Arthur Brown

West Virginia WR Tavon Austin is the head of a class of Big 12 players with bright NFL futures

Of the 22 Big 12 players selected last week in the NFL draft, several are expected to make immediate impacts. Here are some safe bets.

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (St. Louis Rams)

I believe that Austin will be the top NFL player from the 2013 draft class. He is only 5-foot-8 but runs a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, which seems to translate in game situations. He racked up 574 all-purpose yards in a loss to Oklahoma (2nd-most in FBS history), and in the process showed his versatility as a receiver, running back and return man. I really like what I saw from him in college, and think he has a chance to excel in a Percy Harvin-like utility role in the NFL. He will do it all for the Rams, and will have a stellar career if he proves to be durable.

Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State (Baltimore Ravens)

When the Ravens lost Ray Lewis to retirement this offseason, inside linebacker became a question mark, as did who would be his replacement. The Ravens took Brown in the second round, and should be fine at the position. Brown racked up at least 100 tackles in each of his two seasons in Manhattan.

Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (Philadelphia Eagles)

Johnson is a very versatile player who should fit perfectly in Chip Kelly's offensive system. Johnson was a quarterback as well as a track star in high school and played some tight end as well as defensive end before moving to the line at OU. He runs a 4.72-second 40-yard dash, and was one of the most athletic linemen in the class of 2013.  He should be a staple of the Eagles offensive line for years to come, and give Michael Vick some much needed protection on either side of the line.

Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (Arizona Cardinals)

Maybe its just the Texas homer in me, but I was shocked to see Okafor drop into the fourth round like he did. He was one of four players in the FBS to record 12-plus sacks and force four or more fumbles in 2012, and ended his career with one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen live (behind only Ndamukong Suh in the 2009 Big 12 Championship). In the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl, Okafor was credited with a game record 4.5 sacks and even made his assigned blocker cry by the end of the game, although he was probably just as sad that his Oregon State career was coming to an end as he was with his performance. Okafor could be one of the biggest steals in the draft, and should help anchor the Cardinals defense for years to come.

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (New Orleans Saints)

Vaccaro is a testament to the fact that hard work in college trumps a high star rating out of high school. He was ranked the 18th-best safety out of high school, according to rivals.com, but was chosen at No. 15 overall, the first safety chosen in a very stron class. Vaccaro is a hard hitter who can cover the field and shut down receivers as the nickleback. If Texas didn’t struggle against the run upfront like they did in 2012, Vaccaro could’ve played more in-position and had a better senior season. But he is exactly what the Saints need to help improve a last place Saints defense from 2012. 

Since transfering from Miami, Arthur Brown has been a cornerstone of the Kansas State defense. He leads a unit that leads the Big 12 in scoring defense.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Collin Klein- If not for a loss at Baylor, quarterback Collin Klein would still be the Heisman frontrunner as his team prepared for a bid in the national championship. Despite rushing for one touchdown, and passing for two more in the loss, Klein’s season-high three interceptions showed that even great players can have bad games. Klein is a dual-threat quarterback comparable to Tim Tebow at the college level.He has passed for 2,311 yards with 14 touchdowns while completing 67-percent of his passes. These numbers indicate that when he needs to throw the football he is capable of putting up solid numbers. However, Klein is heralded for his ability to punish defenders carrying the football. He has rushed for 20 touchdowns while maintaining an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Still a guy in the running for the Heisman, Klein is a signal caller similar to what the Longhorns faced against Geno Smith.

The Longhorns will need to limit his ability running the football and pressure him into bad throws like the Baylor defense did in its win over the Wildcats.Klein is the main player that Texas needs to beware of in this game.

John Hubert- A player similar to the speedsters that Texas has seen all season long, John Hubert can beat the Longhorns if they aren’t careful. The junior running back stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 191 pounds, making him one of the smaller backs in the country. Hubert uses his speed and elusiveness to pick up yards, and shouldn’t be overlooked because of his stature. Hubert has rushed for 831 yards this season while maintaining an impressive 5.3 rush per carry average. Averaging just over 14 carries per game, the diminutive rusher has shown an ability to carry the load on the ground even with a mobile quarterback under center. He won’t run many defenders over, which is good news for the Longhorns, but his speed is similar to many players the Longhorns have seen already this season. Texas needs to keep their eyes on Hubert and keep him from breaking off big runs.

Arthur Brown- The senior linebacker is recognized as one of the best in the country with his ability to play in coverage and get to the ball carrier at will. Brown, who transferred from Miami after his sophomore season, is a guy that just makes plays. He leads the team in tackles this season with 80, and boasts two interceptions to his name. Brown is a big outside linebacker at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, which showcases his strength to go along with the speed that makes him a nightmare for opposing ball carriers. The Longhorns should look to keep Brown blocked on every play and prevent him from wrapping up rushers.

Meshak Williams- A player with a similar effect on the game as Arthur Brown, Williams does most of his work in the trenches. The senior defensive end has racked up impressive numbers this season, showing his ability to clog up running lanes and rush the passer relentlessly. His 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks both lead his team and make Williams one who must be blocked to allow the Longhorns to establish their running game. He’s big and fast and can get by defenders if they sleep on him. While Arthur Brown is the most heralded of the Wildcat defenders, Williams is the guy that the Longhorns cannot afford to ignore if they want to have a successful day on offense.

 

David Ash passes the ball off to  freshman running back Johnathon Gray,  but struggled to jumpstart the running game against TCU on Thanksgiving Day, recording only eighty-six rushing yards. 

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

Eighty-six yards rushing.

That’s all the Longhorns mustered last Thursday against TCU, 93 yards below Texas’ season average. Johnathan Gray received 15 touches, Joe Bergeron carried the ball only five times and Malcolm Brown didn’t tote it once.  

The lack of production was, in part, caused because the Longhorns were forced to throw the ball in the second half, attempting to catch up to the Horned Frogs. Still, it was a frustrating evening for the coaching staff and everyone involved in the ground game.

“We’d like to [run it],” head coach Mack Brown said. “We didn’t run it much the other night. It wasn’t a running game night. I wish it would’ve been.”

But Brown’s assessment was mellow compared to offensive lineman Trey Hopkins’ when talking about the Longhorns’ pedestrian total on the ground.

“That’s just unacceptable as an offensive lineman,” Hopkins said.

The offensive line and the running backs know the rushing production must change against Kansas State for the Longhorns to defeat a talented, disciplined and balanced Wildcat team. It won’t be easy, however. The Wildcats are 18th in the nation against the run, allowing opponents an average of 121 yards per contest.

Kansas State is stout in the front seven, especially its linebacker core. Arthur Brown, one of the top linebackers in the country, was a preseason All-American selection. His 80 tackles and six tackles for loss this season have done nothing to knock down his stock. He’s not the only playmaker in the middle of the field. Junior Tre Walker was a preseason All-Big 12 selection, and he and Brown cover the field from sideline-to-sideline exceptionally well, keeping both the run and passing attack in check.

“They have two linebackers that are as good as anybody in the country,” Mack Brown said. “They can cover you man-to-man and pass rushing.”

However, it is imperative the Longhorns establish their rushing attack early. The ground game puts the offense into its flow, forcing the defense to stack the box with eight or more players later in the game. This allows one-on-one coverage to the outside, which opens up areas in the secondary for the passing attack. Perhaps most importantly, it would allow newly-minted starter Case McCoy a little time to get adjusted to the pace of the game.

“If we make people load the box, it will definitely take that pressure off of Case,” Hopkins said.

In the loss to TCU, the Longhorns abandoned the run early in the second half in an attempt to find an offensive spark after the Horned Frogs jumped out to a sizable lead. That won’t work against Kansas State. If the Longhorns become one-dimensional through the air, it’s a recipe for disaster.

If Kansas State forces Texas to throw, it will expose Case McCoy’s all-or-nothing tendencies. McCoy has an innate ability to extend plays and make something out of nothing, but the skill also causes errant throws that have been McCoy’s greatest criticism.

The absence of Malcolm Brown was notable in the loss to TCU. He didn’t touch the ball, and his powerful yet elusive running style could have made a difference against the eight man fronts the Horned Frogs presented.

It seems the coaching staff still isn’t 100 percent certain Brown is ready to carry the load coming off of a left ankle injury. He’s continuing to rehab his leg, but from what they’ve seen in practice, his teammates feel he’s ready to contribute.

“All our running backs are talented,” Hopkins said. “Johnathan Gray can’t get every snap in the game. I hope they wouldn’t do that to him, and then his feet might not be as useful. We have to use all our running backs, and I think [Malcolm Brown] realizes that. We need him back as quickly as possible.”

Printed on Thursday, November 29, 2012 as: Running a struggle for Horns

(Photo Courtesy of Sue Ogrocki)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Collin Klein, Junior Quarterback: Kansas State is last in the Big 12 in passing offense and is No. 109 in the nation, ahead of only two other BCS conference teams. Klein’s abilities aren’t as a passer but as a rusher. He leads the team in rushing and is fourth in the conference in rushing, with just more than 100 yards per game. He has five 100-yard rushing games, compared to only two games with more than 200 yards passing. However, he is coming off of his two best passing performances of the season in back-to-back games and is averaging 256 yards passing over the last two games on 60 percent passing. He is averaging more than 379 total yards over the last two games in which he got at least 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in each. Against the best rush defense in the conference, he will need to be able to pass on the Texas defense to take some defenders away from the line of scrimmage.

Arthur Brown, Junior Linebacker: A transfer from Miami, Brown has made an immediate impact on a Kansas State defense that lacks some playmakers. In Kansas State’s win over Baylor, he led the team in tackles with one sack, and the big interception of Robert Griffin to set up the Wild Cats’ game-winning drive. Brown leads the team in tackling with 7.8 tackles per game. Against a team that runs as much as Texas, he will have lots of opportunities to add to his tackling total. His playmaking ability will also be on display here. Like he did against Baylor, he will have to make the Texas offense get off the field and make sure to contain the Texas running game to make the Longhorns one dimensional and rely on a shaky passing attack.

Tyler Locket, Freshman Wide Receiver: Locket is the second leading receiver on the team, with 18 catches for 246 yards and three touchdowns. But where he is most dangerous is in returning kicks. He currently leads the nation in kick returns and has two touchdowns this season. He is averaging more than 35 yards per return this season, and his two touchdowns came in a close game against Texas Tech and a blowout win over Kansas. He also has an 80-yard return in the shootout against Oklahoma State. Texas is giving up 111 yards per game in returns on just under five returns per game. Plus, the Longhorns have already given up a 100-yard return touchdown to Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert. In a game dominated by rushing and defense, special teams will dictate field position, and a single big play in special teams could make the difference in a game.