July 26, 2007

The Locker Room Report

Q: (UTExtra) - You don't seem to be nearly as high on Texas as most of the national media and our rabid fan base. What's the deal? I thought you were a UT homer. What are you honestly expecting from this group this year? I'm starting to temper my enthusiasm a little. Should a Big 12 title be the goal?

A: I think it's definitely fair to say that I'm not as high on the Longhorns heading into the season as quite a few folks. I'm of the pinion that the Longhorns are probably a top 15-20 team nationally, but I still think they are the class of the Big 12 heading into the season. There are two main issues that I have right now that are keeping me from ranking the Longhorns higher - the offensive line and a lack of known difference makers on defense. Both are areas that might eventually become non-issues once the season starts, but there's no question that coming out of the spring, both of these were major areas of concern.

While I have a ton of confidence in Mac McWhorter to put together a solid line, I don't have as much confidence in Charlie Tanner, Chris Hall or Steve Moore to be starters at this level just yet. When you take into account the fact that the depth at tackle is potentially not very good because of some depth issues and that several freshmen are going to potentially be depended upon, that's not a recipe for success - not for championship teams anyway.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Longhorns are trying to replace their entire identity. Gone are Michael Griffin, Aaron Ross, Tarell Brown, Tim Crowder and Brian Robison. If you go back and look at last season, those are the playmakers from the 2006 defense. Without Ross, the Longhorns might have lost five games last year instead of three, so while there is a plethora of young talent just itching to step up and emerge as stars, it's just rhetoric at this stage.

The good news for the Longhorns is that they still have better personnel than everyone in the Big 12, with the possible exception of Oklahoma and the Sooners just happen to have bigger quarterback problems than they had a season ago. I'm not sure that a national title is a realistic goal, but winning the Big 12 and playing in the Fiesta Bowl are very realistic. Frankly, failing to do so will be a major disappointment.

Q: (Choice Cuts) - I know you can't comment on the health of Cedric Dockery's knee, but does he appear to be in playing shape? Do the coaches have him penciled into the starting line-up?

A: Dockery is still an unknown, but the staff seems very happy with the progress that he's made. Keep in mind that it's been less than a year since his knee injury and it often takes double that time to effectively return from this type of injury. We won't truly know where Dockery is at until he gets back into the swing of full-contact workouts. If he's anywhere close to 10%, he'll upgrade the Texas line that desperately needs him. If he can't return, it'll be a big loss, just as it was last year when his departure signaled the beginning of the end of Texas' effective running game.

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