August 27, 2011

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Hookem82) - I realize that teams try to control info coming out of training camps as much as possible for several valid reasons. With that in mind, is there an overall difference in this year's info vs. last year's pre-season reports? In other words, does the news match our optimism? Thanks.

A: A combination of factors has improved the element of coverage this fall in comparisons to last year in my mind.

1. Mack Brown closed practices from start to finish for the first time in his career in Austin, which combined with the closure of spring workouts and official security at unofficial workouts to keep out eyeballs in the summer created a situation where the reclamation project from the most disappointing season in school history was almost completely unseen by the media/public.

2. Mack also limited the access to himself, his coaches and his players in an unprecedented way, with players not speaking to the media in camp until the second week. Once upon a time, Mack used to give daily reports to the media.

3. Of course, all of this happens at a time when the thirst for information is at all all-time high. Longhorn Network, hello?

4. The competition in our industry to win the information game has been the most intense I've ever seen. There are more sites and more reporters and more eyeballs and everyone craves a slice of the attention pie.

5. Everyone is this business, including us, missed the boat on last year's team and it's important to not let that happen again.

Mack's closing all of the practices caused an unprecedented appetite for day-to-day, practice-to-practice info and our entire staff leveraged so many different resources to obtain information that Mack fought incredibly hard to keep off the grid. Along the way, I think the pressure that Mack applied to limit access actually created a more troublesome set of issues and distractions for him and the team than he would have seen if he had left all of the workouts open. I wonder if he learned a lesson this fall - the devil you know is worse than the devil you don't know.

Overall, I'm strongly satisfied with our reporting of this month's practices/scrimmages and it forced us to sharpen our games. Should the news match your optimism? I'm not sure how to answer that question because this is without question a very talented team, but one that is also green as grass and not without serious question marks at quarterback, depth at offensive line, youth among skill positions, two new schemes, a new set of corners and let us not forget about defensive tackle.

Be optimistic, but realistic at the same time. You'll thank me later.

Q: (Sydney15) - The dawn of a new season is upon us and now that we have a pretty good idea of whom the starters are, but I had some concerns about the schemes that would be put in place on both sides of the ball. I'll start off with offense since this was the biggest area of concern going into the last two seasons. From my point of view, once this team fully learns the Harsin/Applewhite system it will change the landscape of college football for years to come. With the players that Texas recruits this could end up being the next wishbone or spread. However what concerns me most is with all the shifting, different packages and player groupings shuffling in and out, will there be a lot of delay of game, illegal procedure penalties called?

As far as the defense is concerned I recorded a couple of Mississippi State games from last year, one against Arkansas and the other against Houston on the CBS sport channel, and what really made me concerned was the big plays his defense gives up. While I understand the concept of the FIRE ZONE BLITZ, it seems like it would be much better in its second or third year then its first year, much like the offense. With that in mind, I see the defense making a lot of big plays but I also see them giving up a lot of big plays especially with those young corners having to tackle in space it just scares me to death at times. What do you think?? I guess what I mean is this is a bowl bound team and depending on how well and how quickly they learn these new systems it's will determine what bowl they go to at the end of the year.

A: Oh boy, I'm going to ignore the hyperbole in the remark about the offense because I could get stuck on the "once this team fully learns the Harsin/Applewhite system it will change the landscape of college football for years to come" remark for 10 paragraphs. I think a bigger problem that the shifting and shuffling is the inexperience and unproven nature of every player in the line-up. From my point of view, this team will handle Harsin's constant motion just fine. Frankly, I haven't heard that there's been a ton of confusion from the start. The offense won't be at 100% capacity, but it won't have training wheels either. The issue is that the most bankable aspect of this offense is a true freshman receiver or a sophomore lineman that has never started a full season.

As for the defense, I think everyone is eye-to-eye on this. There's a ton of talent, speed and play-making ability, but there are a lot of newbies at their first rodeo. The aggressiveness of this defense is going to allow for the possibility of big plays and the ability of the back end of this defense to safe-guard those moments is going to make or break this unit.

Q: (jcd4) - From the information we are getting From OB, it appears Garrett Gilbert has the starter position locked up at QB. That begs the question, who out of the other three makes the most sense as Gilbert's back up? It appears the staff is putting McCoy in that position. Does that make sense if David Ash appears to have more upside as the QB of the future? What are the pros and cons of Ash leaping frogging over [/db]Case McCoy[/db] and Connor Wood for the second position, as far as morale and keeping the QB pool stocked? I think this is an important decision as the second string QB could be called upon this year.

A: Let's just admit from the beginning that there is political posturing going on with the position and half of what we've seen out of the treatment of the quarterbacks in the program centers around Mack's thirst to not have the losers transfer. The fact that a starter has not been named at this point means that the Longhorns will be one of the last teams in the country, if not the last team in the country to name its starting quarterback.

I fully expect McCoy to be the official second-string quarterback, even if I haven't spoken to anyone that believes he's truly separated from Ash. However, the coaches and players feel like he's a gamer, a quality leader and the kind of guy that can keep the offense from running off the road if called into duty. I'm of the mind that McCoy is going to be the back-up in the event of a short-term situation. For instance, if Gilbert were to miss a week with an ankle sprain, I think McCoy is the starter. But, and this is a big but, if it were a season-ending deal, I think they might just turn the keys to the car over to the guy that has the most long-term upside and might just be the answer in 2012, regardless of what happens in 2011.

Until the redshirt is pulled off of Ash in a game, McCoy has the edge for the back-up spot in a tie-breaker type situation. When and if Ash plays this season, the coaches will need to make sure that they haven't wasted a season of eligibility like they did with McCoy in 2010, but for now they can use the redshirt idea as a weapon, one that allows them to hold onto their complete quarterback roster for at least the fall, which is immensely important to Mack. No way, no how, does he ever want the brother of Colt McCoy to leave the program.

Q: (homebubba) - Here are a few questions:

1. There's been much discussion about the development of our new secondary. My question is do we have a couple of guys that are now (or can quickly develop) into shut down corners. The key to a flexible secondary with multiple packages, blitz options, etc. is often dependent on having 1 or 2 guys on a given play that can play that shut down corner. UT has been blessed with a number of these for a long time. Do we have them in 2011?

2. There has also been a lot of discussion about how our offense will play a number of guys in situational packages to take advantage of their individual skill sets (which is awesome news). Will Malcolm Brown or Foswhitt Whittaker or even Joe Bergeron develop into that every down back that allows us to run a variety of packages without having to change the running back for a good portion of the game? Don't get me wrong that I am not excited about seeing D.J. Monroe or Cody Johnson used to their optimal ability in a series of plays but I think we need a guy we can "hang our hat on" and finish a game with.

3. Does 2011 have the Team Leadership to keep this team developing in a positive way and mentally staying focused in a way that was severely lacking in 2010?

4. My biggest concern for 2011 is about the Longhorn Nation putting entirely too much pressure on the QB position. All 4 of our scholarship QBs have a lot of talent as they were recruited out of high school but only one of them has any real game-day experience. It appears obvious the coaches are confident that going with Garrett Gilbert is how they plan to go heading into the season (and I do NOT question their decision on this). With his difficult showing last season, the change to the new offensive system this year and his reported inability to take a commanding lead at the position through pre-season drills we have our biggest dilemma of 2011. If Garret falters can Mack Brown, Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite manage this potential problem better than what happened during the Chris Simms era?

Ketch - if ya can both accurately answer the above questions and also give me the type answers I want to hear then 2011 will be a fun ride for us Orangebloods

A: A few questions? I counted four, but what the hell? Let's just attack all of them.

First, the Longhorns are rolling out three very talented players at the top of their cornerback depth chart, but the trio consists of two true sophomores and a true freshman, which means it's likely to very similar to the 2008 team in the secondary. There will be days when this group's talent makes them look like stars and there will likely be days when their inexperience doesn't. Eventually, legit NFL players will emerge from this group, but it's a guess as to when the light switch flips on.

Your second question is the kind of thing that only gets answered over time in games. If either of those freshmen can take the bull by the horns and run with it consistently, the answer could be yes. If not, the answer is a negative.

Third, see the last answer. Talking about leadership in the pre-season us the kind of thing we've seen the basketball team do in recent years. The more it's talked and bragged about, the more I think it's probably a bunch of bunk. We'll see where the team leadership meter is at when there's some real adversity.

Finally, no, I'm not convinced that the quarterbacks will be managed better than the Simms/Applewhite years. While I do believe in Bryan Harsin, there exists some shaken confidence with the head guy on this matter. Remember when he wouldn't let Chris Simms answer a question after the first OU loss? Well, he's been in that made with all of his quarterbacks for the last eight months. I'm just being honest when I tell you that the quarterback cloud hovers over this program and this hasn't been a program that always handles that kind of thunderstorm.

Q: (msuhorn) - Mack Brown has stated that the 2010 disaster was from the coaches not doing their job, him not getting over the 2009 Championship game loss, and various other administrative mistakes. Now I know Mack won't throw his players under a bus, but does he really believe that the above issues resulted in the bad year? What, in your opinion, would have been the fate of the 2010 team if everything was done perfectly by the coaches? 2 more wins max?

A: Of course, Mack isn't going to throw his players under the bus. He also knows that it wasn't just the coaching staff, but this team never had a chance because of the poor job the staff did, especially in terms of preparation, both leading up to the season and week-to-week.

If the staff is on its A-game, and that includes the strength and conditioning program, I think we could have seen a completely different season and I'm not talking about a measly two-win boost. Coaching, preparation and motivation for 12 months is everything in this sport and the Longhorns lacked all of it. A soulless team will never succeed.

Q: (Doc2rouge) -3 Questions Ketch..take your pick,

1. The national championship picture appears to have no clearly dominant teams. Oklahoma is mentioned, LSU is mentioned, and of course Bama, and Oregon. Are there any "sleepers" in the 6-15 range of preseason picks who you think will play themselves into the game.

2. There has been a ton of excitement surrounding the Harsin/Applewhite offense. Realistically, how much of a difference do you think it will make in the performance at the QB position and the teams overall performance relative to last year?

3. Who is the "straw that stirs the drink" on this team (player wise).

Thank you!!!

A: I pick all three.

1. Hell yes, there are teams in the 6-15 range that have strong shots to emerge as national dark-horse. Depending on the poll, the three teams I really, really like are Stanford (No.7 in the AP), Wisconsin (No.11 in the AP) and TCU (No.16 in the AP).

2. Considering the quarterback position produced one of the most statistically horrible seasons in the history of the modern era at Texas, I'm going to say the Harsin/Applewhite scheme/planning/leadership will make a world of difference. I'm one of Greg Davis' few remaining fans, but he lost his way last year.

3. The straws on offense are Fozzy Whittaker among the skill guys and Mason Walters up-front. The defensive side of the ball has a number of them, including Keenan Robinson, Alex Okafor and Blake Gideon (the resident red-ass on the team)

Q: (Golfpr3145) - This is something I have been thinking about since all of the changes have been made. Let's say Texas returns to form this year and goes 10-2 or 9-3. Next year Texas goes 11-1 or 12-0. Does Mack call it a career after a couple of years or does he continue for several more? If he does retire does he take over for DeLoss, and do we promote from within?

A: Yes, I think he would retire, and no, I don't think he would replace DeLoss as the athletic director. The question of promoting from within would be interesting and if the dynamics of the program remain the same, it'll be an option I think they would strongly consider, although I'm in the club that strongly believes you use your power and mighty profile to get the best coach possible and I'm not sure any coordinator without head coaching experience could possibly be that guy. This would be a hell of a place to be learning on the fly.

Q: (dropshot_7) - Ketch, who is the one player that our team can least afford to lose?

In all reality, what kind of season do you expect Gilbert to have? By the end of the season, will the debate be settled, or will we have another offseason full of 4-page threads debating whether or not Gilbert should be the starter?

What should we expect out of the running game this year? How much is preseason hype, and how much is reality? Do you think the running game will protect the defense, as well as the QB, by controlling the TOP?

Leading receiver this year?

A: First off, I think the answer to the question of who this team can least afford to lose resides along the offensive line. They've got five guys that they feel very good about and Trey Hopkins is the best of the bunch and he can play four positions for you, including left tackle. There's nobody else like him up-front.

As for your second question, I don't know what kind of season Gilbert is going to have, but this is it for him in my mind. He either takes off and flies or the coaches will move in a different direction with David Ash. It's sink or swim time.

Yes, I think the running game hype is real and I believe this is the most improved area on the team coming into the year. Now, will it be dominant? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Will it be better than last year and develop into a new strength for the program? Without question. The offensive line, backs, scheme and coaching are all greatly improved.

Finally, give me Jaxon Shipley with 65 receptions to lead the team.

Q: (CBHookem) - If it's not too late to get a Q in...what's the latest on Mario Edwards? There were some rumblings a few weeks about Oklahoma maybe getting back into the picture. If that's the case, there is no reason for Texas to get involved as well. Any chance Texas gets back into his recruitment?

A: Mario Edwards is going to Florida State. Any appearance of him looking around is just him looking to squeeze in some football games and free trips. I expect that Texas will stay in touch, but they won't be looking to play games, either.

Q: (rsdod) - I understand you want good questions, but here is a HUGE concern. When the aggies leave, will UT still schedule a game with them? Having these people around is like having your mother-in-law move in. Always whining about something. Having them announce they are headed to the SEC is like your mother-in-law waving goodbye on her way to your sister-in-laws in Nantucket. Moses said "Let my people go." I too say "Let them go." Could OB organize a campaign --- something like an email petition for all Horns who feel the same and the powers in charge know how we feel? Why not call up Norte Dame and see if they want to play on Thanksgiving. You could take bets on their reception to the idea and provide more national exposure for the Horns, more legitimacy and save us all from these whining morons. Forget the "history" non-sense .... they fought the Punic Wars over hundreds of years ... doesn't mean it was good idea.

A: *head nodding*

Q: (drh310) - Long time listener. First time caller. I'm trying to submit two questions for the Ticket City Locker Room. But before I can do that, what is the best way to submit questions?

My two questions are as follows:

1) What odds would you give that some of our 2012 commits get added stars? I have read some of the Rivals national recruiting analysts write positive reviews about Cayleb Jones, Thomas Johnson, Curtis Riser and Bryson Echols. In particular, do you see Echols getting his 4th star? And do you you see all/or any of Jones, Johnson, and Riser receiving their 5th star?

2) Would you touch on the scholarship numbers in regard to the 2012 commitments and how many scholarships will we have remaining to give out? With the departure of Fitzhenry and Malcolm Williams I believe we have 83 scholarship players on campus and will have 12 scholarships vacated due to seniors leaving. This will leave 14 scholarships (71/85) available for '12 with 18 ships already on paper. I figure one quarterback will inevitably transfer due to lack of playing time (it's looking like Woods right now)\ opening up another ship. What gives?

2a) Will Malcolm be back next year? The UT Press release was rather vague only stating that he is leaving due to personal reasons. Leaving open the possibility of his return in '12 which would further complicate scholarship numbers.

2b) Does Mack award the 2 remaining 2011 ships to walk-on players like he has done in the past? (Possibly going to Jamison Berryhill and Patrick McNamara on a one year basis so as not to effect next year's numbers.)

A: Two questions? I counted seven. Yet, I'm in a giving mood today, so let's get right to them.
There's no real need to give odds on the star-rankings changing over the course of the next six months. It's going to happen, both good (stars being added) and bad (stars coming off). For instance, I would very, very surprised if there's not a big bump for Riser in the next set of rankings changes. You mentioned the two receivers, who are already rated among the elite in the country, but they also could move up a slot or two before the dust settles, but my guess is they never reach five-star status. Echols will get a fourth star by January. That being said, you need to prepare yourself for the idea that Conner Brewer is going to fall in the rankings and there's even been some whispers that his four-star status could be open for debate.

Secondly, look for the Longhorns to take at least 20 next year, given the numbers we know to exist. There will be some attrition next year, which should allow them to take a heavier number without much stress.

Malcolm Williams will not return. You've got five years to play four seasons once the eligibility clock starts and this is his fifth year.

Finally, as you probably know by now Mack gave a scholarship to Berryhill this week and it won't impact the 2012 numbers in recruiting at all.

Q: (colliedp) - With the recent yahoo report on the disturbing cheating going on in The "U", it got me thinking. My first thought was, "Yahoo would be virtually irrelevant if it wasn't for their investigative reporters breaking these huge sport related stories.". Which eventually got me to my ultimate question. If any member of your staff came across concrete proof of the University of Texas breaking the rules of the NCAA as disgustingly and blatantly as the Miami program, would you break the story nationally? Not that it matters, but here's my take…and I'm torn.

First off, you, your staff, and would instantly become nationally known and the spotlight would be immensely bright…too bright for it not to make a positive impact on your careers. You'd be referenced in every major newspaper, website, and magazine that reports on College Football. In my opinion, it would open up doors for you that you might not have ever had opened otherwise. Maybe this is hyperbole, but it's my opinion that it would set you up to do pretty much whatever you wanted in your career moving forward.

However…your business and from what I can tell, passion, is tied to the University of Texas. In the long run it would be very hard for Orangebloods to sustain a 5-10 year window of Texas irrelevance, especially if there is TV and Bowl game restrictions. Could you imagine reporting on SMU after the Death Penalty? After about 1 year, what's left? It's basically worse than high school football. Also, I can't imagine UT would welcome you and your staff back with open arms once they do recover and start building the program again. How would you ever get a source inside the program after that? Not to mention the powerful people you'd piss off…probably with more pull than Uncle Luke! ▀Joke.

I believe that you would have to do some real soul searching and would need to be able to answer this question, "What are my true career goals and what's the best way to get there?". So now I'm going to put you on the spot…What are your career goals Geoff? Have you reached your pinnacle? What would be your dream job? Don't get me wrong, I'm deeply envious of your job...I would love to do what you do. You're a lucky man, but is Orangebloods as big as it gets?

Hope this didn't come off condescending, because that is not my intention. Thanks

A: Interesting perspective. Hopefully, I can answer the questions fittingly, but before I get into the spirit of your question, let me object to your original point that "Yahoo would be virtually irrelevant if it wasn't for their investigative reporters breaking these huge sport related stories". You realize that's an insane position to take, right? It's Yahoo. They have bloggers who have more page views that's top columnist Rick Reilly. It's a world-wide company that isn't some Johnny-come-lately enterprise making a name for itself in the wake of a string of investigative pieces.

Even though that point wasn't at the center of this conversation, I felt like I needed to point that out because it's important that you understand who we are partnered with. They are in the Jones' family.

As it relates to my career path, I'm doing what I want to do. Frankly, all of us are. You don't think I've been approached to sell Orangebloods or been offered a job by others? You think Chip Brown wasn't offered jobs after his reporting of last summer's initial Big 12 Missile Crisis? You think Jason Suchomel isn't approached every time a web site launches with a Longhorn emblem on it?

We're already known around the country as the absolute best in the industry at what we do. Most important, we're where we want to be in a city we all desire to live in and we have the kind of connection as a staff that makes working every day a privilege. Whether you know it or not, Orangebloods has become a destination spot and not a launching pad.

My career goals are to forever make Orangebloods the best site of its kind in the industry, while continuing to make us an institution in the city of Austin, the Longhorn campus and the state of Texas.

As it relates to exposing the school with some sort of investigation that would bring the program down, I would simply offer that we're not in that kind of business. You don't eat candy at the place where you buy your groceries.

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