March 28, 2011

THREE THINGS brought you by Cover 3 - Harsin, Diaz and hoops

1. There are a couple things that can help an inexperienced offensive line: an effective, running quarterback; and Bryan Harsin's offense.

Harsin's offense uses motions and shifts to keep the defense off balance and guessing. If the defense can't fire off with total conviction, then the offensive line has a chance to gain a split-second edge.

It's the same kind of split-second edge the zone read with Vince Young gave the Texas offensive line (because the defense didn't know whether to commit to stopping Young around the end or Jamaal Charles or Ramonce Taylor going the other direction.)

In some ways, Harsin's offense will feel like preparing for the triple option if you're the defense.

Harsin uses a lot of two-back sets; a pistol, one-back set (that's right, the pistol is in the offense); an unbalanced line with two and three tight ends on the field at once; and the list goes on. You picture it, Harsin probably runs it.

There's so much to pay attention to that it will be hard to cram all of that into one week of preparation for the defense. There are reports that Bob Stoops has already been in Boise, picking Chris Petersen's brain about his offense.

Is that because Stoops wants more Boise in his offense or because he wants to make sure as a former defensive coordinator, he has more ideas about how to stop it?

People close to the OU program have told me that during the height of OU's five-game winning streak against Texas from 2000-04, the Sooners' staff would literally chuckle at the lack of new wrinkles coming from the Longhorns on offense.

If Stoops thought preparing for Texas' offense in the past was as easy as A-B-C, it should be a whole new ballgame with Harsin in town.

So as long as the Texas players can grasp all the nuances of Harsin's offense, there's a good chance UT may be able to hide some of its inexperience on the offensive line by making everything look like one big game of Sudoku for opposing defenses.

2. You have to love Manny Diaz's candid attitude.

Ask him if there's something Mississippi State's defense did better than what this Texas defense does, and Diaz says, "I don't know. I haven't played with these guys yet."

In a discussion about the defensive line, Diaz said, "We don't have anybody right now who anyone would be afraid to block. And that's OK. But down after down, if the players will listen to what their coach is telling them, I think we can get there."

His players seem to love him.

Kheeston Randall called Diaz's defense "controlled chaos."

And Diaz isn't afraid to speak his mind. Ask him what part of his defense is shining the most, he gives you an answer:

"I think the two linebacker spots with Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho - their experience shines through. They've picked up things well. They are being productive," Diaz said. "And they have to be playmakers in this defense. They have to be great for us to be great.

"And at safety, we've got great competition back there with Vaccaro, Gideon, Scott and Brewster. The great thing about the competition is it's supportive. They are pushing each other. They aren't at each others' throats. We've got a lot of guys in that box area to where we're going to have some options in terms of what we can throw at people in the fall."

Diaz minces no words. When he was asked if there's a marked talent difference between Texas and Mississippi State, he said, "It's different. You don't ever want to throw the guys you just left under the bus.

"The bunch I left did some things really well. At some positions we were really strong and really outstanding. I've never played with this bunch. At this point last year, I said I don't' know how good we're going to be at Mississippi State.

"That's not a coach passing the buck. I don't know. I don't yet see how we relate to who we're going to play."

Sophomore LB Demarco Cobbs has gotten a lot of attention at outside linebacker. Diaz says it's deserved.

"I think Demarco could be that guy," Diaz said. "I think he's proven to his teammates he can be a really good player for us. He's got to prove it like everyone. But he's worth bragging on a little bit."

Diaz is still looking for leadership.

"Leadership comes in a lot of ways," Diaz said. "Leadership isn't the guy running out of the tunnel with the flag. Leadership can be the guy who just handles his dang business and does his job right.

"If you want to fix the problem - I can tell you your car is old and rickety. But that won't get it fixed. Let's get the hood open and see what needs to be replaced. Let's look at the tangible things we can correct. It's amazing when you get the tangible things fixed how the intangible things seem to follow. And that's all I'm concerned with right now."

3. We have been asking around on the Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton front to see if there are enough tea leaves to be read about their futures.

One source close to the program said today both players have indicated they will be moving on to the NBA. But both are apparently trying to get more information about the possible NBA lockout and what it could all mean.

We are still looking for more confirmation. Obviously, is reporting Thompson has already hired an agent and is on the way to the NBA after one season at Texas.

Members of Thompson's inner circle have said no decision has been made. And Hamilton has indicated he's coming back next season.

Our source said Thompson has already been given feedback from league sources that he's going to be a top 15 pick. And our source said Hamilton has also indicated that he's ready to move on. Hamilton was named a third-team Associated Press All-American on Monday.

The early entry deadline for the NBA Draft is April 24. Players would then be able to work out for NBA teams beginning April 29 and would have until May 8 to withdraw their names from the draft without losing eligibility (as long as they don't hire an agent).

There has also been talk about Rick Barnes being a candidate at North Carolina State, and I was told Barnes indicated to NC State officials early on that he was not interested.

We'll pass along more information as we get it.

(Make sure you take advantage of happy hour every night at Cover 3 from 4-7 p.m. and all-night happy hours at Cover 3 on Mondays and Tuesdays. That's $3 off appetizers; $2 off liquor; and $1 off draft beer.

The appetizer menu has Cover 3's beef tenderloin sliders; seared Ahi tuna; shrimp and crab tower; Greek island calamari; green chile beef nachos; and more. Never any parking hassles at Cover 3, located at 2700 W. Anderson Lane.)

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