Lamarr Houston had a solid first half. He had an excellent second half. Did he try harder? I doubt it. Could his coaches have adjusted his role and technique to better take advantage of his skills? It didn't look like it. Was he gutty, in the moment, suffered a rush of heart and grit? Eh.
It could have been little more than truth revealed by an extended sample size. A player does not have an ability but a range of abilities. Michael Boulware was sometimes sensational but often problematic, and the latter effectively ended his career as a starter. Major snaps revealed his incomplete skill set. He was, quite literally, a linebacker playing safety. Part was that he could not repeat, but only flashed excellence. No sport better reveals that we are both our best and our worst than golf, and in golf, it's always your worst that wins out.
It's fair to say Houston was consistent even if his performance was not. He did not have many soaring highs like teammate Sergio Kindle, but didn't suffer a single embarrassment either. He was pancaked once, but because he lost his balance and not because he was driven back. I think Houston's consistency is part of why his performance improved as the game went on. His opponent's lagged, but Houston kept bringing it. His conditioning seems admirable, and as such, he could be a bit of a closer: A player that pops in the fourth quarter.
His experience as an end makes him a special talent at tackle. Houston doesn't just gap well, he has a good set of pass rush moves, varied and skilled, and seems to know which to use to get separation. That he also stands strong against double teams is a testament to his lower body bulk. He flashed a swim early, and showed a rip and a forklift later on. A forklift, most often associated with Jumpy Geathers, involves the end pushing the offensive lineman's arms up, getting under him, exposing his chest and then bulling for the kill.
The one ability Houston lacks is consistent quickness off the snap. He was regularly a beat behind his linemates, only a handful of times showed good timing and explosion, and a few times was inexcusably slow, to his and his team's detriment. That he turned those slow jumps into pass rush speaks to his excellent potential. He fights well, angles well, is pretty agile, very aware and has a good closing burst.
Potential, to be great? Can we ever be sure? We can talk about upside, but upside is awfully hard to know. Houston does not have the pure athleticism of Suh or McCoy, and within those parameters, I can say with confidence that Suh or McCoy each have a much better shot at Canton than Houston. If the question is, how likely is it that Houston is good? That Houston will be a good player, with a good peak, a chance to earn a Pro Bowl bid, that can assume a position and command it for years, how likely is that?
1. 1st and 10 at ALA 6 Trent Richardson rush for 3 yards to the Alab 9.
RDE, 3-tech, 3 down linemen. Double teamed, splits, isolates James Carpenter, wins leverage but does not factor.
2. 2nd and 7 at ALA 9 Trent Richardson rush for 9 yards to the Alab 18 for a 1ST down.
RDE, 3-tech, 3 down linemen. Submarines Mike Johnson. DNF.
3. 1st and 10 at ALA 18 Trent Richardson rush for 3 yards to the Alab 21.
RDE, 3-tech, 3 down linemen. Hits, sheds but DNF.
RDT, 1-tech, 4 down linemen. Angles wide right, runs into a double team, and does not factor further on a quick pass to the right flat.
RDT, 1-tech, 3 down linemen. Explodes into Mike Johnson, hits him hard under the arms and gets into his body. Houston separates, pressures McElroy, McElroy moves to his left and Johnson recovers to clear Houston. Houston attempts to pursue from behind, but it's a quick check down pass and he never nears McElroy.
6. 1st and 10 at ALA 29 TEXAS penalty 15 yard pass interference accepted, no play.
LDT, 3-tech, 3 down linemen. Houston is initially double teamed, but fights into a single team, pushes, but does not factor.
7. 1st and 10 at ALA 44 Trent Richardson rush for 2 yards to the Texas 39, TEXAS penalty 15 yard personal foul accepted for a 1ST down.
LDT, 3-tech, 4 down linemen. Great pure tackle moment here as Houston pursues right while riding right guard Barrett Jones, moves off Jones and onto Johnson, fights through Johnson, cuts behind and ankle tackles Richardson. Kindle is flagged for hands to the face.
8. 1st and 10 at TEX 39 Trent Richardson rush for 1 yard to the Texas 38.
RDT, 3-tech, 4 down linemen. Explosive jump, easily his best, cuts into and through a double team and tackles Richardson.
9. 2nd and 9 at TEX 38 Trent Richardson rush for 4 yards to the Texas 34.
LDT, 3-tech, 4 down linemen. Another solid jump, strikes Jones, attempts to angle wide and is pancaked.
RDT, 3-tech, 4 down linemen. Good jump, swats but can't separate.
(Missed field goal)
(Texas pulls within 3)
LDT, 3-tech, 3 down linemen. Decent jump, moves right, slaps Drew Davis away and pressures McElroy.
2. 2nd and 3 at ALA 42 Mark Ingram rush for 19 yards to the Texas 39 out-of-bounds for a 1ST down.
LDT, 3-tech, 3 down linemen. Stands up and separates from Davis, but does not factor on a rush left.
3. 1st and 10 at TEX 39 Mark Ingram rush for 1 yard to the Texas 38.
LDT, 3-tech, 4 down linemen. Stands up and holds ground against Jones, moves right and falls into the pile.
4. 2nd and 9 at TEX 38 Mark Ingram rush for 1 yard to the Texas 37.
RDT, 3-tech, 3 down linemen. Great jump, rips through Carpenter, forces Ingram's rush lane wide and attempts but misses an ankle tackle.
NT. Good jump, forces back the center and left guard, putting an arm on each, but stops, sees the pocket collapsing around McElroy, but can't factor as he's pushed out of the play.
(Fumble puts Alabama on the Texas 3.)
(Houston shows good explosion in goal line situations. He creates a pile, but does not otherwise factor.)
(Alabama scores when Ingram bounces off the pile and lunges left.)
(Gilbert throws an interception.)
(Houston shows good fight, even blowing through a blocker and tackling Richardson, but the game is over.)