March 26, 2011

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (HuffTex) - Which of our younger players on defense typifies the perfect "War-Daddy" that we want to see play for Texas? You know, the Sam Acho-type kid, but with an extra ounce of nasty. Not necessarily based on productivity, because Sam Acho was a great player AND a great representative off the field. I mean the kind of guy that makes others AFRAID not to give their best effort. A guy like Big Roy Miller or Brian Orakpo. Guys that you're proud to have wear your jersey, but at the same time, you KNOW they are making sure everyone that wears that jersey is putting in the work. Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson seem to fit half of that mode, but may not be vocal enough to gain that fear factor. Blake Gideon is probably a little of both, but is too small to have that effect on others. I'm thinking maybe some of the younger guys, like Jordan Hicks, Jackson Jeffcoat, or Reggie Wilson. Or could Kheeston Randle fill that role?

A: I think you said it right the first time. The three guys that jump right out are Jeffcoat, Hicks and Wilson, although Wilson is still possibly a year away from being ready to be that kind of player. I'm of the belief that only injuries are going to keep the other two members from the 2010 recruiting class from emerging as stars very quickly. Others youngsters on campus that have War Daddy upside would probably include DeMarco Cobbs and Adrian Phillips. The incoming Class of 2011 is full of them.

Q: (SouthPaugh) - Who is the best Texas middle linebacker in the Mack Brown era? Over a career? One year?

What was the best linebacking crew under Mack Brown? 2004? 2001?

If you could change three things or events that happened to change the conference championship differential between Bob Stoops and Mack Brown, what would those three things or events be and why?

A: The middle linebacker question is a tough one in a bad way, The Longhorns have had some pretty good middle linebackers over the years, but they've never had an inside guy that was a dominant animal. If we're talking about four-year careers, I think you have to go with Aaron Harris, who won All-America honors as a senior, started for two BCS winning teams (one a national champion) and was involved in perhaps the most important defensive stop in the history of the school.

If we're talking one year and one year only, it's kind of a three-way tie between D.D. Lewis in 2001, Harris in 2004 and Roddrick Muckelroy in 2009.

The best overall linebacker group for me was the 2004 group, if for no other reason than Harris was in his prime and Derrick Johnson is the best modern linebacker in the program's history by a country mile. Yes, I realize that means that Eric Hall is my SAM linebacker, but there hasn't been a three-man linebacker unit in 10+ years under Mack that was complete from top to bottom.

Finally, the last question is a tough one and pretty complex. One of the major factors was that the mental toughness of the program was seriously lacking and selfishness plague the roster at time to the point that there was never a true brotherhood in the program until the Class of 2002 could really assert itself as the leader of the program and right some of the wrongs from previous groups. When you look at the run OU had from 2000-04 (three conference titles), I think the leadership factor played a big part, as did the fact that Mack didn't have elite coaches running the offensive line or defense. If you take away the Colt McCoy injury in 2006, there's another. If you take away the BCS screw job in 2008, there's another.

That's five conference championships right there by my count that were directly impacted by three different reasons/excuses.

Q: (updownallaround) - Give us your prediction of one offensive and one defensive player that didn't make an impact in the first half of the spring, but will make a big move in the second half.

A: The first two names that came to mind were Malcolm Williams and DeMarco Cobbs. Obviously, Williams didn't even play in the first half of the spring, so his arrival is feels like a breath of fresh air for a team still looking for playmakers. Cobbs looked really good in the first two weeks of camp, but with Jordan Hicks' injury, he has a chance to really establish himself as a player that has to receive snaps in 2011.

Q: (TeddyHorn) - In Manny Diaz's defense, is there a strong-side and weak-side defensive ends or do they just stay on the same side of the line regardless of where the TE is? With Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat at the DEs it seems like we have guys that can both rush the passer and play the run effectively so it would be nice to not have them waiting until the offense sets to determine where they are to line up and being at risk of not being set before the snap. Just my opinion. Or maybe a boundary side / wide side lineup.

A: I think you answered your own question to a degree. When the Longhorns have an Okafor/Jeffcoat tandem on the field together, their versatility will allow them to play either player on the same side of the tight end, although I would expect Okafor to line up on the strong-side more times than not. When the Longhorns have other options in at defensive end for pass rushing options, you might see the Longhorns protecting their liabilities depending on down and distance, which will be the most important element of the discussion. Diaz's defense puts such a priority on getting after the quarterback that it will be fascinating to see the combinations he works with moving forward and just how aggressive he'll be with them.

Q: (Donjuanovan) - Saw on the MB site that there was Q&A after today's spring practice, but there was nothing regarding depth chart status. Did anyone ask or was any info provided? Or are they just not going to do one this spring at all? If they do not, will the OB staff put out its own based upon all you hear/see through the Spring Game?

A: Don't expect any depth chart until right before the first game. If nothing else, I think the staff holds off on releasing one because it could speed up the decisions of a few transfer candidates. Mack has always been in favor of waiting because he views having to release a public depth chart as something that is a distraction more than anything else. Yes, we'll release what we believe to be the current two-deep.

Q: (Thar0902) - Do you see anyone on the 2011 rooster that, with a solid season, could be an NFL early entry in 2012? I don't see much. Maybe the closest are Alex Okafor, Calvin Howell or Mason Walters…? Thoughts? Someone I haven't considered?

If I remember correctly D.J. Monroe was one of the top rated CB prospects coming out of high school. I think he was Rivals #5 DB. Has there ever been any consideration given to moving him to the other side of the ball, past or present? (Not a suggestion, just asking.)

I have seen lots of OOS prospects associated with Texas in the 2012 recruiting class. Conner Brewer is already a commit. But, there is also Dorial Green-Beckham, Davonte Neal, Jelani Hamilton, Adolphus Washington, Channing Ward, ]db]Zach Banner[/db], Nick James, Eddie Goldman, John Theus, D.J. Humphries, Joshua Garnett, Andrus Peat, Kwon Alexander, Trae Elston, and others. When the dust settles, where would you put the over/under on the number of OOS recruits who actually sign with Texas?

A: The Longhorns will have a lot of concerns in 2011, but early defections to the 2012 NFL Draft won't be one of them. Of the juniors and third-year sophomores in the program, Okafor and Walters would have to have huge, HUGE seasons for them to become candidates for that kind of talk. Neither has even emerged as a proven quality starter at this point, although they've shown flashes and everyone hopes they become NFL prospects this year.

As for Monroe, the Texas coaches have never really toyed with the idea of moving him to defense from what I can tell. His size is an obvious drawback and I think there's some feeling that he can't physically hold up to the pounding or being a full-time defender.

Finally, I think the over/under for OOS prospects in the Class of 2012 should be set at 3.5.

Q: (ruidoso_horn) - Landry Jones 2-0 v Texas. I don't see it. Jones almost choked 2010 away in the Cotton Bowl. I don't think I'm a homer. OU was a bad team that was within a (censored) hair of losing to a really bad team. REALLY bad team was.... TEXAS

A: I'm no huge fan of Jones, but there's no denying that he put up quality numbers last season and has a championship ring to show for his efforts. He has scoreboard, sorry.

Q: (rkimm1805) - I have a few comments and a few questions. As an orthopedic surgeon, Blaine Irby's comeback from a knee dislocation and a footdrop (combination of injuries including at least 2 or more knee ligaments and an injury to the peroneal nerve) is nothing short of miraculous. You can probably count on one hand the number of individuals who have come back from this type of injury in both college and professional sports.

I am still a little upset with Mack Brown over the Jerry Gray fiasco. Jerry has been trying to get to UT for over ten years. The word is that Mack, who most definitely likes to be "loved," was reluctant to take Jerry on with a real position of responsibility due to his overwhelming popularity with the UT fan base. Understand, this man was offered 1M by Neuheisel to stay as secondary coach and he turned it down for UT. His leaving so soon was simply due to his promotion to DC as the compensation was still about 1M. For Mack not to hire this guy with five years' experience as an NFL DC (two of which were Top 10 while at Buffalo) just astounds me. I do not think Diaz is a bad choice, but I lay this off on Mack. What are your feelings about this?

I honestly believe UT has tremendous untapped potential and has underachieved for the last ten years. Hopefully in a couple of years this belief will be validated on the field. What is your take on this?

I am a little concerned about the trend to early commitments in college football. With this philosophy, programs will miss the kids who blossom their senior year, who are returning from injuries, or who have switched positions and may not be quite up to speed in their new roles. I wonder if it would be worthwhile to keep a few slots open for these diamonds in the rough? No one has done a better job than Bobby Jack Wright from OU in finding these players; consider Travis Lewis from San Antonio Lee and Tom Wort from New Braunfels.

I think Mack's almost paranoia toward the media in general is a huge mistake. I honestly believe he has a genuine disdain for anyone involved in reporting UT football. I see no real advantage in closing spring football practices. Why do you believe Mack continues to do this?

The word on the street from the San Antonio athletic trainers, who believe me always know what is going on, is that Mykkele Thompson is the best open-field runner the San Antonio area has seen since Jerod Douglas of Converse Judson, and that is saying something! Understand from the QB position he had over 3000 yards rushing, which is just phenomenal. I certainly hope we at least give him a look on the offensive side of the ball. Do you know if they are even going to give this kid a sniff on offense?

A: If we learn nothing else today, we now know that when surgeons send in questions, they don't mess around. I'm just going to attack your questions one at a time.

I completely agree with you on the comments about Irby. The fact that he's out on the field right now is beyond my wildest expectations. By everyone's account but his own, Irby was done. I suggest that's the kind of stuff that true leadership awards in the future are named after.

The Gary conversation is a tough one. The Duane Akina fiasco could have really left a mark when it occurred because just when it seemed like the Longhorns were getting some wind behind them, the rug was pulled out. That Gray left the NFL to join the Longhorns proved to be a blessing because the initial thought was that nobody could replace Akina's resume and rep, but then Gray blew all of that out of that out of the water and even seemed to cover some of the risk that was the Diaz hire. If we're holding resumes to resumes, Gray is pretty tough to beat, but I think the combination of youth, energy and buzz that Diaz provided when he thought about his vision for the future. Whatever Gray's reasons were for leaving to go back to the NFL, his brief stay was an important stop-gap. The things that happened with Akina coming full circle just don't happen, yet they did.

As for the reaching the bar part of the conversation, it really depends on the time frame. I would counter that from 2004-09, the Longhorns put together a run that was far from underachieving, even if was fully maximized. Four BCS games, three national championship runs, two national championship game appearances and one title is pretty salty stuff. If we expand the time frame to include the first half of Mack's tenure, you'll get no dispute from me that the program underachieved. As it relates to Big 12 championships, I would also agree in a big way that the program has underachieved in a big way since the inception of the Big 12.

In terms of early recruiting, Mack understands the downside as much as anyone and those that he consulted with about the program immediately after the season made sure to include this point. That being said, I think Mack feels like the upside and the benefits truly outweigh the negatives, which was proved when his came out with six shooters blazing at the first Junior Day. The god news is that I think the Longhorns are in a really good position heading into the homestretch of this recruiting class and numbers aren't so tight that they'd miss on a late-bloomer this spring or fall at this point. Overall, the Travis Lewis' of the world are pretty far and few between if we're talking about guys that truly develop late. I think your bigger concern over the last few years is really evaluation/selection.

Yes, I agree with you that Mack's decisions with the media leave a lot to be desired, but I don't think that aspect is ever going to change.

As for Thompson, that's Akina's guy and although he might see some very early two-way time, he was recruited as a defensive back and I'm guessing it will be over his recruiter and position coach's dead body that he gives him up to an offense that doesn't lack for talented, young receivers.

Q: (dropshot_7) - Are we still going to see vanilla game-plans against weak opponents, or is that out the door? Major Applewhite mentioned in his introduction presser that Texas lined up in 6 formations against Wyoming, while Boise St lined up in 22, or 28, I can't remember what it was. I'm firmly of the belief that we weren't throwing the kitchen sink at Wyoming, and it was an all-encompassing philosophy that the coaches didn't want to reveal too much before conference play. Was that a Mack philosophy or Greg philosophy? If it was Mack, is that another change that will come, or do you believe that we will continue to see uber-vanilla offensive game-plans against the weaker opponents on our schedule?

A: You are not going to recognize this offense. Vanilla with chocolate syrup, cherries, whipped cream and maybe some fried Twinkies at the bottom of it all.

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