March 22, 2008

Inside the Locker Room

Q: (tequilasteve) - Two part question: 1) Based on what you have seen and heard from the spring, what changes (if any) in our offensive scheme should we expect next year? And, (2) based on the scheme we will run, who are your predictions for: offensive mvp, most improved, biggest surprise, and newcomer of the year?

A: I don't expect a lot of change within the offensive scheme this year. The Longhorn staff likes what they are doing on that side of the ball. I think what you've seen the last two seasons will be very similar to what you'll see this season. The most important thing for the staff and the team at the moment is actually finding a real identity on that side of the ball because that was a real problem for this team for most of 2007. Of course, in order for that to really occur, some of these young players that are being counted on will need to step up, especially on the offensive line. There aren't any real proven difference-makers on the offensive side of the ball, so don't expect an ultra-explosive offense right from the get-go.

If I'm handing our pre-season awards, I'll give Colt McCoy the offensive MVP, Foswhitt Whittaker the most-improved award, Kyle Hix as the biggest surprise and Whittaker as the newcomer of the year.

Q: (billpricetx) - How would you evaluate Rivals' initial top 250 as it relates to many of the current Texas commits? Obviously it's early in the process, and I've never been one to put all my faith in the Rivals evaluations, but it seems like some of our guys were snubbed a little to me. Which players do you think will make big moves as they get more exposure through the year?

A: I think they've got it right on most of the guys or at least they are in the right ballpark (with my opinions). The guys that I think they need to take a closer look at throughout the rest of the spring, at least in regards to being possible mid-four star prospects and in the top 250 nationally are cornerback Eryon Barnett, offensive tackle Paden Kelley, tight end Barrett Matthews, offensive lineman Garrett Porter and defensive back Kenny Vaccaro.

Of the guys in that group, Barnett, Porter and Matthews are guys that I'm not sure our national guys have seen enough of yet, so they are probably in the wait-and-see department. I think Kelley's new film will give the national guys something to think about. The issue with him is that he didn't always play at an elite level as a junior and our national guys might want top wait and see him as a senior. As for Vaccaro, I'm sure that my early hesitations might have something to do with his current ranking because his highlights that the national guys have seen are top-notch. Overall, I think we're always going to be one step ahead of the national guys because they just have more guys to watch and our No.1 objective on this site is to have Texas covered from top to bottom. I will at least contact our national guys in the future and weigh-in with my thoughts.

Also, keep an eye on a kid like Dominique Jones. He's considered very raw, but he has the physical tools to be a high four-star. I would expect that you'll see a lot of moves before it's all said and done.

Q: (iaenter) - My question has two parts. 1) I have tried to understand how Texas has gone from a team that pressured the offense and generated a lot of sacks in years past, to one that cannot muster any significant sack numbers. Is it due to a change in philosophy from being an attacking defense to a read and react defense? 2) We also have seen our run defense improve very significantly, at least statistically, as our pass rush has dwindled, are the two related?

A: I think there are a couple of things to keep in mind when discussing this topic. First, if you look over the course of the last ten years, the Longhorns actually rank No.2 nationally in sacks. We can talk about the frustration that comes with not having an elite pass rush coming from the front four, but the numbers suggest that the defense is ahead of the national curve, despite whatever frustrations the fan base and coaches alike might share. That number is actually pretty impressive when you consider that Mack Brown's philosophy on defense is to defend the rush first, attack the passer with the front four second. Regardless of the coordinator, that's what Brown's teams at Texas have always stressed and it comes at the expense of sacks from the defensive line. If you talk with guys like Tim Crowder and Brian Robison, they have been amazed at the newfound freedom they've found in the NFL because of less run responsibilities. It will obviously be one of the interesting aspects of Will Muschamp's arrival. If Mack really is turning over the keys to the car, look for more of a pass rush from the front four this year.

Q: (Southlakehorn) - I'd really like for you to discuss the backup quarterback situation. I'm really disappointed that there doesn't seem to be any separation between John Chiles and Sherrod Harris. Who knows what's going on with G.J. Kinne. Somebody has to set up.

A: Let's remember that Kinne is a redshirt freshman that played his high school ball at a very small classification, so it's pretty unreasonable to expect him to be hitting a full stride at this stage of the game. That being said, he had looked very good in seven-on-seven action and a lot of people expected him to step ahead of the pack and that has not happened yet. A lot of it is simply the speed of the game. When the action starts to slow down for him he'll likely have a chance. Of the three players behind Colt McCoy, Chiles is the one that has created the most buzz and he's doing well with more reps. He still has a long way to go before the staff will feel totally comfortable with him as the No.2, but he's making progress. Really and truly, the back-up job may very well be a battle that wages into the fall.

Q: (Kansashorn) - I've always felt good that UT kept academics at a higher level than sports. It made KSU look like a joke to have the university president Wefald lobbying for a spot in a BCS bowl. Similarly, OU's president Boren defending the integrity of their compliance program, lobbying for the return of the 8 wins in 2005, and asking that the loss at Oregon be overturned showed where his attentions were focused. I am hoping that UT's president isn't currently preparing a press release on the need to upgrade the bowling team.

Recently, Russell Shepard mentioned being impressed that LSU provided a Business School Professor to outline what his course of study would be at LSU. Also, Okafor said that Stanford provided a table full of professors to go over his curriculum. I always presumed Texas faculty had more important academic activities to take care of, and that going over course studies was left to Athletic Department academic advisors and tutors.

My question: Is it common for schools to provide professors to help with athletic recruitment, and if so, is it reserved for only the blue-chip players?

A: Every school handles things a little bit differently than the other, especially if the goal is to one-up the competition from visit to visit. The Longhorns usually have all of the recruits meet with the academic support team, but if there's someone that wants to see a little more in-depth look at a particular academic program, those types of accommodations can be fairly easily constructed. For instance if Okafor wanted to meet with a professor or even a dean tied to his projected major, I'm sure that something could be set up with a planned individual visit.

Q: (Sundance7) - What is the status of Jamarkus McFarland, Kevin Brent, Calvin Howell and Devon Kennard attending the Spring Game?

A: Howell and Kennard are scheduled to attend and McFarland might show up, but he didn't confirm his intentions when we spoke with him this week other than to say it's a possibility. Brent is someone that we need to check in with this weekend to get an update on because I can't confirm him one way or another right now.

Q: (HORNHAMMER) - 1.With regards to the upcoming draft, do you feel Drew Kelson has shown enough to put himself into position to be drafted? How do you feel the Texas coaches evaluated Drew, with regards to his strengths and weaknesses and what do you see those being?

(My personal opinion is A. IF you CAN cover Reggie Bush out of the backfield, AND B. Cause Justin Zwick to fumble to ensure the Ohio State win, you NEED to be on the field CAUSE YOU ARE A PLAYMAKER!) imo, again.

2. With some comparing Chris Whaley to Adrian Peterson (that's not fair to any young man, imo) and some comparing him to a future defensive player, have you seen him and do you feel he is THE back that Texas needs to compete for a National Championship?

(Again, imo, I do, and I've only seen him on film, but he reminds me of a young Curtis Dickey, (which means I am old, of course), the kid just seems to have great vision, i.e. Emmitt, he looks for the seam, hits it and has the speed to outrun the defense to the goal (at least at the H.S. level)

A: It's hard to say where Kelson stands right now in regards to the NFL, but his workout might ensure that he at least gets a chance to go to a training camp. It might simply take the right team pulling the trigger late in the draft if he's going to hear his name called, but that workout was certainly impressive enough to open some eyes.

As for what happened during his career, I just think things went bad from the beginning. The staff should never have moved him to running back as a true freshman to simply bail themselves out in the face of depth problems. I just don't think you do that with a guy that you projected to be a potential NFL guy in the secondary. When he badly injured his ankle that year at running back, it set him back and then shortly after that the staff started the shell game between linebacker and defensive back. Throw in a few untimely injuries and you have what you currently have.

As for Whaley, I think it's simply going to come down to how much his body develops while he's in Austin. If he can keep from exploding physically, and many think it will happen once he gets into a college weight program, he has a chance because he's obviously a very gifted and skilled player. I think everyone needs to just relax and play the wait-and-see game because no answer is coming right now. If the worst thing that happens is the kid turns into a 280-pound monster at defensive end, well, it will be a nice problem to have.

Q: (Vtrain1) - After Notre Dame won the National Championship under Lou Holtz, Holtz had a comment that went something like 'If I would have had enough scholarships I could have signed the Top 50 kids in the nation'. I was always one of those who believed that once Brown and Texas won a MNC that the recruiting would be mind boggling. While we still recruit very well, this doesn't seem to be the case. Thoughts?

A: I think there's a very good chance this 2009 class could turn out to be a very special group. I would estimate that the Longhorns are the favorites to land Jamarkus McFarland, Calvin Howell, Alex Okafor and Mason Walters at this point, all of whom are top-national prospects at their positions. If you land those four, plus an out-of-state stud or two, along with another in-state guy like Kevin Brent, you're going to have a group that includes several five-star commitments and a dozen national top 100 picks and that doesn't even take into consideration the players that might edge into that territory

Overall, I do agree that the Longhorns didn't recruit as well as they could have in 2008, but their 2006-07 recruiting were very, very strong. When you consider that Texas rarely goes out of state, their recruiting has been borderline awesome since the first Rose Bowl win, with the lone exception being a very solid class a year ago.

I suppose it's simply a matter of perspective.

Q: (Sundance7) - Here's a random question for you: When the team traveled to Arkansas, did they travel by air or by bus? I would guess by plane, and if so, were they delayed by the severe weather this week?

A: Unless it's a short trip (200 miles is a decent ballpark number), the team usually flies and that's exactly how they got to Little Rock. Since they charter their flights, they didn't have any problems getting back from Kansas City or getting to Little Rock, but quite a bit of fans and media had a heck of a time getting home this past weekend because of the weather.

Q: (GetHooked) - An aggie friend of mine tells me that pie are squared. It is my contention that pies are round. Could you please clear this up? Thank you.

A: Why do you have an "aggie friend"?

Q: (BuschLeague) - Assume Dre Kirkpatrick, Devon Kennard, Trent Richardson and Jarvis Jones are all from Texas. Provide your new LSR top 15.

A: 1. Jamarkus McFarland
2. Devon Kennard
3. Garrett Gilbert
4. Russell Shepard
5. Kevin Brent
6. Craig Loston
7. Dre Kirkpatrick
8. Mason Walters
9. Chris Whaley
10. Trent Richardson
11. Alex Okafor
12. Tyrik Rollison
13. Greg Timmons
14. Thomas Ashcraft
15. Shavodrick Beaver

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