February 12, 2011

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (memhorn) - I predict Garrett Gilbert will easily win the starting job and excel in the new offense, and that by the end of the year we will be talking about him leading us to a MNC in his senior year. A lot of OBers think he is going to suck, if he even wins the starting job. Where do you stand now?

How about a contest, in which everyone predicts how well or bad Gilbert does next year, with the winner to get a free year of OB? Plus, I'd like you to post everyone's predictions after the year is over, so we can reread them and determine who was accurate and who was off base.

A: The Gilbert discussion is a complicated one and I'll admit that my current view of him is blinded somewhat by what I saw of him previous to the 2010 season. Prior to the debacle that was all phases of the team - all players and position groups, coaches and administrative people - everything about Gilbert screamed future star. It's easy to marginalize everything he's accomplished as a young athlete after the disaster of last season, but this kid took a never-was high school program on his shoulders and carried it to two straight championships and no matter how many turnovers this kid had in the national championship game, he took over in an impossible situation and nearly led this program to an unforgettable comeback. This is a guy that has created a lot of his own success and then was engulfed by a bad season.

It's simply too early to give up on the kid and if you can get past the u-g-l-y numbers from last season, there were some really nice moments for him to build on, all things considered. There absolutely were times when he played well and was the best offensive player on the team. Obviously, there were moments when he did and wasn't. The only advantage that Connor Wood and Case McCoy have over Gilbert is that they don't have the scarlet letter of 2010 on their foreheads. Outside of that, they don't have a lick of real experience under fire as a college player and as high school players, neither came within a 10-foot pole of what Gilbert was as a player. Those are just the facts.

That being said, he has a ton of work to do and it starts with earning more respect from within the team as a leader. He has to start to assert himself as an alpha-male or this school and position wasn't meant for him. Starting at quarterback for the Longhorns is simply not for the meek and if I had a complaint with Gilbert last season, he was simply too meek.

I'll give you a prediction after the spring. Too early for guesses.

Q: (doc2rouge) - Malcolm Brown aside, who do you think will have the biggest impact out of the backfield?

Second, what expectations do you have for Jordan Hicks this season? Breakout?

A: I'm going to go with D.J. Monroe, who represents what I think is the perfect complement of skills to Brown's combination of strength, power and explosiveness. He's also perfect for a Boise State-type of offense that will create plays for its talent.

As for Hicks, I think a lot of what happens to him will depend on what happens at middle linebacker. If Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are playing on the outside, then Hicks' path to playing time is somewhat blocked. If Acho plays inside (not something I think is in the best interests of the Longhorns), then that certainly changes the dynamics of the linebacker position. The bottom line for me is that Hicks' long-term upside might be better than both Robinson and Acho, and he only needs more reps. In my mind, he's going to play more and more as the season continues, so yes, I expect 2011 to be a breakout season for him.

Q: (dropshot_7) - What are your expectations for Barrett Matthews next season? On the surface, he and Bryan Harsin are a match made in heaven. He's got good size at 240, good speed, great attitude/work ethic. I'd think Harsin likes the potential. What needs to happen for Matthews to be successful?

2. How bad is it going to hurt our record next year having both sides of the ball in year one of a new system?

3. If you were in charge of hiring the OC, who would you have hired?

A: I really don't have any expectations for Matthews coming into this season if I'm being completely honest. Although he has a lot of physical talent, he's yet to play like a guy that is worthy of playing heavy snaps at major program. If that is going to change, he must improve his pass-catching ability (which he really has struggled with), his blocking and his consistency.

Secondly, it's too early to project what these changes on both sides of the field will mean to the team's record. Let's get through the first two weeks of the spring before we start projecting 2011 won-loss records, but I do think a watered-down Big 12 can be had.

Finally, I was in full support of either Harsin or Chyrst. From a short-term perspective, Harsin was absolutely the right choice because it would have taken a couple of years to get Chryst's offense completely functional, if for no other reason than the current shape of the Texas offensive line group.

Q: (Hook'em Dave) - Back when UT won the NC, Colt redshirted and Shipley was on IR, did they both get rings? Same question is for the Super Bowl game, with Jermichael Finley on the IR. Thanks Ketch for all you hard work as well as the other staff members!

A: Yes, the college and pro games the situation exactly the same. All injured or redshirting players receive championship rings. Basically, everyone in the program/franchise gets a ring and for Finley that also includes playoff money.

Q: (Good.Shepard) - Four year starter....other than Malcolm Brown, do you see anyone in the 2011 class that could be a four year starter for us?

A: I count six guys, including Brown. The other five potential four-year starters, based on talent and circumstances, are wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, offensive lineman Sedrick Flowers, linebacker Steve Edmond, cornerback Quande Diggs, cornerback Josh Turner and defensive back Sheroid Evans.

Q: (bhooker) - Most of us are very excited about the Applewhite/Harsin combination. Harsin will want to be a head coach soon and probably will get offers. I look for him to give us at least two years or more. My first question is this. How long before Applewhite can execute the Boise offense successfully if Harsin does leave? We are set for the future with Applewhite, he is a winner.

A few days ago, someone listed our coach's salaries. Giles and Chambers were listed at under 160K. Is that correct? Mack makes 5mil. He said that during the hiring process he found that some of his coach's salaries were not up to par with other schools. How could he let that happen? If we are #1 in revenue, then that seems inexcusable. Should not we be paying top wages and expecting the most from our coaches?

A: I'm sure that Applewhite is absorbing quite a bit of the new stuff that Harsin is bringing in and is melding it with everything that he's seen as a college coach and player. I think everyone has to be careful with the perception that Applewhite will be a mini-Harsin in a couple of years because he's way too independent and has his own ideas about offense as well that will help him make him make his own identity when the time comes for him to be handed the keys to the offense by himself. Coaches are constantly evolving and this is a great situation for Applewhite, who absolutely should be ready in a few years to take over the Texas offense.

As far as the salary stuff is concerned, I'm not sure how Mack couldn't know the going rate for assistant coaches, so I'm going to believe that the comment you're referring to was a little bit of hyperbole mixed in with a talking point. Otherwise, it makes him seem like he was completely out of touch in a lot of areas last year, and not just on the field.

Q: (Classic54) - Now that the 2011 commitments have signed, how much contact are our coaches allowed to have with them? I would assume that each member of the team has a playbook that they study. Do the incoming freshman get a playbook as well, or do they have to wait until summer? Can Bennie Wylie institute a S&C program for each of them and can he monitor their progress? Are the incoming athletes allowed to use any of the on campus facilities or must they wait until they are enrolled?

A: It's pretty customary for signees to be given workout plans from the S&C coach as soon as they sign and in some instances you'll see players studying up with playbooks, but for the most part, the real work gets done once they arrive on campus. It'll be interesting to see if Wylie can do a better job of getting some of the bigger guys to work on the desired conditioning and training program more than his predecessor was able to go. Finally, the athletes are absolutely able to use the facilities once they've signed on the dotted line.

Q: (Donjuanhorn) - 1) Do you have any feel or information on how open/closed our Spring Practices will be compared to the past? Any reason to think the "overhaul' that has occurred and the new perspectives of all those involved will have any impact on that? Along those same lines, what will be the timeline layout for the Spring practices and Spring Game?

2) What is your gut estimate of how many actual offers go out from the first Junior Day, second Junior Day and combined?

A: Mack joked at his State of Longhorn Union before signing day that he was going to open up the practices, but lock out some media members (including yours truly), but the smart money is on a couple of early workouts and possibly the full pads practice on the weekend of the coaching clinic will be open. Outside of that, practices will almost certainly be closed.

As for your second question, I can see about a dozen offers going out this weekend and somewhere between 6-8 commitments. Obviously, the Longhorns are off to a good start with the commitments of Connor Brewer and Alex De la Torre.

Q: (utx) - What players do you believe will have a chance to excel in Harsin's offense that really never fit well in the previous staff and why.

A: Everyone on the offensive side of the ball is starting with a clean slate, but I think guys like D.J. Monroe, Malcolm Williams and DeSean Hales will benefit from the changes as much as anyone because it feels like they had been marginalized as players within the Greg Davis offense in 2010 and all three are too talented to have that happen. Those three players in particular have the type of game-breaking talent to make a huge difference under different supervision.

I think the single biggest change that you'll see this season that is different than what we saw in 2010 under Greg Davis begins and ends with thee simple idea of having schemes and a foundation that you not only believe in, but you won't quit on it. That happened last season and the clueless nature that the offense navigated the season with will be replaced with something much more purposeful in 2011. Schematically,

Q: (JimsTexas) - Ketch I would like your gut feeling on how long you think it will take Texas to turn things around.

A: A complete turnaround that includes a championship run? I'll go with 2012.There are just too many question marks at this point to think it will happen sooner. Could it? Yes. Will it? Let's revisit this when we know what the front lines on both sides of the ball look like.

Q: (Wild_Horn_Fan) - 1. I know a lot of people expect some big things out of Malcolm Brown next season. But do you think Traylon Shead has any kind of serious impact on next year's team?

2. What are your thoughts on Dravannti Johnson's performance last year? Does Jordan Hicks take his starting job away?

3. Last season I was really disappointed that none of the young DT's stepped up to take the starting spot next to Kheeston Randall. Out of Taylor Bible, DeAires Cotton, Ashton Dorsey, Calvin Howell[db], [db]Desmond Jackson and Quincy Russell, do you think anybody makes an impact? Or does Alex Okafor remain a starter at DT?

4. Just like every longhorn football fanatic I'm happy to see the return of Blaine Irby. Realistically what kind of season can we expect from him?

5. Finally. Headed to South Padre for spring break. First timer. Any Advice?

A: First, I still have some doubts about Shead's ability to make the transition to major college football, so this spring will be a huge moment in his Texas career. If he really had game-changing juice, he'd have played last year because we all know this team didn't have an answer at the position. If he doesn't make an impact this spring, I think he runs the risk of being passed in the fall.

Second, I thought Johnson had a very pedestrian season and I'm not sure what his role will be moving forward. He's at his best as a pass-rusher, but he's not really an elite guy off the edge and he doesn't have sideline-to-sideline ability as a linebacker. He'll certainly give this team solid depth, but I'm not sure if he can be an impact performer.

Third, Okafor will definitely be in the mix for a starting spot at defensive tackle. He's a player that should eventually grow into that role and maybe asking him to be that guy in 2010 was asking a year too soon. Will Muschamp was certainly a big fan. Others from the group of players you listed will need to step up and if I had to be lunch on it, I'd go with Dorsey and Bible getting in better shape and emerging as better players than we saw a season ago.

Fourth, I wouldn't have a single expectation for Irby this season. If he plays a single snap, you're playing with house money.

Finally, I've never been to Padre Island… true story.

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