November 19, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (MB2Cotter) - You are in charge of invitations for the first Junior Day next February. Please provide your invitation list.

A: I like the question. Keep in mind that the goals of the first junior day have been multi-layered in recent years. On one hand, this day is about sending out the first batch of offers to the truly elite prospects in the junior class, but it's also about trying to create some real momentum that can help start an avalanche of recruiting coups at the start of the year. There's no question that they come into the first week hoping to not only blow away the difference makers that they covet, but expectations have grown (both inside the program and out) that a huge piece of the foundation for the entire 2011 class will be cemented coming out of it.

With the second junior day like scheduled for later in the month of February, I'm going to keep the invite list to 25 and I'm going to reserve it for the best of the best, with the intention of offering every kid invited. Here's the my list:

QB: J.W. Walsh - Denton Guyer

Note: It could easily be Belton's David Ash that gets the call because these two were and might still be the two quarterback favorites, although the wildcard in the quarterback recruiting could be Lake Travis' Michael Brewer, who is a local legacy that is having a season than perhaps no offensive player in the state can match. That being said, Ash appeared to be the staff's favorite after the summer camps by a very slight margin over Walsh, but Ash has been hurt all season and Walsh has emerged as a legitimate star during his junior season. You have to think that the Longhorns are only going to take one quarterback and I would trust Greg Davis on his evaluations. It's possible that all three would commit quickly if offered, so it will be interesting to see which direction the team goes in.

RB: Malcolm Brown - Cibolo Steele
RB: Herschel Sims - Abilene
RB: Aaron Green - San Antonio Madison

Note: Not only would I make sure to bring in all three guys for the event, but I would probably have a few tricks up my sleeve. I'd probably ask Brown to come in on the Saturday night before the junior day for some special one-on-one time with the entire staff, including Sally Brown. Malcolm Brown would likely be one of three of four guys that I make special Saturday invitations for. On the Sunday of the event, Sims would be the first player into Mack's office and the first player offered on the day, and I'd make a point to let him know how important the running backs needs are in the class and how coveted he is as a centerpiece of what they want to do with the 2011 class. Finally, at the end of the day, I'd make Green the last interview that is done on the day and after all of the fuss and muss, I'd bring the entire staff in for a huge group presentation, stressing the same points emphasized to the other two. The bottom line is that I would go out of my way to make all three of these young men feel like they are vitally important players in this class for the Longhorns.

WR: Jaxon Shipley - Burnet
WR: Trey Metoyer - Whitehouse
WR: Miles Onyegbule - Arlington

Note: There's a very good chance that the Longhorns are only going to take two receivers in this 2011 class, especially if they close the 2010 class with a bang. If that's the case, the list could be trimmed to two, with Shipley and Onyegbule potentially jumping on board that day.

TE: None

Note: There's not anyone at this position in-state that I love so much that they have to be here on the first Junior Day. Instead, I focus on three or four elite national tight ends and invite them in for the second Junior Day, along with a couple of in-state options.

OL: Sedrick Flowers - North Shore
OL - Spencer Drango - Cedar Park

Note: Even though the need for linemen in this class is going to be high on the priority list, I'm only inviting the top two guys in the state for the first Junior Day because they look like a clear cut above from the rest of the class at this point. I'd use the second junior day to focus in on the next layer of the offensive line class, knowing that I'll likely get a couple of commits that day.

DT: Marquise Anderson - Cibolo Steele
DT - Desmond Jackson - Spring Westfield

Note: Amarillo's James Castleman could end up being a guy they bring in as well, but I'll stick with the two-highest rated in the state at this point. In fact, Anderson is one the guys I'd bring in on Saturday night, along with Malcolm Brown.

DE: Cedric Reed - Cleveland
DE: Steve Edmond - Daingerfield
DE: Nathan Hughes - Klein Oak
DE: Jermauria Rasco - Shreveport Evangel

Note: It's not rocket science. I'm going to invite the three best in-state guys and the top-ranked out of state guy on the board, and sort everything out from there. Obviously, Shreveport Evangel's Jermauria Rasco

LB: Anthony Wallace - Dallas Skyline
LB: Trevon Randall - League City Clear Springs
LB: Chet Moss - Cedar Park

Note: All three players are versatile and can play multiple positions and roles within the defense. Wallace and Moss seems like sure-fire offers at this point and with a couple of inside types already on the visit list, it's possible that they could look for more athletic playmakers, which is why I listed Randall instead of Corsicana's Trey Brown.

DB: Leroy Scott - Pasadena Sam Houston
DB: Sheroid Evans - Sugar Land Dulles
DB: Lyndell Johnson - Plano East
DB: Kolby Griffin - Houston St. Pius

Note: I'm not sure how you could pass up on any of them, so I wouldn't. All four visit and all four could leave as commitments.

Ath: LaDarius Brown - Waxahachie
Ath: Desmond Roland - Lake Highlands
Ath: Quandre Diggs - Angleton

Note: I'm bringing in all three and telling them they can start out wherever they want, but the Longhorns are recruiting them as raw athletes and the staff will put them in a position to maximize their abilities, whether it's on offense or defense.

There you have it. 25 prospectss and 25 offers. I'd take them all if they said yes and figure it out later.

Q: (sirpat84)- 1. Assuming all goes to plan and Texas finds itself in the National Championship against Florida/Alabama, how do you think our O-Line will hold up against these defenses? What concerns me is that the single good defense we have played (OU) made us look pretty ugly for most the game. They got tons of pressure on Colt and pretty effectively stuffed our run game. Have you seen enough change and/or progress from this offensive line unit or offensive scheme to think we would fare better against these defenses?

2. How much would a Big 12 Championship against Nebraska help us in terms of seeing another great defense before the NC?

3. And finally, Reba McEntire or Diane Sawyer? (I know it seems crazy but my friend seriously posed the question a few days ago)

A: I suppose there are a couple of different ways to view the Oklahoma game, but if not for some very uncharacteristic mistakes (Colt's fumble near the goal line and interception near the red-zone) the offense likely puts up 30 points against the Sooners. Granted, if my aunt had a pair, she'd be my uncle, but you see where I'm coming from. This offensive line is going to struggle some against a nationally elite defense, but that's going to be the case with just about any offensive line in the nation. Elite is elite. That being said, if there's something that I like about this group of linemen for the Longhorns, it's that they seem to play up to their competition. The Sooners certainly didn't overwhelm the Longhorns at the line of scrimmage in the Cotton Bowl and my guess is that this group of upper-classmen would compete well enough against either of Florida or Alabama's defensive line to give the offense a chance to win the game.

As for the possibility of the Huskers possibly better preparing the Longhorns for what might await them in January (over Kansas State), I don't think there's any question that the up-grade in talent that Nebraska brings to the table offensively will make the Longhorns a much better team after they face them. Frankly, there's not much to be gained from playing Kansas State, but at least the Huskers have some elite-level talent in spots on their defense, even if their offense has been a train-wreck all season. Actually, I'd like to make an apology to all train wrecks for that comparison. They've done nothing to deserve that.

Finally, I spent some time thinking about this and I went over some photos of a younger McEntire and Sawyer. After much deliberation, I'm going with to break this down into two answers - young and old. If we're talking about their prime years, it's an easy call for me and I have to go with Sawyer. However, if we're talking present day, I might lean towards McEntire, who had held up incredibly well over the years and might even look as sexy today as she did 20 years ago.

Q: (rct568) - Geoff, can you give us your thoughts, or the thoughts of your scout friend on our LB. Where do you see Roddrick Muckelroy going? How much upside does Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho posses?

A: In talking with a couple of NFL scouting friends this season, there seem to be mixed opinions on Muckelroy. Most seem to think he's a middle round guy, but there a two guys that I've spoken with that believe he has a chance to work himself up into the second round with a really strong pre-draft showing. As for Acho and Robinson, both are starting to generate some real buzz. I talked with a guy this week that thinks he has a chance to be a first round player and a future NFL star with another year or two under Will Muschamp because of his athletic skill set. Robinson is another that's starting to catch some notice, but he's probably behind Acho at this point based on my conversations with NFL people this season. Everyone has told me that they'd like to see the young guys continue to get stronger, both physically and at the point of attack. For the most part, both players are pretty under the radar right now because they've only been evaluated by the regional scouts that have seen them in person.

Q: (HKHORN10) - With Texas securing another 10 win season, it becomes very clear that Mack has easily been on of the best coaching runs in the nation in his tenure and that Texas is in the midst of an extremely rare period of overall prosperity. My question is about Mack, and what it is about him that is responsible for this period of prosperity? If Mack wrote a note to WM with 5 simple "tips" on it, and you happened to find it, what would be written on it? Has it been more due to Greg Davis than some discontent OB'ers would like to admit? Or is it more in how he communicates and recruits than in anything else? If Mack were not such a statesman, would he still have had this prolonged period of dominance?

A: I'm of the opinion that the greatest skill I've seen from Mack in the last decade is the ability to continuously improve at his craft and evolve as a person/coach. He's not the same guy in 2009 that he was when he first arrived at Texas and I think he's simply gotten better with each passing year in almost every respect. As time has passed, I think he's learned lessons about team-building, recruiting and achieving on-field success through both his failures and success. When you look across the country, I'm not sure that I see that happening much and whenever Mack decides to depart, he'll be able to do so knowing that he likely did it in his prime years and on his own terms.

Although I'm not sure that I'm qualified to project the five things that Mack might tell Muschamp on the way out the door in a private note, but here's my best guess:

1. Behind every happy and successful coach is a dynamic wife.

When you look at Mack's ability to evolve as a coach, never underestimate the impact that Sally Brown has had from recruiting to the family-style vibe felt within the program to simply serving as a sound board/cooling device for her husband, who can get the red-butt with the best of them.

2. Hire the best staff possible.

There was a time in Mack's career when critics believed he was too thin-skinned to have a high-profile coordinator in the program that could possibly steal whatever credit might start coming the program's way with a little bit of success. I know that's crazy to suggest now, but it was a different environment in this state back in 2002-03. People were frustrated with the Tim Nunez/Bull Reese situations and there were questions about whether Mack would throw ever throw caution into the wind and reach for greatness on the staff. Five years later and that remark seems silly when you consider where Mack has gone to fill his open staff positions in recent years. Along the way, I think he's found that having elite coaches on his staff means less pressure on his shoulders because they can handle a lot of the day-to-day tough stuff. It's not a coincidence that the program took a clear turn for the better in 2004 when he hired Dick Tomey and Greg Robinson. Outside of the near-disaster that was the Larry Mac Duff hire, every move Mack has made has been better than the last. Even the Mac Duff hire taught Mack a lesson that he will likely never repeat.

3. Get team-first guys.

Mack had to learn his lessons at Texas the hard way when it comes to building a team with the kind of character guys needed to win a championship. Talent is an important piece to the puzzle, but if they aren't team-first in their approach to day-to-day life inside your program, the potential exists that they'll eventually poison your efforts. Go after high character kids that have played on winning programs and understand the importance of playing together in the name of one cause - team.

4. Embrace the high school coaches and alumni.

Never forget Mack's first words after winning a national title. I actually had lunch yesterday with a former Division I coach from around these parts that people would know and he told me the following, "It doesn't matter if a high school coach in this state agrees with every X's and O's aspect of Mack's program. They know that when they send their kids to him, he's going to take care of them. He's going to care for them like they are his kids and when those four or five years of eligibility are up, they'll be better men and better prepared to have success in life as men because of it."

5. Remember - the only things that are life and death are actually life and death.

There are going to be rocky storms along the way, but that's part of the business. If you allow a single game, moment or season define your enjoyment in life, you won't be able to last for the long haul.

Q: (UT-OSU) - I'm interested on how WM will handle the D when he takes over. I'm sure he hasn't talked about it yet, but being a HC will require him getting a new DC. I'm sure he'll have some input, but I'm wondering how much. It seems from the surface that Stoops is pretty much letting Venebles do it all, but I was wondering about guys like Nick Saban and Pete Carroll. Do you have any buddies on the USC or 'Bama sites you could ask how much day to day and scheme input these defensive minded coaches have now that they are HC's? Do you have any idea who WM admires as a DC and possibly would want to tab?

A: Both Carroll and Saban are not the official defensive coordinators in their respective programs, but their fingerprints are all over the defense and both have veto power over their coordinators during games if there's something that they don't like.

When you look at Saban it's important to remember that his current defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has been with him since 2004 when he was on the LSU staff and he's been along for the ride during stops at Miami in the NFL and back to Alabama at the coaching level. From a cohesiveness standpoint, I've been told that Smart has become an extension of Saban in that the two are 100% on the same page because they've spent so much time together. "It's the same philosophy in essence because they've been together for so long. It's never been confirmed who calls the plays, but every call goes through him," my source at Bama said.

As for Carroll, When you look at his current staff, his current defensive coordinator (Rocky Seto) has been on the USC staff for the last eight seasons, which means that he's been able to build the same type of chemistry and cohesiveness with Carroll that Smart/Saban have been able to build in Tuscaloosa.

When you look at those situations and then start to project a future hire for Muschamp at Texas to be his defensive coordinator, I think there are probably a couple of clues and trends that we can follow. First, it probably won't matter early on in his tenure who the defensive coordinator is because he'll be calling the shots until he's able to build the same kind of relationship with his guy that those other coaches we're talking about in this discussion. The other thing we know is that he'll likely go after a guy that he's worked with in the past and a guy that he is going to potentially be able to work with in a way that they are consistently on the same page. Therefore, don't be surprised if he tabs a guy from the current staff to be his defensive coordinator or someone that he's worked with at LSU, Miami or Auburn. I've got 100 bucks that says this particular hirer will be focused from those that have worked with him in his recent stops.

Q: (JTM Horn) - It appears that a pattern has emerged where the Texas defense is most vulnerable on the first drive of the game, then makes adjustments and shuts down the opposing teams offense for the remainder of the game. Is this because Muschamp is using a base defense to start the game to see what the other team is trying to do offensively? Obviously, against competition up to this point this philosophy has worked well, but in a National Title game where points might come at a premium this strategy could be costly. What do you see Texas doing differently, if anything, against Florida or Alabama to shut them down from the beginning drive, rather than using the first series to "find their feet"?

Bonus question: Tossing aside the business aspect of Texas winning a NC and its obvious impact on this site, what would make you happier as a fan:
(1) Texas winning the BCS championship; or,
(2) Dallas winning the Super Bowl.

A: Here's a look at how each team has done against the Longhorns in opening games this season:

1. La-Monroe - Two plays, -11 yards and a turnover via fumble.
2. Wyoming - Three plays, -2 yards and a punt.
3. Texas Tech - Ten plays, 56 yards and a field goal.
4. UTEP - Three plays, -4 yards and a turnover via fumble.
5. Colorado - Eight plays, 66 yards and a touchdown.
6. Oklahoma - Eight plays, 77 yards and a field goal.
7. Missouri - Three plays, -16 yards and a punt.
8. Oklahoma State - 14 plays, 54 yards and a missed field goal.
9. Central Florida - Three plays, one yard and a punt.
10. Baylor - 11 plays, 68 yards and an interception in the end zone.

In 10 opening drives this season, the Longhorns have allowed one touchdown, two field goals, one other field goal opportunity, created three turnovers and forced three separate three-and-outs. There's clear not enough data in my mind to identify any real trends from those numbers and I'm not sure how alarmed you should really be about the issue.

Yes, the Longhorns have had a couple of slow starts defensively, but when you've only allowed one touchdown all season in opening game situations, those are probably the kind of slow starts you can deal with, even in a national championship game setting. Don't ever forget that these teams have capable coaches and players, and they've often waited nine months or so to unveil a wrinkle to the game plan specifics to Texas' defense, so yes, there's a lot of read and recognition taking place by Muschamp and the entire defense as they systematically begin to suffocate their opponents.

Finally, as a fan I haven't seen my Cowboys win a playoff game since I was still living at home with my mom. That means I've never seen a meaningful game in HD or on my own big screen in my own man-cave. I'd say I'm pretty desperate right now.

Q: (Beagleme) - Take out your crystal ball, and Not including incoming freshman, give us your thoughts on the starting Offense for Fall 2010. Having watched Oklahoma struggle with Landry Jones and Baylor struggle once Robert Griffin was injured and given how little of the offense Garrett Gilbert has been allowed to execute, what can we expect next Fall?

A: Well, let me begin by establishing from the very beginning that I expect Gilbert to be an All-Big 12 caliber quarterback as a sophomore next season and I'd project him to post better numbers as a sophomore in 2010 than Colt McCoy did in as a sophomore in 2007. I realize that some people are going to cry foul and call me crazy, but that's how I feel. I truly believe that he's a special player.

With that established, I think the rest of the offense stacks up very well if the Longhorns can solve the riddle at left tackle. The wide receiver unit should be a team strength with everyone but Jordan Shipley returning and the offensive line could be better with the return of Kyle Hix, David Snow, Michael Huey, Tray Allen and the infusion of Mason Walters, who has a chance to be the best linemen on the field next year, into the line-up. Also, all of the running backs are scheduled to return and the tight end position figures to have improved with the return of Greg Smith, the re-emergence of D.J. Grant and the continued development of Barrett Matthews.

From a foundation standpoint, the Longhorns should be in fantastic shape.

Q: (rtryer) - I know I am getting ahead of myself, but could you project potential match-up issues (positive and negative) in a potential Big 12 title game against Nebraska?

A: The Huskers have a very good defense and their front-four, especially along the interior of the defensive line is elite. The Longhorns would really have to raise their level of play to achieve sustained success with the running game and they might have to make a living with the pass. That's not automatically a bad thing because the truth at this point of the season is that Nebraska has played one team with a real strong passing game pulse and Texas Tech rolled up 31 on the road on that day. Translation- Nebraska's pass defense is a little suspect and untested.

When you look at Nebraska's offense, there's not much to get excited about. The quarterback plays has been abysmal at times, they lack playmakers at receiver and the running game is solid, but not spectacular with Roy Helu. They are a one-dimensional offense that often looks zero-dimensional.

Q: (Drizzew) - Mack Brown and Greg Davis have done a great job of adjusting schemes to fit the personnel on the roster, especially at the QB spot. Looking at how our offense has evolved since 1998 has been nothing short of amazing. When Vince left, we moved to more of a short passing offense and less of a zone read team. How will our offense change with Gilbert at QB in 2010? He has plenty of athleticism but it seems like his primary strength is as a passer, especially in the intermediate and deep routes. Will we see more of the I formation, and more importantly will we see some play action pass out of the I formation?

A: I wouldn't anticipate a ton of I-formation in 2010 because the tight end play is still unproven and inconsistent, and I'm not sure that the strengths of the Texas offense won't look eerily similar to this season's. Gilbert top strength is his ability to throw the football and the offense returns a ton of experience at receiver and up-front. I expect the Longhorns to run most of the offense to be run out of their "11 personnel" (one tight end/one back) and "10 personnel" (one back/four receivers).

Q: (Mikhailt) - 1. What do the players/coaches think about the new field turf? Do they feel it's an advantage or has resulted in less injuries?

2. Where does our leadership on O and D come from next year? W/o a fictional insider drinking buddy, I'd guess S Acho and our HT secondary on D. With a young QB, an offense candidate seems up for debate. If you were Mack (other than GG) who would you hope steps up next year?

A: There really hasn't been a lot of talk about the new surface since the first week, other than to hear players complain a little about the heat that the players are forced to deal with when it's scorching outside. I'll poke around in the coming weeks and see if I can get a more complete answer for you.

As for your questions about the leadership next season, I think the key is that so many multi-year starters will return to the program in 2010. The defense already has high-character/leader pieces in place with Sam Acho, Eddie Jones, Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho, Earl Thomas, Blake Gideon, Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams.

When you look at the offense, Garrett Gilbert will play a huge role, but there will be a lot of candidates at running back, receiver and along the offensive line that should be able to help in those roles as well. The exact names and roles are probably still yet to be determined and a few players on that side of the ball will need to kick up their efforts considerably because guys like Adam Ulatoski, Charlie Tanner, Chris Hall and Jordan Shipley won't be around next season. However, the Longhorns had to deal with that problem this season and they have handled the exchange in the leadership roles amazingly.

Q: (PSKTC) - Since our fast start in recruiting we've had some de-commits and a long period of time without any news at all. That has quickly changed with DeMarco Cobbs commit and nothing but good news surrounding Jackson Jeffcoat, Darius White and the mystery commit. Can this recent recruiting success be attributed to the way our season is going (and possibly the failure of some of our rivals, OU, USC). Or are Mack and Co. just competing at an all time high in the recruiting game?

A: Yes.

Q: (bman25) - What is your take on Stoops and the Notre Dame job? Do you think he is a viable candidate? Are we better off with stoops staying? Who replaces stoops if he leaves, some have said Sumlin maybe but I find that doubtful? Who goes to Florida if urban goes to Notre dame? Should we be worried about Muschamp leaving this year? Would Florida or Oklahoma consider him?

A: I've always heard that Stoops wasn't going to be an Oklahoma lifer, but I have a hard time thinking he'll let Mack Brown chase him out of town this way, having lost four of five games to the Longhorns. I'm of the opinion that Stoops probably has someone (an agent or representative) making these waves so that he'll feel a little more appreciation from a fan base that has been grilling the Sooners staff all season. He's not going anywhere.

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