July 27, 2008

Pressure is on McCoy to improve

Q: (gkcobb) - With the recent Elite 11 performance of Garrett Gilbert and all the speculation about his future ranking, could you spend some time detailing his recovery? Seems to me he's a proven QB and we know what he can do if anything close to healthy. What we don't know is the best approach to rehabbing a shoulder injury like this. While I would hope he's following a very strict rehab regimen, participating in competitive events such as 7-7 and Elite 11 don't seem like a great idea to me. There's just too much of a chance of overdoing things. Can you elaborate on his recovery and whether or not you think he's taking the correct approach or risking his future health?

A: Let me begin by saying that I'm obviously not a doctor and I didn't consult with one in the time it has taken my fingers to touch the keyboard since reading the question. That being said, I have talked with numerous people close to Gilbert and medical people familiar with the injury, and there seems to be a slight split opinion on how the recovery should be handled. The biggest issue that I've encountered from those that believe that Gilbert is pushing too much too soon, is caution. That's completely understandable, but it's hard to believe that Gilbert and his family would push the envelope if there was any real concern about long-time side effects of pushing the rehabilitation process because they understand the potential future that he might have. It might seem short-sighted, but there are adults involved in the decision-making process and I can assure you that no long-term future is going to be risked at the expense of any short-term gain.

Q: (Sundance7) - Now that we have seen several changes by Mack Brown since the Aggie loss last season, do you envision he might use some of the young speed merchants as KO and punt returners this season? I refer to guys like DeSean Hales, Curtis Brown, Aaron Williams and James Kirkendoll.

A: Until we see otherwise, I think it's wise to assume that the Longhorns will lean on experience in the return game. Expect Quan Cosby to be the primary punt return guy and I think there's a good chance that Jordan Shipley will have a big role on kickoffs. It's certainly possible that one of those young guys could push for a spot on the kickoff return team, but I think Cosby will be pretty locked into that punt return role.

Q: (bryrob) - Geoff, My question focuses on Colt McCoy's progress as well as the newer 4-2-5 "base" that we will apparently run this year, and the relationship between the two. Obviously Colt had an amazing freshmen campaign followed by a productive sophomore run that was, however, riddled with turnovers. Common logic would tell you that a quarterback should naturally progress, both physically and mentally, from year 2 to year 3 so I'm going to consider that a given. I'm also going to remove the play of the line from this equation.

My question then is: absent the two factors above, how beneficial do you think it has been for him to practice in the spring and summer against our new 4-2-5 scheme? In my personal opinion he tried to force the ball on too many occasions and a handful of those resulted in easy picks for the opposition. I have to think that regularly seeing five guys in the secondary plus a couple of athletic linebackers would likely serve to improve his awareness and thus his discretion in this area. Also, our secondary may be young and inconsistent at times, but they are incredible athletes that would likely capitalize on a lapse in judgment by the quarterback. Am I over estimating the benefit he is receiving from practicing against this type of scheme?

A: I think your hopes are the same hopes that a lot of people have when it comes to projecting McCoy's possible improvement from last season to this upcoming year. McCoy has already played more football in his first two seasons than a lot of quarterbacks will ever play in their entire careers, so it's more than reasonable to expect that McCoy will make improvements in the mental side of the game. There might be some debate about how much more physical upside McCoy has left, but if he sharpens his decision-making his level of play has a chance to rise considerably. The issues that McCoy faced last year where tough in a number of ways, but let's not overlook the fact every team on the Texas schedule had a chance to spend months preparing for McCoy in the off-season and that just wasn't the case when he was a red-shirt freshmen. There's a big difference in the amount of preparation you can make for defending a player and team during the season and outside of the season. I think it's something that Oklahoma starter Sam Bradford will have to deal with this year and it would surprise me if his numbers don't dip some from his sensational freshman season.

Q: (Horn O Plenty): Lots of talk about us not recruiting duel-threat QBs anymore. Why would we shut the door on that style of offense altogether? Is this an acknowledged direction by Mack & Co. or is this speculation?

A: I don't think these discussions can ever be made with blanket statements because it's never quite that cut and dry. First, I think it's always important to note that Mack Brown's number one goal as a recruiter is to land "war daddy's". Vince Young was unlike any quarterback he had ever recruited at Texas, but his talent was so extreme that they changed their offense and philosophy to get him into the program. If another player like that surfaces while he's in charge, I have no doubts that he'll go out and get him.

That being said, let's peel this onion back a little and look at what's under the surface. Since Young's departure, the Longhorn offense took a turn into another direction when McCoy won the starting position over Jevan Snead in 2006. Up until that point the Longhorns have pretty much been in no-man's land at the position because they just didn't have hindsight yet to lean on when looking for which direction the offense would ultimately go in. If you look at what's happening at the quarterback position, it's probably a safe assumption that McCoy is going to be the starter through the 2009 season, barring some very drastic dynamics (major injury or a complete collapse of the offense).

There's no debating that the scheme that best suits Young and the one that best suits McCoy are not one in the same. In getting the offense set up to completely showcase McCoy's skill set, the coaches have reverted back to a philosophy that emphasizes having a stronger skill set in the passing game than in the running game. It's not a necessity that the next quarterback in line have the same types of skills, but it sure doesn't hurt.

I think it's also to explain that when the coaches look at Gilbert, they see a Vince Young type of prospect, but he's the VY of a spread offense designed to pass-first. If you project that Gilbert could be the starter until 2012 or 2013, then it makes sense that the players you plan to groom behind the future of the program has a similar style of play. Of course, that changes if a dual-threat option of VY's stature pops up, but we haven't seen that yet in 2010, at least not in the state of Texas.

Q: (card008tdm) - During the big 12 media days Mack Brown said "it is motivation among the players and coaches that the media is not picking us to win the conference". My question is this: Do you think this will light a fire under this team and the coaches?

Also what is the real deal with John Chiles? QB? WR?

A: I'm of the opinion that when you are involved in a program like Texas, the expectations are already so high and the bar has been established for so long that these kinds of motivation needs shouldn't be required.

Texas hasn't been to a BCS game in two seasons, they've lost to their top in-state rival in two consecutive embarrassing fashions and they've let Oklahoma reestablish themselves as the force in the Big 12.

Shouldn't that be enough motivation to last everyone for years? If the team focused on maximizing their abilities and not on what's being said about them, they might reverse some of these trends.

As for Chiles, he's not embraced the idea of moving to wide receiver at all as far as anyone can tell. Throughout the summer he played exclusively at quarterback and he hasn't made the amount of progress in the passing game according to the reports that I've heard, that a lot of people had hoped for. He's a guy that adds a lot in the running game, but he's a limited player at this stage of his development. He really needs to make a move in August or I think there will be some limitations to his use this season.

Q: (SAHorn) - Something I noticed about the 2007 Texas football team that did not get much publicity was that the special teams was decidedly mediocre at best, ie. no blocked kicks for the first time with Mack as HC, blown kick coverages in the K St game. What would you attribute the fall-off in this area to and are the special teams going to be better with Coach Akina back working with them again? And are some of the younger guys going to get looks at returning kicks or on the punt block team?

A: As I've already explained a little earlier in this report, I don't know how much of an impact some of the younger players are going to make in the return game, but it can only be a good thing that Akina is back in his role as special teams guru, especially in the kick blocking department, because his departure from surveying those units seemed to go hand-in-hand with unit's failure to create big plays. The special teams need to be great if this team is going to contend for a Big 12 title and there's too much talent available to be used in all phases for the Longhorns not to thrive in this area.

Q: (echeese): What is holding Ben Alexander back from at least being a plug type nose tackle on the d-line? What do you expect from Michael Wilcoxon this year? How has Josh Marshall looked, can he become a redzone threat this year?

A: I think Alexander is going to be good for some snaps at nose-guard and he can eat up some space, but he hasn't shown that shown the ability yet that would have anyone confuse him as a playmaker at the position. He made improvements this spring and he's likely going to be a guy the Longhorns have to give snaps to this season. There's going to be a lot of pressure on him to finally emerge as a productive player this season.

As far as Wilcoxon is concerned, it's hard to say how much can be expected of him. He was a player that everyone projected would need a few seasons of development and I'm not sure that the timeline is going to change simply because Texas' needs for help at the position demand attention. He had a fairly quiet spring, but he won't have to make a lot of improvement to probably get him in the mix.

Finally, Marshall doesn't seem to have a real role right now, as he's the third tight end on a team that doesn't project to showcase that position this year. I wouldn't look for him to emerge as a red-zone option right now.

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