November 6, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (I Believe) - Some of us (OK, me) can't tell much from high school film and haven't seen any UT practices. And we've only seen Garrett Gilbert throw a few passes in games. Based upon what you've seen so far from Gilbert this year, and with a whole year in the program by the 2010 season, how much of a drop-off do you see in our QB situation next year. Should we expect him to take over where Colt left off, or will it be a difficult year?

A: The Longhorns will be enter next season in a similar situation that they entered the 2006 season following Vince Young's magic carpet ride junior season. For all of Gilbert's immense talent, there are some intangibles that Colt McCoy brings to the table that will not only be difficult to replace, but it often takes a few seasons to completely make the transition.

As Duane Akina often says, it's not add water, instant players.

The issue with Gilbert is trying to determine how long his transition/adjustment period will last? He'll get a four-game warm-up act before the Horns take on Oklahoma in Dallas (back to the first weekend in October), with one of those games coming in the form of a home game against UCLA.

From a numbers standpoint, I believe Gilbert will challenge some of the totals that McCoy posted in his first season as a starter. However, there's just no way to know whether he's ready to go the road and win at Nebraska or Lubbock, or into Dallas against the Sooners.

The players and coaches all have a lot of confidence in Gilbert and there's no telling how much more advanced he'll be after a full set of bowl workouts, the spring, a full off-season, summer workouts and a full set of two-a-days. My money is on Gilbert playing at a fairly high level as a true sophomore, but I can't tell you if he'll be ready to lead the team for a championship. Those are the kind of things we won't be able to learn until he's asked to carry the load.

Q: (ut_alh)- How much of the "imagination" on offense has been stifled by the fact that we have a defense that does not give up many points and defense/special teams that can create their own scoring opportunities?

A: That's valid. Mack Brown doesn't need to race the competition to 45 points in order to win games this season and with those two units playing at such a high level, he's already admitted that he's not going to ask Greg Davis to drive the car like he's in a rush to get somewhere.

Q: (HKHORN10) - A little business intelligence exercise applied to the Horns:

So let's say some people come from the future and sit in your office with you later today. In the process of talking to them, you find out Texas takes one loss this season. But they vanish before you're able to find out which game and why how Texas lost it.

If you had to try to guess, and give a real and direct answer, which game would you guess was the loss? By how much, and what happened in that game to cause the loss? What was the score?

I know it's essentially guaranteed that we're in the title game to most on the board now, but I'm curious about how you would see a realistic letdown if you KNEW that we were going to lose one but had to try and predict it.

A: Ok, this seems like a fairly easy question for to answer. Even though I think Central Florida isn't going to be an outright slaughter, it's nearly impossible for me to imagine a situation where the Longhorns could lose to the Golden Knights or Baylor. I should probably throw in the Big 12 Championship into the mix as well because I truly believe that the Longhorns will deliver a butt-kicking of nightmarish proportions to whichever Big 12 North team defaults its way into the title game.

That leaves only the home finale against Kansas and the regular-season finale against Texas A&M. The recipe for disaster in both games relies on the opponent having a hot quarterback and a defense that can force Colt McCoy into a career-worst type of performance. I've always felt like the Jayhawks represented the biggest trap game of the season because of the presence of Todd Reesing, but the Jayhawks are horrendous defensively and just don't seem like the type of team that could survive four quarters with the Longhorns.

The Aggies appear to have a pulse and they've got some nice skill players, but their lines are going to be overmatched and the Longhorns are going to drop a 40-spot on that A&M defense, barring a turnover-filled offensive meltdown and a mixture of hotel food poisoning. That's what it comes down to with this team. It's going to take a complete breakdown in a lot of areas that have otherwise not had complete breakdowns in order for the team to drop one of these last four.

If I had to pick one of the four as being the toughest, I'd lean A&M.

Q: (mikhailt) - 1. While I don't particularly believe this is the case: with Mark Richt staring down the icy barrel of a possible 6 win season and grumbling noises in Athens for getting nephew'd by both FLA and TENN, if he gets the axe after this or next year (assuming this trend continues), is the UGA HC job a concern re: WM? It's flat out not a better job than Texas HC, but do you get the feeling it could be Boom's (college) dream job? Concern on an airplane gradient (light turbulence to smoke in the cabin)?

2. Wild Horn on the shelf? What is the likelihood we see this offensive miscarriage again this season?

A: I need to check with some of my Georgia people this weekend to find out what the insider's vibe on that situation is, but it's really hard for me to think Richt is on a true short-term hot seat. However, if something crazy happened after the season and the job opened up, I'm sure that the Bulldogs would love to talk with such a highly coveted coaching alum and you'd think that it would represent an unexpected wildcard development.

Personally, I don't know what to think. Muschamp has been so private with his thoughts on the head coach-in-waiting tag that it's impossible to get a true feel for what's floating around in that mad genius mind of his. Honestly, were it not for the press conference that the Longhorns had to introduce the move last November, I'm not sure that there's been five minutes of real, open talk about the situation because nobody wants it to be a distraction. Also, I'm not sure anyone in the media wants to be the person that asks a head coach that is 20-1 in his last 21 games when he's going to get the hell out of the way for the new guy. It might be an elephant in the room, but nobody is pulling on that trunk.

Deep down I have to believe that Muschamp and Mack have had discussions and an understanding about the future. If that understanding includes a true handover time and blueprint, then I can't see Muschamp going anywhere else. On the other hand, it's hard for me to fathom that Muschamp would accept waiting several more years as a defensive coordinator before wanting to begin his head coaching career - not if major jobs at destination spots open up.

If I'm going airplane gradient on you, I'll rank the situation like this: the plane is on autopilot, but the pilot isn't answering the call from the radio tower and I'm not sure if it's because he's talking to a man about a horse or if he's surfing the Internet.

Finally, I'm not sure if we've seen the last of the "Chiles Please" because the temptation to run John Chiles in at quarterback so that he can run the zone-read keeper for four yards is so strong that it has to be wearing down the mental walls on the part of Greg Davis' brain that is reserved for play-calling. In all seriousness, I think there's a new commitment to the development of Marquise Goodwin and Malcolm Williams that has superceded the ongoing work in progress that is the "Chiles Please" package.

Q: (Okie4horns) - 1) What do you think about the production of Greg Smith? It seems like his effort has gone unnoticed. His ability to switch back to TE has been one of the ingredients in helping this offense start clicking.

2) Speaking of TE's, how do you see the position shaking out with Barrett Mathews, Dan Buckner, Blaine Irby? Do you think Chris Barnett will be one of the main targets for 2011 along with the OOS TE prospect that's been mentioned?

A: I'm glad you asked the Smith question because I want to take a few minutes of the day to say something about the former Montgomery standout.

For all of the grief that Greg Smith gets from guys like me that sit around and grade him against the impossible standards that NFL pros like Bo Scaife, David Thomas and Jermichael Finley created, he has very quietly created a very important niche on a team ranked No.2 in the nation. He's playing a position where no other player on the team is currently making a true contribution this year and he's giving everything he has to be as effective on the field as possible.

Also, let's get something real clear about Smith - this situation he finds himself in is not his fault. When he was recruited as a pass-catching tight end, I'm sure he never thought his high school career would be completely washed away with injuries. When he arrived in Austin, I'm not sure that he would have believed that he would find himself in a situation where his only hope for playing time was a move to the offensive line, only to find himself in a little bit of a cat and mouse game as the coaches pondered his best long-term future. On top of all of that, it's not his fault that Irby and Grant are out of action with injuries.

He'll never get the credit he deserves because the truth of the matter is that he's a player with defined limitations, but he embodies everything this program is supposed to be about - high character and a team-first mindset.

As for the rest of the tight end picture in the program, it's too early to project what will happen with Buckner in the long-term, but most believe Matthews is going to be a very good player and an eventual upgrade at the position. Also, don't forget about Grant because he'll certainly be in the mix when he's 100%. On the other hand, I wouldn't count on Irby being in the equation. Finally, I'm not exactly sure what the Longhorns plan to do in the 2011 class at the tight end position, but I'm not convinced that Barnett is going to be a sure target for them because his stock seems to have cooled this season.

Q: (BEVO SCOTT) - Every time I hear that we are "holding the offense back" it makes me cringe. I know we are undefeated, and leading the nation in scoring, but that is largely skewed due to the fact that we have 9 non-offensive touchdowns. Do you think the staff really thinks that throwing a deep ball to Goodwin, running a reverse with Monroe, or working in more play-action is really going to make ALA / FLA more prepared to play TEX in the NCG? If anything, by running these plays now, I think it gives our competition more headaches when they are trying to work up a defensive game plan.

So, I guess my question to you Ketch it possible that this notion of "holding back the offense" is a bull&hit excuse by our staff to help explain why our offense is not running at a similar level as last year?

Secondly...assuming that we make it to the national championship game, who would you prefer as our QB if you could pick between 2005 Vince Young or 2009 Colt McCoy with this team, and why? I know Colt deserves to play and this is his team, but I am interested in your thoughts on the strengths and weakness of both QBs playing for this team.

Lastly....Has Wendi Nix taken Erin Andrews spot as the hottest female ESPN anchor?

A: I'm not sure how to answer your first question other than to say that one man's excuse is another man's perfectly sane reason.

No, I don't believe all of the spin and rhetoric on the concept that the Longhorns have been sandbagging their way through the season just to get clear of the Oklahoma game. That being said, there's no question that the Longhorns did not play as much "11 personnel" with a tight end on the field before the Oklahoma game as they have since they unveiled it as a featured look in their offense in that game. Therefore, there's something to what the coaches have stated in regards to their perceived strengths and not wanting to expose them too soon.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as the Longhorns probably expected the offense's strengths to favor more four-receiver sets, but the loss of Quan Cosby and Brandon Collins took a little more starch out of the passing game than expected and it took the staff a few weeks at the start of the season to get a feel for where they were as an offense. It's certainly feasible that the Longhorns could have decided as a staff after the first month of the season that they would go heavy with the "11 personnel" as an offensive staple, but would not show it in game against an opponent like Colorado. However, there's no way I would ever believe that they stunted the growth of the offense for half the season for the sake of hiding a scheme that teams already had to prepare for to at least a slight degree. It's not as if the wheel was reinvented.

Second, the slow starts from McCoy this season have reminded me just how dominant and sub-human Young was in 2005. It can't really be open for debate right now.

Finally, the undisputed No.1 candidate to Andrews' crown is Fox Sports sideline reporter Samantha Steele. Not only does she have great hair and a good head for the game, but she throws the best deep out of any sideline reporter on the planet. If there was a Pass, Kick and Sideline Report competition, I'm putting my money on Steele.

Click here for video of college football's next big thing.

Q: (Bandhorn 71) - With the change in the philosophy of going back to using a true tight end, what do you see D.J. Grant's role in the offense next year assuming he makes a complete recovery? Doesn't he bring to the table the same skill sets as Buckner? thanks.

A: Grant is actually a more explosive athlete than Buckner and has a little more size to him at the same time. I'd take a wait-and-see attitude with the offense this season when trying to project for the future because if we've learned anything from Greg Davis over the years, it's that one season's flavor of the year might not taste as good the following season with an adjustment in personnel. If Grant is healthy and he's continued to add good weight to his frame, I'd guess he remains in the locked in the tight end/h-back position.

Q: (memhorn) - Have you been able to observe the back up offensive linemen enough to estimate how good the offensive line will be next year and who might play?

Specifically, (1) Do you think Britt Mitchell, Tray Allen, and David Snow will be solid starters, (2) Have you seen enough of Mark Buchanan and Luke Poehlman to judge them, (3) Do you expect Kyle Hix to switch to left tackle, and finally, (4) Having lost Adam Ulatoski, Charlie Tanner and Chris Hall, do you think there will be a drop off in the offensive line next year (sure hope not)?

A: No, we probably haven't seen enough from the back-ups to know just how strong next year's line will look.

1. If you're a glass half-full kind of a guy, then Snow as the center and Allen as a possible starter at guard gets you excited because both players have shown positive signs and both will be entering key/final stages of their collegiate development. On the other hand, I'm not sure if Mitchell qualifies as a possible starter at this point when you consider that he's been a limited option for a team this season that's been looking for more options. Only youth can excuse not being a factor on this offensive line this season and that's not really Mitchell's alibi.

2. No, we have not seen enough of Buchanan or Poehlmann to really form an opinion.

3. I'm of the opinion that the Longhorns need to find another left tackle option outside of Hix, who I'm not sure can handle the move.

The group will feature some sort of combination of the following players: Snow, Michael Huey, Hix, Allen and current true freshman Mason Walters, who might end up being the best of the lot. If they can get a couple of young guys to step up, this group shouldn't see too much of a drop-off… if the left tackle spot finds a true resolution.

Q: (6369700509) - Can you rank Herschel Sims, Aaron Green, Malcolm Brown, Lache Seastrunk, Christine Michael, Cedric Benson and Jamal Charles as if they were all in the same class? And can you rank in a way (e.g. point system) so we can tell the separation between each player?

A: This is a really tough question because I'm being asked to include three current juniors into a group of players that have the advantage of their senior seasons to create a lasting image of who they were as prospects before they arrived in college. If I were to rank the group based on what I remember my impression of each player being from the week 10 point of their junior seasons, here's how it might look:

1. M. Brown (6.1)
2. Seastrunk (6.1)
3. Sims (6.0)
4. Green (6.0)
5. Benson (5.9)
6. Charles (5.9)
7. Michael (5.9)

It's important to note that I've slightly cooled on Seastrunk since last season when he had a much better year on the field without distractions and seemed like a player whose skill set reminded of a young Percy Harvin. When we go back to 2000 and view Benson junior season, there were still questions about his legitimacy - was he benefiting from the system and did he have enough homerun speed? Believe it or not, I wondered about Charles a little as well based on some not-so-spectacular film.

Q: (SLHorn)- Ketch, I know UT is second in all time wins in NCAA football. Michigan is first and Notre Dame is third. How many seasons has each team played football and how many wins does each school have right now. We should put at least a couple more on each team this year.

A: Michigan has been playing football for 130 years, while the Irish have been fielding a team for 121 years, which gives them a head start of four over the Longhorns. By my count, the Wolverines chalked up an additional 27 victories in those 13 extra seasons, while the Irish scored an extra three wins with their four-year edge.

The current all-time win totals look like this: 1. Michigan (877) 2. Texas (840) 3. Notre Dame (837)

If we took away the extra years that both the Wolverines and Irish have on the Longhorns, the numbers suddenly look like this: 1. Michigan (850) 2. Texas (840) 3. Notre Dame (834)

Q: (echeese)- We've heard a ton about 2011 RBs and that the Horns will take two, along with the Mesquite FB (most likely). Aaron Green, Malcolm Brown and Herschel Sims have been discussed, but would you break down the second tier (which in 2011 might be a strong misnomer) - guys like Kenny Farrow, Daniel Lasco and the other quality backs that TEXAS might consider.

What type of runners are they style wise, strengths/weaknesses, which has shown the most interest in TEXAS (attending games/camps etc). Related to that, how many OL do you see TEXAS taking (please GAWD tell me 5) and who are the top prospects and why?

A: Let's be clear - at this point I consider the drop-off between the top three and the rest of the in-state prospects to be fairly large. Perhaps another prospect or two will enter their zip code at this point, but I haven't seen that junior this season as of yet. Here's a look at the next group of running backs behind the big three in 2011:

1. Bradley Marquez (currently ranked No.21 on the LSR Top 100)

Marquez is a guy that has a varied skill set as a running back, but his stock has cooled this season because of injuries and performance. He can catch the ball well out of the backfield and he's a strong player in the open field, but he lacks the wow factor and might not be an every down player.

Interest in Texas: Moderate to Strong

2. Joe Bergeron (currently ranked No.42 on the LSR Top 100)

Bergeron is a big kid that projects as a true power running game option, but he's been very up and down this season as well. From a physical standpoint, he's a first guy off the bus kind of guy. From a playing ability standpoint, I'm not so sure. His unique skill set makes separates him from the rest of the pack.

Interest on Texas: Extremely High (multiple unofficial visits in the last 18 months)

3. Kenny Williams (currently ranked No.49 on the LSR Top 100)

Keep an eye on this kid because he's 5-10, 200+ pound and he runs, catches passes and returns kicks extremely well. Unlike some others, his stock is going up.

Interest on Texas: Extremely High (has attended a recent game)

4. Kenneth Farrow (currently ranked No.52 on the LSR Top 100)

Yet another kid that's having a fairly tough year and projects as a regional recruit more than a national one. He does a lot of stuff pretty well, but I'm not sure where the great is.

Interest on Texas: Extremely High (multiple unofficial visits in the last 18 months)

5. Daniel Lasco (currently ranked No.67 on the LSR Top 100)

Interest on Texas: High to Extremely High (multiple unofficial visits in the last 18 months/I personally saw his old man decked out in Texas gear from head-to-toe at the Colorado game)

Lasco is an attractive athlete because he has seriously legitimate speed, but he might not be a true running back option at the next level. The kid has a great frame and you can project him for a lot of things, but when I watched him in the playoffs last season, he didn't look like a national prospect from a football player standpoint. I need to see him again in the playoffs this season before I decide on where his stock truly exists in my mind, but he might have the best chance of the five listed above to join the elite three.

Q: (rct568)- Ketch, I was want to get your opinion on who gets DB offers, and when. It seems like Leroy Scott, Sheroid Evans, Quandre Diggs, and probably Lydell Johnson will get first offers. That's one corner and three safeties. Do you think Diggs can play corner? What about Franklin Shannon, if he is Texas good, do you offer him to help with Anthony Wallace? Again, he's another safety prospect.

A: The Longhorns have some tough decisions to make in the defensive backfield because they won't be able to take them all, even if they want to. Diggs has the overall athleticism to play multiple positions, including cornerback. Personally, he reminds me a little of Earl Thomas from a football-driven-personality standpoint. Also, a couple of the others have long-term potentials that could see them land at another position (Johnson to linebacker, perhaps?). Hell, maybe you can find a way to take five. Finally, I'll promise you this - Duane Akina has his eye on someone we don't know about yet. He always does. The bottom line is that the evaluation process is likely an ongoing process and I wouldn't rule anyone out.

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