with him.
It's always an extreme long shot to land an elite prospect based on one official visit, but there's nothing wrong with trying considering that tight end is a major position of need for Texas in the 2015 class.