December 5, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (mars512) - The program appears to be hours or days or weeks away from an incredible amount of change. You guys have already reported that four coaches (Greg Davis, Mike Tolleson, Mac McWhorter and Bobby Kennedy) will be replaced in some capacity and another site is reporting that Jeff Madden is about to get bounced, with his shaky footing in the program also being confirmed by OB. Let's assume ALL of that happens for a minute.

That's the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach, offensive line coach, defensive tackles coach, a huge chunk of our special teams coordination and our strength/conditioning coach. This is an incredible amount of change. Is that good? Also, it seems like every single scapegoat for this season is going to be eliminated as far as I can tell. What does this say about Mack Brown and if there was one more area of the team or coach that needs to be replaced, where do you think it is?

A: I don't think there's any question that this is a lot of change. In a lot of ways, all of this change equates to as much change as we've seen in the rest of Mack Brown's tenure rolled up into one ball and it appears to be the closest thing you can see to a complete program overhaul without the head coach being touched. On the surface I think every single one of these moves is not only justified, but needed. However, all of this change isn't going to amount to a hill of beans if the right hires aren't made to follow up with this cleansing that's taking place. Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side and sometimes it's not. Thus far, we're only privy to the first phase of this process.

You have to give Mack Brown credit for acting swiftly after the season and not standing pat. This wave of change throws cold water right on top of the fire that suggested Mack wouldn't have the guts to get rid of loyal soldiers within his staff for the sake of improvement. We're learning that none of us should ever doubt Mack's desire to win because he's making some incredibly tough/bold decisions and a lot of feelings he genuinely cares about have been rendered moot.

As far as naming another area of change that needs to take place, I've said for years that I would hire an official team nutritionist, which would allow every single player on the team to have specific plans designed for their own individual needs/development.

Q: (garrett01) - The most frustrating unit to watch the last year or two has been the OL. So I have a "simple" question…what's the f'n problem? Feel free to take your time on this one.

A: I'm not so sure it's a simple answer, but I'll give you a few major issues that I think have stunted the development of this position over the years. First, the physical development of the players in the program has simply not been at anywhere close to an elite level for a very long time. I've listed the stat previously, but the Longhorns have not developed a true offensive line prospect into NFL draft pick since Justin Blalock and Kasey Studdard arrived in the 2002 recruiting class. Even if you include Tony Hills (who was recruited as a tight end with an eye on defense had he not been injured), the stat only changes to 2003. The school that had given you Blake Brockermeyer, Dan Neil, Leonard Davis, Derrick Dockery, Mike Williams, Jonathan Scott, Lyle Sendlein, Studdard and Blalock from the 1992-2002 recruiting classes hasn't turned out an elite player in half a decade and growing. It's not because the Longhorns haven't recruited well. If you look at the 2007 offensive line class, it was ranked among the best in the nation, but I don't know that I can see an ounce of difference in the physical make-up of the players from the moment they arrived until their last game against Texas A&M and you certainly can't see it in their play. You'd have to go back to 2006 to find a lineman in the program that you can truly describe as physical.

Aside from the physical development of the line, there's no question in my mind that this team doesn't practice the running game enough and I blame that on the combination of Mack Brown/Greg Davis. This is a team that spends an incredible amount of time on the passing game, especially with the linemen, but they just haven't been committed to spending the time it takes to truly become a good running team and it's created a disconnect between the linemen in the program and the coaches. The players know their reputation, but they also know that they are asked to turn it on during games when they don't get nearly enough practice during the week. None of the changes that the Longhorns make this off-season are going to matter if Mack doesn't allow the new staff to take over what takes place in practices.

Finally, the staff needs to take a long look at their recruiting selections and who is making them. They like their lineman lean, long and athletic, but when was the last time they took a guy like that and did anything with him? Jonathan Scott?

Those are the three major issues in my estimation and all three need to be addressed if positive gains are going to be made.

Q: (Matamoroshorn) - I would like to know if you might have any knowledge as to why we continued with a nickel defense after allowing so many long runs right up the middle. Was there ever a point that a base 4-3 or possibly even going to a 5-2 was considered?

A: It became painfully obvious that the only linebackers that Will Muschamp had any true confidence in were Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, which became quite a problem when teams realized that they could just run right at the Longhorns and achieve a ton of success. Neither Dustin Earnest or Jared Norton were consistent enough to gain Muschamp's confidence and because Jordan Hicks was limited to backing up Robinson, the Longhorns didn't have three linebackers to play at one time that Muschamp felt good about. It's as simple as that and it was exasperated by the fact that Acho was probably playing at about 65% capacity down the stretch due to an injured knee.

Q: (Horns a Plenty) - I have not truly understood to this day why Sherrod Harris was treated like he was. Couldn't this team have been better served by making Sherrod the QB going into the 2010 season and let Garrett Gilbert try to take it from him?

The other part of the question is why didn't Sherrod get a chance in the National Championship Game before Gilbert? What had Gilbert done that made him the choice since Sherrod had all the experience?

Help me out here! Is the true answer that Mack handed the reins over for the 2010 season the day he signed his LOI?

A: I think the answer to the question is that Harris just wasn't a very good college player. Of course, Gilbert wasn't very good this season, but that wasn't expected to be the case when the season opened. The bottom line is that when Harris had been with the team, he wasn't able to make a dent in terms of gaining any confidence from the coaches. His biggest problem as a quarterback is that he didn't have the ability to push the ball down the field in the passing game. You can't be an effective player at the highest level if you can't complete passes outside of the check-down comfort zone.

I truly believe things could have been different for him as a player had he been able to take a step forward this past spring, but he was losing ground to the freshmen as soon as it started.

As bad as the season was this season, I know everyone wants to invent things that could have changed the direction of the season, but Harris wasn't going to change anything.

Q: (BEVO SCOTT) - I have heard a lot of comparisons of the 2003 season to the 2010 season as far as offensive production or lack thereof. Can you go into more depth about the 2003 season, and what was specifically so bad with that offense (play calling, lack of creativity, not using out talent to the best of our ability)? Did they ever go through a stretch of five games where they did not score a touchdown in the 1st half? I imagine it could not have been as bad as this past year.

A: No, as bad as things were in 2003, the offense never completely disintegrated into unrecognizable pieces. That Texas team actually averaged 41 points per game and averaged better than 200 yards per game on the ground and through the air. Many of the problems facing that team were leadership related, as it was the final year of the Big Three Era at wide receiver and there was a lot of selfish stuff going on as the team tried to transition into the Vince Young Era. The team was loaded with talent, but they weren't all in with each other and were so far away from being on the same page that they were actually reading different books.

Q: (1UTfan) - When will we see/hear about on the field leadership stepping up for next year and does some of the poor on the field play from this year effect the less vocal group from following? Who has not been mentioned as a possible leader that you think could possibly fill some of these roles?

A: Keep an eye on the freshmen in the program. Guys like Jackson Jeffcoat, Jordan Hicks, Mike Davis and a few others kept their head above water all season long, never lost sight of the prize and I think will emerge as the future face of the program. I get the feeling that taking charge is more in their blood than some of the older players in the program.

Q: (okie4horns) - There has been too much talk about the offense. Who do you see as making potential impacts this spring and fall on defense and special teams? Can you list 5 players that can help impact our defense and special teams

A: 1. Jackson Jeffcoat - He might be the defense's best player and he was hurt for most of this season, which made him completely ineffective throughout the entire second half of the season.

2. Carrington Byndom - The young corner really started to come into his own down the stretch and would appear to be a favorite for one of the starting corner spots.

3. Jordan Hicks - The kid is a star and just needs to be turned loose.

4. Reggie Wilson - It's easy to forget about him because he didn't play a lot this season, but he's a freakish athlete that could really give this team a boost at end opposite Jeffcoat. This is a kid that everyone wants to see after as full off-season. He's still a baby.

5. Adrian Phillips - Keep an eye on this kid. He's a playmaker and has a little bit of the Earl Thomas playmaker skills that this secondary missed this year.

Q: (TEX78) - I've been noticing for years now that OU (and other programs too) always fill in some of their weaknesses by bringing in a few Juco players each year. Do you think there's any chance Texas might start doing this as well. I know it's hard to get them into UT, but like my father always told me- just because it's hard doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Not talking about going Kansas State, but adding couple each year might make a big difference.

We all know GD is reluctant to throw over the middle to the wide receivers. However, in previous seasons, when we've had a good Tight End, he has attacked the middle of the defense from this position. Just wondering how big of a factor you think it was not having a decent TE this past season. Personally, if I could upgrade one position on offense this might be it. I think this would have improved things in the red-zone too. Any chance the incoming class, or the redshirts, have any potential for upgrading the TE position next season.

A: No, I don't expect the Longhorns to ever be a player for junior college players as long as Mack Brown is the head coach. It's just not something he believes in because of Texas' difficult academics.

As for the second question, we first reported in the War Room on Friday, the Longhorns hope to get a boost at the position with the return of Blaine Irby, but anything he can give you should be treated as found money at this point. Still, there's hope. Also, I think everyone is excited about the flash that Dominique Jones flashed in limited doses this season and he's a guy that he a nice upside. Add in Barrett Matthews, Darius Terrell, M.J. McFarland and Chris Whaley, and you've got some talent to work with. There really shouldn't be any excuses moving forward.

Q: (Moooooo) - 2010 was the worst season I can remember as far as QB depth? How did we end up with only 1 true sophomore and 2 true freshmen on the roster? Could you detail how things progressed to this point? (Moooooo)

A: The story starts in 2006 when the Longhorns took Sherrod Harris as the No.2 quarterback in that class. Although he never emerged as a player the Longhorn staff wanted to play, he would have been a fifth-year senior on the depth chart this season, but he left the team before the season started.

The next recruiting year saw the Longhorns go after Johnny Brantley in recruiting, while turning away Ryan Mallett early on, and after having a commitment from the Florida prep star for most of the recruiting process, he peeled off to Florida, which left the Longhorns a little empty-handed at the position. At that point, the Longhorns settled for going after G.J. Kinne, who made himself available as soon as it became clear that a spot was open and he was the guy they ended up with. After feeling like he didn't have much of a future in Austin after spending a little bit of time on campus, he decided to transfer and he emerged as a quality starter for Tulsa.

The following year (the Andrew Luck class), the Longhorns decided not to take a quarterback at all, in part because they knew Garrett Gilbert was there for the taking in the 2009 class and they had a very good idea that he would be their first commitment.

You add all of that up together and you have a quarterback situation that was all-in with Gilbert and two true freshmen the following year.

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