December 31, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room



Q: (TX82) - 1) Do you really believe the rumors that Bob Stoops and Bo Pelini went to Alabama to see Nick Saban? It sounds too ridiculous to me.

2) I have a nasty feeling that we go 0 for 3 on the final recruits (JJ, DW and JH). Other than wanting the attention of a national announcement why are they waiting? If they really don't know if they want to go to UT, then these probably aren't the right guys for this program. I understand that it's a big decision, but a delay of this length (in all three cases) doesn't bode well for the good guys. Hope I'm wrong. What are your thoughts?


A: As ridiculous as it might sound, these aren't rumors - it happened. Numerous Nebraska media sources have confirmed that Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables spent a couple of days in Lincoln during the week of the Big 12 Championship game and just a few days ago, Tide head coach Nick Saban confirmed that Bob Stoops was on the Alabama campus this month, but tried to downplay the amount of discussion about the Longhorns that took place.

It happened and it couldn't be any clearer just how desperate the Sooners are right now with the Longhorns set to potentially win the school's second national championship in five years and with them dominating the Sooners in recruiting in a fairly savage way right now.

As for the final three recruits, I think it's important to remember a couple of very important pieces of information when heading into the last month of the season. Ninety-nine percent of the schools across the country don't recruit in a fashion that's anything close to what Texas manages to pull off each year in terms of style of recruiting and quite a few of the truly national-elite prospects wait until the end of the process before deciding.

Why? The easy answer is because they can. If you were a 17-year old kid and had a chance to announce your decision live on Sportscenter, wouldn't you? Stop thinking like a 45-year old Longhorn football addict and try to channel your inner teenager. When you're talking about the elite of the elite, they can take their time to enjoy the visits without getting hot-boxed by any coaching staff. It's just different for the top guys across the country and choosing to exhaust the time that they are allotted doesn't make them bad apples. It just makes them kids that don't bounce to your preferred timeline.

Every situation in recruiting is different than the next. I happen to disagree with your prediction and currently believe the Longhorns to be the leader for all three. In fact, I think the Longhorns break a few myths this month by closing the deal with all three.

Q: (a_hornsfan) - I know we have discussed the OL a ton over the last couple of months and have even looked at the recruiting strategies, but I just can't help but go back to it one more time.

Going back between 2006 and 2007, it seemed we really shifted our focus in recruiting OL to trying to obtain smaller, quicker individuals with the hopes of finding nimble lineman and have them "grow" into their position. However, it seemed like this never really panned out to happen as planned. Looking at last years and this years OL class we have appeared to switch back to taking "bigger" OL players, but the damage has been done. Due to the misses we had back in 05-07 it has forced us to move a bunch of players ahead of schedule and miss out on valuably needed redshirt years.

Have you been able to get any information from the coaches on their current line of thinking regarding OL recruiting? It seems that some of our best players over the years have all come in at "playing size" or bigger (i.e Leonard Davis, Mike Williams, Studdard, Sendlein, Blaylock and Dockery). Do you see anything in our OL that gives you hope for next year? Are there any prospects in 2011 that you think are good guys to watch in an effort to see if the staff has made a change in direction in the type of linemen they recruit?


A: The Longhorns coaching staff has been open about the fact that value quickness and agility over mass and size when it comes to recruiting high school offensive lineman. In a perfect world, they'll take a guy that has a combination of all of those traits, but those players don't grow on trees and when push comes to shove, they've stayed true to their values in the last five years. The problem that they've had is that they haven't developed an NFL draft pick from any of the offensive linemen that have been recruited since 2003, although that should change next year with Adam Ulatoski (Class of 2004), but it doesn't really change the greater issue. It's hard to tell at this point whether the staff believes there's a need for any change in philosophy, but I think the staff needs to re-evaluate their approach. In a lot of ways it's possible that they already have and the impact just hasn't been felt yet. Players like Thomas Ashcraft, Mason Walters, Garrett Porter, Dominic Espinosa and Trey Hopkins were road-graders at the high school level and project as more physical players than some of those in the current rotation.

If you're looking for a few players to keep an eye on in 2011, I think you have to begin and end with Galena Park North Shore's Sedrick Flowers because he's the kind of physical monster that the Longhorns greatly covet. He should be the No.1 prospect on the board in my mind, but he's one of those complete package types that they spend all year searching for. Frankly, it will be fascinating to watch them work on the 2011 class because I'm not nearly as high on the offensive linemen available as I am with the 2010 class. While there are as many as 10 players in the 2010 class that I consider to be high-level line prospects, I just don't see the same type of quality next year and a lot of the top guys available look like two- or three-year projects.

Q: (NEWNANHORN) - As we wind down a great decade for Longhorn football that has seen a lot of talented players in burnt orange, can you please give us your 1st and 2nd team all-decade team based on college productivity only?

Also, who would your all-decade team be for the Big 12?


A: Since we're releasing the staff's All-Decade team in the next two days, I'll focus on the All-Big 12 part of your question.

Offense

QB - Vince Young (Texas)
RB - Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma)
RB - Cedric Benson (Texas)
WR - Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech)
WR - Jordan Shipley (Texas)
WR - Rashaun Woods (Oklahoma State)
TE - Brandon Pettigrew (Oklahoma State)
OT - Justin Blalock (Texas)
OG - Toniu Fonoti (Nebraska)
OC - Dominic Raiola (Nebraska)
OG - Andre Gurode (Colorado)
OT - Jamaal Brown (Oklahoma)

Defense

DE: Adam Carriker (Nebraska)
DT: Casey Hampton (Texas)
DT: Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska)
DT: Tommie Harris (Oklahoma)
DE: Brian Orakpo (Texas)
LB: Teddy Lehman (Oklahoma)
LB: Derrick Johnson (Texas)
LB: Curtis Lofton (Oklahoma)
CB: Aaron Ross (Texas)
S: Roy Williams (Oklahoma)
S: Michael Huff (Texas)
CB: Derrick Strait (Oklahoma)

Special teams

KR: Wes Welker (Texas Tech)
PR: Terence Newman (Kansas State)
P: Daniel Sepulveda (Baylor)
K: Mason Crosby (Colorado)

Q: (Principle) - We all know the class we are about to sign is either going to be very good or GREAT. Based on what you know about the 2011 class, is it possible to get two classes back to back with equal amounts of talent that Texas needs at need positions.? I appreciate the hard work both you and your staff do and hope you all have a very good 2010 year.

A: Every source I have within the program believes that the 2011 recruiting has a chance to be as good or better than the 2010 class, which currently features nearly half of the top players in both the Rivals.com and Lone Star Recruiting Top 35 for the state of Texas. Frankly, I think it you combine the 2009-10 recruiting classes, you don't have a lot of blind spots.

Q: (JimsTexas) - Is it possible that the aggressive style of defense Texas plays might surprise the Alabama offense. We all know that the SEC kind of looks down on the Big 12 and our style of defensive and offensive play. Thanks and Y'all have a safe and Happy New Year.

A: Surprise? I'm not sure what would surprise Alabama. Even if the Longhorns possess the best defense that the Tide will face this season (and I believe that to be the case), they'll be well prepared for the skill level after having faced Virginia Tech, Florida, Tennessee and a host of other schools that bring big-time talent to the defensive side of the ball. I'm not sure that either team is going to catch the other off-guard.

Q: (Pear Horn) - Other than this year's soap opera between Mangino at Kansas, have you seen anything unfold like the story that is ongoing in Lubbock between Leach and the administration? It seems to get more interesting and weirder by the day. The emails from players, coaches, and former Tech coaches regarding the character (or lack thereof) of Adam James is kind of revealing. I can't help but feel Leach brought this upon himself by being so quirky and downright strange.

So it got me wondering...could this situation affect UT and how? Also, what are you thoughts in general about what went down in Lubbock?

2. Does the team know what was alleged said by Nick Saban about Texas being soft prior to the LSU-Texas Cotton Bowl? Any off the record responses you can share regarding how the team feels about that comment?

3. What is your preliminary prediction for how the game against Bama unfolds? I am predicting our defense brings the thunder including a Christian Scott blasting of Julio Jones which will spark our OL into a frothing frenzy, paving the way for a combined 170 yard ground attack from Tre, Fozzy, Cody, and Colt. I am also predicting an amazing collision between Cody and one of their linebackers; probably McClain. Score - Texas 29 Bama 20

4. Steven Seagal Lawman or Dog the Bounty Hunter?


A: Lots of questions, so I'll just work my way through them.

First, if you stick around college athletics long enough, you'll see your fair share of out of control situations. I worked in the Longhorn SID office and later covered the Longhorns basketball team during the final years of the Tom Penders regime and it was just a different kind of crazy than we're seeing with Leach/Tech. They certainly don't hold any kind of exclusivity in that department.

Second, I don't think the Texas coaching staff or players are concerned about any comments that were made back in 2003. The Longhorns were soft back then if we're going to be honest about it. Also, Saban is a friend of Mack Brown's and has been a friendly visitor to the Longhorn campus since those comments were made and he's done nothing but heap a ton of praise on the Longhorns since the game was announced.

Third, I think the game is a coin-flip contest and I'm leaning towards taking the team with the better quarterback, especially after watching the bowl games thus far this season. Quarterback play is everything, especially when we're talking about two teams of equal talent like these two are.

Finally, I find a way to make do without both shows. Seagal lost me when he started playing the guitar in movies, only to follow colossal mistake with a string movies that featured bad rapper acting. I prefer to think of his career in two stages - the strong five-year beginning to his movie career, which included Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked For Death, Out for Justice and Under Siege… and everything else is a pile of mess with one exception - Exit Wounds.

Q: (Postal One) - 1. Regarding the Baby James case at Texas Tech, based on the available information as of this date, would you have fired Coach Leach if it was your decision?

2. After the last presidential election, you were all over President Obama's jock. How do you feel about President Obama today?


A: If I'm the chancellor of president of the school and I feel like my coach has no respect for the authority and wishes of those that rank above him, yes, I would give serious consideration to letting him go. From what I can tell, Mike Leach doesn't think anyone can tell him anything, and you can't have an athletic department built on that kind of house of cards. Considering that he has zero championship game appearances, doesn't generate high revenue and is terrible for public relations at times, I'll admit that his slack would be pretty short with me.

As for your political question, in an effort to keep the response to this column focused on football, I'll keep my thoughts short. Overall, I'm pretty disenchanted with every aspect of our current legislative branch and pretty much everything else in Washington. Neither of the major parties perform or operate on a level that would make me comfortable in claiming them. As for Obama, it's a little early to form a complete opinion, but he needs to raise his performance level, even if he's dealing with some near-impossible tasks. Bottom line - the Jim Taylor's of the world still control the world and there's not enough Jefferson Smith's out there to make a difference. Now don't make me lock the thread.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Who do you see Tech bringing in, or rather, who do you see as being the coach interested in the Tech job? It isn't the easiest place to recruit major players. I know rumors have Art Briles as being interested, but do you see him leaving Baylor?

A: Tech has to hit a home run with this hire and it has to be someone that can help that program start to generate more financial revenue in the form of fund-raising That means they have to hire someone that has head coaching experience and they have to find someone that can rub shoulders with the good ol' boy boosters that have a lot of money, but aren't currently giving a ton of it to the Tech program. That leads me to believe that Briles is the best candidate because he's a legend in those parts and he'll commit to building a program that's about the school and area, not the coach. The wildcard candidate to keep an eye on is Tommy Tuberville, who is lobbying for the job, but might use it for a stepping stone position in a few seasons with any kind of success. If they are smart, they'll go get Briles, who might be a poor man's Mike Leach as a coach, but he fills in a lot of the holes that the pirate often left blank.

Q: (Pchorn) - 1. After Texas trounces Alabama in the MNC game and Mack solidifies himself as a coaching legend, what are the chances that he says adios and hangs it up after the recruiting class is signed and he is paid his bonus in February?

2. If Darius White ends up at Texas, how many WR does Texas look to take next year?

3. Am I the only person that thinks that Texas really needs to recruit some offensive tackles, since we did not get one this class how many do we take next year?

4. Do you think that there will be any shakeups in terms of the assistant coaches this off-season assuming Mack is still the head coach?


A: 1. Outside of the occasional rumor here and there, most people I speak with absolutely believe that Mack Brown will return in 2010. I'll be honest - there's chatter out there, but I think that was destined to be the case as soon as they announced the head coach-in-waiting deal with Will Muschamp. My expectations are that he will return.

2. The word earlier this year was that the Longhorns would take two receivers (possibly Jaxon Shipley and Miles Onyegbule) and possibly shut it down. It's possible that they'd take three, but the group might need to include a player that can potentially play on either side of the ball.

3. No, you're not alone. Not at all.

4. Its possible, but that's the case with every coaching staff in the country. As the head coaching jobs start to fill up, the positions underneath the head coach will start to see some movement and most of it will occur wither after the bowls or national signing day.

Q: (selliottjr) - I have never submitted a question before, but I have enjoyed reading your comments over the years. Thanks for your insight! But here is my question:
Many sports analysts I have either heard or read since the announcement of the BCS Championship game give Texas little or no chance for a victory, citing various things like the offensive line, lack of a solid running game, the outstanding Alabama defense and how Alabama manhandled Florida in the SEC Championship game. Whereas, I cannot dispute that I have been disappointed in the offensive line play, the running game and vanilla game plans this year, is Texas as good as Alabama, or is the SEC just leaps and bounds better than the Big 12?


A: I'm not sure that you're giving the national media enough credit for being some of the laziest bastards on the planet. Seriously, the business is so centered around the current "flavor of the month" that it's next to impossible to have a legitimate conversation in a lot of mediums because the people that are talking are uneducated. Seriously, I heard one analyst on ESPN say that he'd give the edge at quarterback in this game to Alabama. That's completely asinine, but since the last thing he saw was McElroy having his best moment and McCoy having one of his worst, his pea-sized brain came up with that unsound conclusion.

Part of the problem is that most people in the media don't get to see nearly as much football as the truly hard-core fan across the nation. For example, I cover the Longhorns for a living, which means that I'm at the games and away from a lot of the other action that takes place each Saturday. With the invention of the DVR, I'm able to record a lot of football and go back and watch a lot of the stuff that I miss each week while working on my specific beat, but I don't believe the majority of the members of my little fraternity spend nearly as much time studying the teams that they don't cover.

If the Longhorns had blown out Nebraska and Alabama had beaten Florida in ugly fashion, the storytelling would certainly be different, but it still might not be an accurate conversation about what will happen during the game because so much of the media's discussion focuses on snapshot moments.

When you consider that I'd wager the majority of the talking heads discussing this game couldn't tell you what kind of player Aaron Williams is, I'd make a point to take the things that are said with a grain of salt.

As for the conferences, I think both the SEC and Big 12 were down this season. I don't know that either conference was worth bragging about from top-to-bottom.

Q: (MaestroHorn) - I remember many years ago the Dallas Cowboys were tipping off their plays to the opposing team. One instance is when the opposing defense was getting a key from the Dallas linemen by their knuckles (red knuckles means weight forward= running play). Also, supposedly fullback Timmy Newsome had a "tell" about plays based on whether or not he had his mouthpiece "in" on the running plays.

Question: Is there something that Texas is giving away that OU and Nebraska have discovered? Is it those "tells" that Pelini has supposedly passed on to Saban recently?


A: You're asking a bit of a rhetorical question. It's possible we'll never know what the OU and Nebraska staffs have discussed with the Alabama, but I don't know that it's a huge deal because when teams have this much downtime, they have a chance to break down their own tendencies from the entire season in a much more complete fashion than they can during the daily grind of the regular season. Also, the Alabama staff isn't likely the only coaching group in this game that has spoken with coaching friends and connections that might have valuable insight into the opponent. It's just part of the shell game that goes on in a bowl game setting because of the long lay-offs.

I suppose it's possible that the Longhorns could be tipping off plays, but there's nothing overly complex about what the Longhorns do on the offensive side of the ball. If it were just about passing along tipping points, I'm not sure that there would be a need for the OU staff to get on a plane and travel to various outposts. That kind of information can be passed along over the phone in a lot of cases. In my mind, you make a travel trip to break down film.


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