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Hogs hold back for now 

We only looked fully loaded a handful of times against an outmatched Missouri State defense. I reckon we just caught a glimpse of what we're capable of in that new shotgun formation. While the O-line got to go through the motions and look much improved doing so, the running backs merely stretched their legs, and the receivers ran some pretty vanilla routes.

Mallett went to Jarius Wright so often because number four's his favorite target, and he wasn't asked to do much else. This isn't an offensive that generally allows for favorites, and even while Wright showed off, gaining 139 graceful yards on six receptions, twelve other receivers looked just as dangerous. Petrino has confidence enough in his passing game that he's holding tight on the reins, though sometimes there's just no reining in Joe Adams.

Sure, Mallett and Wilson managed to break the single game passing record with former record-holder Clint Stoerner on the sidelines, but that mark won't last for long when the playbook plops open. What we know for sure is that the Hogs have a new motto: Drop jaws, not passes.

Our running game clearly has more tools than a Swiss Army knife, but we mostly saw their raw explosiveness — nothing too fancy. Michael Smith is still fast, yes, but I'd expect this year to temper some of the hype. The days of leaning so heavily on our diminutive speedster are over. He'll get plenty of material for a highlight reel, and deservedly so, only this season Petrino will be able to spread it around more. Everyone will have to make the most of each opportunity.

Petrino was just kicking the tires, really — stalking the sidelines in lab coat and safety goggles, checking boxes on a clipboard, patrolling for weaknesses. And he found plenty of them.

Broderick Green looked downright soft out there: hesitant and ineffective. Petrino ran him up the middle over and over again because he simply couldn't believe it. Green has to dig in down there, get low and keep his feet pumping, or he simply isn't doing his job. I'm sure he can do what a lot of our backs can do in the open field, but we need him to do what our other backs can't do: use his size for short, dirty yardage.

I had high hopes for our special teams under John L. Smith. We saw glimmers, of course, in Johnson's 91-yard kickoff return and Tejada's two field goals. But we have to win the field position game on kickoff and punt teams. Last year, Texas Tech held open tryouts for a kicker who could put the ball in the end zone. One more game like this, and I think we should do the same. Cameron Bryan didn't look like a saving grace out there. Let Tejada focus on the goalposts.

There's nothing uglier than a defense on its heels, and though we looked much improved, our conference play will likely look more like that second quarter MSU touchdown series. Still, I expected a firmer middle this year, and I wasn't disappointed. Malcolm Sheppard and Wendel Davis looked especially fierce out there. Protecting the middle of the field will limit our opponent's options this season, but our depth issues in the secondary haven't gone away. We clearly missed safety Elton Ford out there, and we'll miss Isaac Madison all year.

That said, I have a feeling this team has plenty left to show us. Georgia won't have much useful tape to look at, at least. Here's where Petrino's shark-like eyes reveal their evolutionary benefit and why their infamy doesn't make any sense. Now that we finally have a thick playbook and a sideline packed with weaponry, we should embrace the steely gaze of the predator. Hold our cards close to our chests. Live every week like it's shark week.

 

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