December 16, 2008

Ketch's Inside the Locker Room Report

Q: (mbecker327) - How do you see 2nd string QB playing out next year? Do you anticipate the staff leaving John Chiles at QB so Garrett Gilbert can redshirt or do you expect Chiles to be moved to a new position in the spring allowing Gilbert to get some experience as a true freshman?

A: I think this is one of the real questions of the off-season that will require special attention. Although I believe the Longhorns are comfortable that Chiles can still develop into a good quarterback, he's going to need to sit down and have a long conversation with his family about what his future is going to hold. If he remains at quarterback in a Longhorn uniform, he's going to have one season of eligibility clear of Colt McCoy and there are no assurances that the team won't be ready to commit to current five-star commitment Garrett Gilbert by the time the 2010 season rolls around. Knowing Chiles' expectations for him and his long-term goals (NFL), I can't help but wonder what he will decide to do after the Fiesta Bowl. Will he look to transfer? Will he reconsider a position change? Will he remain confident that his long-term development at quarterback is still an option, at least in terms of consistent playing time?

I know Gilbert wants to redshirt, but I'm starting to think that's going to be an option that could end up being an unrealistic one. No matter what happens, Chiles isn't likely to moved to another position by the coaches because they need him at quarterback to save the depth that will be needed if Gilbert can and wants to be redshirted. If Chiles were no longer in the picture at quarterback, I don't see how Gilbert could redshirt.

Q: (bevo86) - Can you give us a complete listing of our January early enrollees? Thanks!

A: Nine of the current Longhorn commitments will be reporting in January. Here's the list:

Irving MacArthur linebacker Tariq Allen
Cedar Hill offensive lineman Thomas Ashcraft
League City Clear Creek cornerback Marcus Davis
Kilgore defensive end Dominique Jones
Elysian Fields defensive lineman Kyle Kriegel
South Grand Prairie linebacker Patrick Nkwopara
Pflugerville defensive end Alex Okafor
Early defensive back Kenny Vaccaro
Frenship offensive lineman Mason Walters

Of that group, I think Okafor definitely has a chance to crack the two-deep at defensive end and the numbers suggest Jones could potentially play as well. The second guy on the list that I would suggest keeping an eye on is Walters. Given how good I think he is and the fact that there are a couple of back-up spots on the line that won't be completely sewn up heading into the spring, I think he could put himself into a position to play in 2009, especially if he's a David Snow type of impact freshman.

Q: (wabash512) - What happened with the offensive line this year? Through the first couple of games, they looked to be on track to pave the way for a good running game, and they provided further optimism for that in the second half of the Oklahoma game. But as the year went on, even without "the guy" at running back, Texas never was able to just exert its will and run the ball on people when it wanted to or needed to - such as Texas Tech. And then despite kicking the Aggies' butt, Texas couldn't run on that sorry defense. Also, although the line protected McCoy well throughout the year, there were pressure problems against Tech and A&M, even if you account for the futility of the tight ends trying to pass block defensive ends one-on-one. Is there anything you can enlighten us with? At the end of an 11-1 season, the offensive line is the unknown factor heading into a BCS bowl game against a good Ohio State defense. That unit will be the key to that game.

A: It's a tough question to answer because if you look up and down the line, I think you'll find that everyone made progress, even if in some cases it was small to minimal. Junior tackle Adam Ulatoski was without question an improved player and emerged as this team's best lineman and All-Big 12 player. Junior guard Charlie Tanner was better. So was senior guard Cedric Dockery. If there were two guys that might not have lived up to the pre-season hope, it was junior center Chris Hall and sophomore tackle Kyle Hix. Although both played well, there was hope that these two would perform at an All-Big 12 level this season and they were not quite there. You can even throw sophomore Michael Huey into the group with Hall and Hix because there was some real hope that he would push wither Tanner or Dockery out of the line-up. That did not happen and none of the players inside proved to be upper-echelon performers.

Overall, this was a group that Mack Brown expected to be not good, but great. He mentioned in the pre-season that he thought this group would be the strength of the team and perhaps as good as any group they've ever had. Obviously, this group fell very short of that. The bottom line is that there's not a single player on the line that can't get better at the point of attack. That means this group needs to get stronger and they need to work harder in the off-season at establishing a real identity as a group. At the end of the day, perhaps this group is still a year away.

Q: (Southlakehorn) - You have been named as a Special Assistant to Mack Brown in charge of developing a dominating running game for next season. All of your suggestions will be implemented starting with spring practice. Please file your report in the Locker Room ASAP. I'm sorry but your special assistant position carries no pay.

A: You're probably not going to like this, but I think this group just needs more time. Huey and Hix should be the redshirt freshmen this season, so it's easy to see where this group should get better with another year of seasoning for these two. The same is true of true freshman David Snow, who projects to be significantly better with his first full season in a college weight room. Those three players really do hold the keys to this group's future success. All of them have the look of future stars, but they haven't quite reached that level. If you get a surge from those three and combine them with your senior class, I think you've got a group that is going to begin asserting themselves in a manner that will meet expectations.

Q: (Bill Boy Bryant) - With the release of the Coach's Poll publicly this week, I was wondering if Kendall Briles left the UT program on good terms and whether there was any bad blood between Texas and the Briles family. Have you ever heard of any enemies in the coaching ranks with other coaches and the Texas program or Mack?

Following back up with Chykie Brown, the 2nd half of the season was very interesting. He gets hurt in the Missouri game but then dresses the following week against Ok State but then ends up not dressing in a subsequent game. We know he was hurt, how serious I don't think we ever knew. Was there any truth to rumors of him being in the doghouse? I think it is safe to say that the Texas secondary was not quite the same after he left the starting line up. I don' t believe he started in the A&M game. How do you see the secondary shaking out in 2009?

Two things I was thinking the last week, if someone would have told you the day VY said he was leaving that the next QB would be in New York at the Heisman Trophy Ceremony, what sort of odds would you have given on that. The story of Colt McCoy is really a remarkable story and I think you have to give him a lot of credit because he has obviously put time in the weight room and film room over the last few years. I will never forgot what Lee Corso said about Colt after the Ohio State game in Austin. He basically said that Texas would never do anything with this guy at QB. Herbstreet reminded Corso of this the other night and now Corso says Colt has his vote for the Heisman. I really think Greg Davis has been underappreciated as well, he got a lot of flack earlier this decade but the last 5 years for Greg Davis I would say have been A+. 99% of the time he has pushed the right buttons.

Last but not least, do you think this TEAM will be ready to play on January 5th. Any concerns about lack of focus, getting over the BCS snub and players getting to involved with awards, awards banquets and flying around the country living the high life?

A: Man, you certainly had a lot on your mind this week. Let's just start at the top. When Kendall Briles left Texas, it was without question on good terms. It said a lot about the Texas coaches and their respect for the Briles' relationship that they didn't flinch at the thought of a potential long-term starter leaving and going across the state without a fight. I think there are probably some coaches out there that probably resent Mack's success and there has definitely been some blood spilled over the years in recruiting battles that extend all the way back to his North Carolina days, but I don't think Art Briles is someone would be in any group that has an issue with Brown.

Secondly, yes, one of Chip Brown's sources confirmed that Brown had been in the doghouse earlier in the season because of some classroom issues, but there were some injury issues that popped up after that situation and it limited his effectiveness for part of that time. Still, once it was obvious that he was healthy enough to be on the field, his starting spot was lost, despite the fact that he was playing the best of any player in the secondary at mid-season. No matter what anyone says, the coaches can't be happy with Brown about something because there can be no other explanation for not having him on the field. Yet when the coaches have been quizzed about this situation, they swear its injury related, but I'm not buying it.

I think the secondary battles in 2009 will be as competitive as any position battle I've seen in the Mack Brown era. Chykie Brown, Deon Beasley, Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams are all talented enough to start for just about anyone in the country. The crazy thing is that I'd probably rate the oldest player in the group as the fourth guy on the totem pole. The battle at safety comes down to this - can Blake Gideon and Earl Thomas hold off the most physically talented safety on the team in Christian Scott? If not, which player between the two starters this season has the right combination if talent, smarts and football instincts?

Finally, yes, I think this will be ready to play against the Buckeyes. It just wouldn't seem like this year's team if they did otherwise.

Q: (HornMajority) - I am not sure what qualifies as a relevant question for The Locker Room but I would like to know why the footing on the field at DKR was so bad on Thanksgiving and what they plan to do to avoid a repeat in the future.

A: The word going around is that the TV show Friday Night Lights had filmed an episode at the stadium the week before the game and the end result was what we saw on Thanksgiving night. Don't look for that to happen again.

Q: (bman25) - Before I start pouring gasoline on my UT fandom, give me some good news. How good are we going to be next year? Even if Sergio Kindle leaves, are we going to be the favorites to go to the national championship? If so is it deserved? Will we need to fix the running game? In my opinion based on this year, next years college football landscape looks weak. It looks like Florida and us to me.

Also if you had to guess today, will Colt win the Heisman next year since Sam Bradford is won this year? It's his to lose next year, right?

A: This Longhorn team has always been one that potentially looks much better on paper in 2009 than it did in 2008. Assuming that McCoy does return, this team will need to replace Quan Cosby at one of the receiver spots, but you can count returning starters everywhere else on the field. Over on the defensive side of the ball, the Longhorns will need to develop some players on the defensive line, but the talent is there for big things and the back seven will be among the nation's best if Kindle does return. Any list that is talking about pre-season No.1's for next season, it needs to include the Longhorns.

As for next season's Heisman race, McCoy will be the obvious pre-season leader, unless Tim Tebow returns for a senior season.

Q: (justinfreeman3) - Texas has never had a Biletnikoff Award winner (or a finalist, for that matter). If you had to pick today, who is the Texas player or commit most likely to buck that trend?

A: Give me Jordan Shipley in 2009.

Q: (rct568) - There are some super talented DE's for 2010 class. Do you think Brian Orakpo collecting all the hardware this year will have any real impact with them?

A: Yes, that can't hurt and neither will Will Muschamp's long-term future with the program. I think the Longhorns land potential five-star Reggie Wilson and they are co-favorites with potential five-star [db]Jackson Jeffcoat, along with USC

Q: (Shull) - Trying to take off my orange colored glasses on this one. Not sure if I have but am saddened not only as a UT fan but for college football in general:

It seems to me that the BCS selection of OU over Texas may represent a turning point in college football. Mack tried to draw a line in the sand in favor of sportsmanship with his comments following the A&M game. However, Stoops' strategy of running the score up was validated as they leapfrogged UT in the BCS. While this issue has been discussed before, rarely has the contrast been so clear. Next season, Mack risks being booed if he pulls the starters any time before the last two minutes and any coach with contending team will feel compelled to run up the score.

I'm wondering how this will play with the college presidents. While they have been inexplicably opposed to a playoff, do they truly relish the specter of this sort of ruthless steamrolling as an ongoing requirement to play in the national championship game?

A: I tried to call several college presidents in the state to get their thoughts on the matter, but I was told by their assistants that they were too busy counting money to comment.

Q: (MCB0703) - 1. When it comes to producing talent, who are the best (in your opinion) Texas HS programs that consistently produce/develop more D-1 talent? Looking at programs like Aldine Eisenhower or Euless Trinity, they seem to have D-1 talent on a consistent basis.

2. Also, could you explain the recruiting process for Mack Brown & his staff...I understand they will have specific targets selected for Junior Days, camps, etc...what I am curious to know is does Bruce Chambers (as the recruiting coordinator) start the process, do various asst coaches have their own targets within their territory, or do HS coaches submit details about their players to the staff? Combination of everything? I understand it's not as simple as Major Applewhite recruiting an RB since he's the RB coach...ex: Enron Barnett is/was being recruited by Bobby Kennedy. Just trying to understand how the overall process works & if you know how certain coaches are tagged with recruiting specific players.

A: Good question. I think if you look in the Metroplex right now, the programs that will jump out to me are DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Trinity and Skyline. In the Greater Houston area, I'd pick North Shore, Hightowe, Eisenhower and Westfield as the top four schools that jump out at me. I'd go with Lufkin, Longview, Brenham and Texarkana Texas High out in East Texas. Finally, in Central Texas no school has more talent than Round Rock Stony Point, but you better believe that every coach that comes through the area makes a point to visit Pflugerville.

As for your second question, each coach on the Texas staff is given an area of the state to cover. For instance, you know that Bobby Kennedy and Bruce Chambers handle the Dallas area, Mike Tolleson has West Texas, Mac McWhorter has East Texas and a piece of the Houston area, Oscar Giles has most of the Greater Houston area, Greg Davis usually takes most of Central Texas and Duane Akina has the greater San Antonio area. Usually, those guys are going to be responsible for the guys in their area, along with the position coach of the prospect. For instance, if there's a wide receiver in Houston, look for Giles and Kennedy to team up on the prospect. The same would be if there was a running back prospect in Dallas. At that point, you'd see Kennedy and Major Applewhite working hand and hand. Also, it's important to note that a few positions like quarterback and the offensive line that are historically handled by the assistant coaches that will coach them. For example, Davis handles the recruitments of every quarterback that Texas recruits without much help.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Among the redshirt freshmen from this year, who do you think will have the biggest impact next year?

A: I think the wide receiver position could see a boost from the redshirting class because the likes of D.J. Monroe, DeSean Hales and D.J. Grant are all so talented that any of them could add speed and playmaking ability on the perimeter. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle Jarvis Humphrey will have a chance to see immediate playing time if he can work himself into the top four at the position and Ryan Roberson could be someone that makes a dent at linebacker. Outside of that group, it might be tough sledding for the rest of the players that redshirted. Keep in mind that a huge portion of the 2008 class, which includes linebacker Emmanuel Acho, safety Nolan Brewster, wide receiver Dan Buckner, safety Blake Gideon, running back Jeremy Hills, defensive tackle Kheeston Randall, offensive lineman David Snow, kicker Justin Tucker and cornerback Aaron Williams, played as true freshmen.

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