December 19, 2011

The Breakdown: Darius White, Bergeron to FB?, Cal and more

1. The showdown between LB Demarco Cobbs and WR Darius White over some words White expressed to WR recruit Dorial Green-Beckham has been confirmed. And it shows the fighting spirit on this team in a key, young player.

I was told by a top source that Cobbs indeed got in the face of Darius White for White poor-mouthing the situation as a receiver at Texas to DGB during DGB's visit to Texas.

Good for White to move on and get a fresh start because he lost a ton of respect from his UT teammates in that situation.

2. Bryan Harsin said Monday don't automatically assume Joe Bergeron moves to fullback next season with a third tailback (Johnathan Gray) in the mix.

(Harsin can't talk about recruits, so the conversation was general - with regard to using three tailbacks next season.)

Harsin said both Bergeron and Malcolm Brown have the size and smarts to play some fullback and might be incorporated into that position in a specialty personnel grouping. But for the most part, Harsin sees Brown, Bergeron and a third back (Gray) all being able to work at tailback.

Harsin said one of the three backs probably gets a specialty package similar to what Foswhitt Whittaker had this year.

"The running backs we have are all good size and could do those types of things we want as the fullback," Harsin said.

"And that might be something we mix those guys into in terms of a personnel group, but no. The way Joe has played and what he's done at tailback and Malcolm (Brown) and all those guys, they've been very effective (at tailback), and that's a position they will continue to develop at."

On using three tailbacks, Harsin said:

"We can definitely use that many backs. You'll have one of those guys in there who is probably a situational guy because there are some things you can design just for him. If the other two or three guys are healthy, then those guys are rolling through so they can get into a rhythm."

3. What about more touches for D.J. Monroe, who averaged 6.9 yards per carry this season?

"Some of the schemes we've utilized him in, we continue to do that and just need to do more of it," Harsin said. "You look at what he has done. And you go back and look at the stats before the bowl game, and he's a guy who needs the ball in his hands.

"So it's just finding more ways to do that and allowing him the opportunity to get out in space. That's what he does well. And how we can get him the ball - whether it's throwing to him or handing it to him, we've got to figure that out."

(How many times have we heard that before? Just amazing.)

4. Bryan Harsin said he's seeing improvement from Case McCoy and David Ash, whom Mack Brown has said will both probably play in the Holiday Bowl.

"I know how to talk to them in meetings better," Harsin said. "I know what type of concepts they really grasp well and how they are going to react in certain situations - good or bad. That's just being together. And I'm sure it's the same for them about me.

"What are we really trying to get out of this particular play or this field position? 'What's the best thing I can do and what can I absolutely not let happen?'

"Those are things you talk about. That experience has helped all of us. I can see it in these bowl practices as we've had more time to really talk shop and go over scenarios.

"I can see those guys really starting to click. A year of experience in a new system, new coordinator, new coaches around, is really going to help everyone tremendously. Really into spring and through these bowl practices, you can see how it's going to help us."

Harsin said the experience of this season has to pay off in terms of lessons learned for both McCoy and Ash.

"You can do all the fundamental work, and they are going to get bigger, faster and stronger," Harsin said. "But getting out on the field is something you can't train a guy for. You can go through scenarios on tape. But you have to get into the fire.

"They've done some good things and some really bad things. Now we have to build on the good things and look back on the bad things and know why those happened. They've improved in those areas. That will continue through spring, and the experience they've both had will really help them."

5. Harsin said the biggest factor in not having Jaxon Shipley for three games (Texas Tech, Missouri and Kansas State) with a knee injury were his practice habits.

"He's a guy who provides a spark for those three days of practice in the week," Harsin said. "His practice habits were a big thing. Some guys picked that up.

"But those habits were missed. And when he got back out there you could just feel the competition, the practice, the style of practice improved because of the way he does things."

Harsin has liked the tempo of the bowl practices so far.

"We use these bowl practices as a springboard into the off-season," Harsin said. "We are setting the tone right now for the spring. How we practice and how we prepare.

"And it's changed. We're doing a better job getting in and out of the huddle. We're getting up there and getting set.

"We're making plays. There's energy on the field. There's guys talking to each other, communicating. It's a different vibe out there, and it needs to be in order for us to get better and improve.

"That's got to carry over through the off-season workouts and into spring."

6. Harsin said Cal's defensive line, which often starts off in a 3-4, is as good as any Texas has seen this season.

Cal gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and is No. 5 nationally in tackles for loss, averaging nearly 8 per game. The Bears are 17th in sacks, averaging nearly 3 sacks per game.

The defense is anchored by inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, a senior who leads the Bears in tackles with 96 and also has 13 TFLs and 3 sacks.

Cornerbacks Steve Williams (11 pass breakups) and Marc Anthony (10 pass breakups) don't have as many pass breakups as Carrington Byndom (15) and Quandre Diggs (13).

Safeties Sean Cathouse and D.J. Campbell both have two interceptions apiece this season, similar to Texas' Blake Gideon and Kenny Vaccaro, who also each have two picks.

Seven teams ran for 100 yards or more on Cal this season: Colorado (108), Washington (117), Oregon (365), USC (118), UCLA (294), Stanford (148) and Arizona State (213).

Harsin said Cal's defensive line will show multiple fronts and that Cal's secondary mixes zone and man coverage.

UT's only mutual opponent with Cal this season is UCLA, which beat Cal 31-14 on Oct. 29.

7. Chris Whaley is working some as a situational tight end while also holding down his defensive tackle position.

Harsin said he doesn't expect Whaley to get much if any action in the Holiday Bowl. But he sees Whaley helping the offense set the edge in the running game in short-yardage and goal-line situations, much like Luke Poehlmann did this season.

"I don't see him playing much in the bowl game," Harsin said. "We're just dabbling with that right now, but that's something we'll mess with in the spring."

Blaine Irby has decided not to seek a sixth year at Texas following a knee injury that forced him to sit out the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Harsin said the pressure is on the team's other tight ends - led by D.J. Grant and Darius Terrell - need to get bigger and stronger in the off-season.

"The off-season is where it has to happen - in the weight room," Harsin said. "Those guys know what we want to get done, especially in the run game on the edges.

"Every one of those guys coming back has the ability in the pass game, but we've got to help ourselves out on the edges in the run game. And that's going to open up opportunities in the passing game."

8. Manny Diaz said he likes what he's seen from his defense in bowl practices and feels good about having played so many young players this season.

"Normally, the week of practices we would have concluded last week would be almost like a spring practice with the guys who had redshirted all year," Diaz said. "Those guys have played for us all year.

"We don't have a redshirted class that we are taking the wrapper off of right now. We opened the box on that bunch in August. But at the same time, we are investing time in our freshmen and sophomore class.

"You're just trying to get them to get it. They don't get it yet. But we're closer than we were walking on the field at Baylor."

Diaz gets excited talking about the experience he'll have coming back next season from a defense that loses LBs Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho; DT Kheeston Randall; and S Blake Gideon and Christian Scott.

"When we get to spring, we won't be teaching the 'what,'" Diaz said. "Last spring, we were teaching the 'what.' There's three things you teach: the what, the how and the why.

"The great players understand 'why' you do something. Emmanuel Acho knows 'why' we run a certain coverage.

"The younger guys kind of have the 'what' down. Then once they get it, you can teach them 'how.' But for sure we are past the what do we do part of things. We will be ahead of where we were a spring ago.

"The other thing that's great, as we have guys roll in, is we have competition. I can sit there and all I do is keep score and let them battle and fight. We let them determine playing time, not us."

Diaz indicated Adrian Phillips will be a strong candidate to replace Gideon in the starting lineup at safety alongside Kenny Vaccaro. But Diaz said nothing is close to being settled and wants competition.

9. Cal's offense got better as QB Zach Maynard got better this season. Cal won 4 of its last 6. Maynard, a left-handed junior, threw only one interception in those four victories against Utah, Washington State, Oregon State and at Arizona State.

Maynard has completed 57 percent of his passes with 17 TDs and 11 INTs. His favorite target is WR Keenan Allen, who posted 89 catches for 1,261 yards and 6 TDs this season. Allen is 6-3 and 205 pounds.

Diaz put Allen in the same class as some of the best receivers in the Big 12, which is saying a lot considering the company.

"He's going to be taller than anyone we have defending him," Diaz said. "Great hands. Great ability with the ball after the catch. And then they do a good job scheme-wise of moving him all over the field.

"They'll motion him out of the backfield and do different types of things to get him the football. He's without a doubt one of the premier receivers in the country."

Diaz said Cal RB Isi Sofele is more than just an outside runner. Sofele, who has 1,266 yards rushing (5.5 ypc) and 9 TDs on the ground, is just 5-8 and 190 pounds. But Diaz said he'll run between the tackles.

"He's an every-down guy," Diaz said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he runs tough. He runs hard. They'll hammer him up inside.

"He'll reverse field. You have to be disciplined in your pursuit angles, because if it's not there front-side, he'll put a foot in the ground and take it back all the way across the field.

"Tough runner. You can tell he's a guy who has the team's respect and blocks well in pass protection."

10. I asked Manny Diaz his philosophy on becoming a head coach one day.

"My feeling has always been, 'Just try and do a really good job with the job you have,'" Diaz said. "I've never worried about anything next.

"If you don't worry about the next job, it always seems to me the next job presents itself when the time is right.

"So you can worry yourself out of doing a good job at the place you're at. I love being the defensive coordinator at the University of Texas.

"And I know that there's some great things the group of guys we have in that locker room can accomplish, and I'm just delighted to be a part of it."

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