February 23, 2011

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Golfpr3145) - With all the positions seemly up for grabs, where does Greg Timmons fit in the picture at WR? After reading all of the projected OL lineups by you guys, it seemed the consensus of opinions was that Mason Walters would be inside rather than at tackle. I thought he was projected at tackle when recruited. What happened?

A: You have to think that a guy like Timmons has probably dreamed of for a situation like the one he enters this spring - a fresh start where everyone is essentially on equal footing and starting the race at the same point. This is year three for Timmons and if it doesn't happen now, when will it? He's a guy that hasn't been able to distinguish himself in his first two seasons, so he's a little bit of an underdog as he enters spring drills. Texas recruits too well at the position to think that he can continue to not make a move and not get passed up by younger players.

Walters was absolutely recruited as a tackle, but his injury-plagued 2009 season probably compelled the coaches to feel like putting him at guard would make for an easier transition back from injury, but I think he's a player that needs to take some reps at tackle this spring because of the lack of true options the Longhorns. Interior players are like bullpen arms in baseball… you can always move a guy inside to play guard, but if he can play tackle his value is increased significantly.

Q: (qwanseeker) - Ketch, the recent article concerning the estimated starters on the OL got me thinking about the difference between Guards and Tackles. Could you please explain the different skill sets required for each position? What makes a player a better Guard than a Tackle or vice versa? How about Center? Thanks.

A: Let's think about this from the perspective of the defense and imagine the type of players each player on the offensive line is going against. For offensive tackles, it's all about feet, hips and flexibility because they've got to be able to live on an island against the best pass rushers on the field, while often times the guys that play inside tend to not as athletic, but they are more powerful and have more mass because of the requirements needed to handle the both the players they face inside and execute the assignments given to them. Again, you can always move a guy inside and he'll adapt, but you either have the feet to play on the perimeter or you don't. Those that can move really well are worth their weight in gold.

Q: (bowlenmc) - It seems to me, in the past, Mack and the coaching staff stayed inside state line for the majority of their recruits. But this year, it seems like more and more OOS recruits are getting offers. Is this because of the new coaching staff and what they've seen on their recruiting trips in the past? Is it a new philosophy Mack is trying out with a new coaching staff? Or are the prospects in Texas not as good as in previous years? Either way, I like it…I like it A LOT. I've always thought Texas could reach out and go after more OOS guys but it always seems like we stay in state because they are more than likely to accept.

Also, on Junior Day's commitments, people are really making this a big deal. A lot bigger than I thought. I've always thought that guys that commit so early lose a little edge. And on a coaching stand point, if a player doesn't perform up to their potential, can they pull that offer from under them?

It's nice to have the majority of the class done by April, but isn't it better to evaluate these players a little more throughout the summer and fall practices? That way you get a better sense of where they are at. Or do the 6-7 months not matter because they have the player's junior year highlight reel?

A: Let's start with your first set of questions. I truly believe the new aggression shown with out of state recruits is a product of several factors. First, Mack is allowing his dream team of assistants to tap into areas and relationships that existed previous to the Longhorns. This has allowed coaches like Stacy Searels and Darrell Wyatt to tap into a talent pool that extends past the state's borders and into some pretty interesting neighborhoods. A guy like Wyatt had previously worked very hard at establishing himself with a prospect like Dorial Green-Beckham when he was at Kansas and this flexibility ensures that not all of the previous legwork the staff has put in at their other locations is a complete waste. If the Longhorns are going to be at a disadvantage in-state as the new staff grows roots in Texas, they can at least take advantage of the areas they do have going for them.

Finally, there's good and bad that comes with every early commitment, but I think you're using the same type of broad stroke to describe early commitments as those that were freaking out because of the slower flood of commitment proclamations on the actual date of the junior day. Do some guys lose an edge? Probably? Is it a wide-spread problem? Yeah, I don't know about that. More than that or the idea of injury scares, the biggest problem with a lot of the offers the Longhorns have made center on poor evaluations. UT's problem is that they have historically offered too many kids too soon in the process for the sake of building momentum and the consultants that met with Mack after the season told him as much.

Texas doesn't need to offer fringe guys 11 months out before signing day and I think the concerns you have been felt by the staff because the early offer process has been impacted in 2012. I don't know that I've seen the same fringe players offered as we've seen in the past. The Longhorns have been very selective in their February offers and I expect that to continue this weekend. It's not about the number of early offers you make, it's about the number of shaky early offers you make because once Texas makes a mistake, a kid is liable to jump on it before the staff can figure it out. Lifting an offer after the fact because of performance concerns is dirty poker and although it happens occasionally, it's not a practice Mack has engaged in a lot of the years.

Bottom line - the game isn't changing. Early recruiting is here to stay and only becoming more advanced, not less. This is Mack Brown own doing in a way and all he can do at this point is fine-tune his program's approach because college football recruiting waits for no man or school.

Q: (Bobble-Head Bevo) - 1. You've gone on record stating that you can't blame Major Applewhite for our RB recruitment decisions and ultimate failures. If that is the case, it would appear that Greg Davis and/or Mack must be responsible. Question: Ascribing percentages to each person responsible, to whom would you allocate these failures?

2. Same question as above regarding our WR recruitment.

3. Would you discuss the problems leading up to the lack of personnel stepping up at DT along with Kheeston Randall. I think it is common knowledge that last year's class came in out of shape. What are Calvin Howell's issues.?.

4. Would you allocate percentages to how much of our problems at RB, WR and DT are attributable to: poor personnel decisions, failure to develop existing personnel, poor coaching, bad luck (injuries and legal/criminal problems among them).

5. Lastly, how much hope do you have for the success of the recently reported plans for the making of "The Big Lebowski 2"?

A: First, Mack gets 100% of the blame for the decision to offer only one back in 2009 and 2010, especially the recruitment of Chris Whaley. That was his call and when Major barnstormed the state for talent in hopes that he would find a player that Texas would offer, he was left with the realization that he was wasting his time.

Second, I'll spread the blame away from Mack a little with the wide receivers and place a lot more on Bobby Kennedy, who was one of the assistants under Mack that was given the freedom to have a ton of say in the players selected at his position. I don't know if I could accurately dole out percentages, but I put the majority of blame on selection on Kennedy, who also received a lot of love for his recruiting prowess (deservingly so) over the years.

Third, let's look at this by recruiting class. The 2008 class was cut in half because of the serious health issues facing Jarvis Humphrey, leaving only Kheeston Randall, which isn't bad news unless you consider that the entire 2007 defensive tackle class was a total wash out. With one player remaining from the two-year cycle, the Longhorns needed the 2009 class to be nails, so what happens? They signed two players and one went home (Derek Johnson), while the other (Howell) hasn't stayed healthy and hasn't developed. Then the 2010 guys all came in out of shape. Seriously, it's been a combination of bad luck, bad development and bad judgment.

Fourth, let's dole out the percentages like this:

Running back: 80% evaluation/20% coaching/development
Wide receivers: 50% development/40% evaluation/10% bad luck
Defensive tackles: 40% evaluation/40% bad luck/20% development

Finally, I don't know about you but I don't take comfort in a second movie. It's not good knowin' it's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'another movie because of us sinners.

Q: (Ponchon-Savari) - Would you mind clarifying the organizational structure of the Strength and Conditioning Program? I'm having a hard time figuring out who is really in charge.

A: It's Bennie Wylie's show in every aspect. Jeff Madden is there to make sure he has everything he needs in terms of support. Make no mistake about it, it's Wylie's show.

Q: (362334) - Could you put into perspective if our recruiting in last year's senior class (class of 2007) and this year's senior class (2008) was overrated and had plenty to do with 5-7? Aside from Aaron Williams there seems to be little draft buzz on any of the guys from these classes.

We all feel the last 3 classes have been lights out but the 2007 class looked pretty nice on paper too. That said, does your gut tell you anything about the talent we have on campus getting back to multiple high NFL picks and 10 win seasons as birthrights?

The goal is obviously bigger than just 10 win seasons at Texas so the last question would be do you think there's enough talent on campus to contend for national titles in the next 2 seasons?

A: I don't know if the 2008 class was overrated at this point because it wasn't ranked as a national top-10 class, but it's clear that the top-five ranked 2007 class hasn't lived up to its lofty status pre-playing status. That's not to say the 2007 class didn't produce some really good players - Sam Acho, Curtis Brown, Earl Thomas and Keenan Robinson. The problem is that the offensive side of the ball has been just short of a complete disaster. Complete washouts occurred at quarterback, tight end and defensive tackle. Meanwhile, there were a lot of busts and a lot of development problems (see the offensive line). There's a lot more of the same type of problems with the 2008 class, but there are more injuries and tough luck situations to consider. Of the 12 four-star or five-star recruits that were signed, two have been upended with serious injury/health issues, one transferred and a number of others haven't developed or simply haven't been able to get on the field for reasons that can't totally be explained without a weird look arriving on your face upon an attempted explanation.

Those classes just haven't been what they've needed to be.

Q: (Insp_Clouseau) - Obviously, most of us have gotten spoiled in the last couple years with the recruiting classes Mack has hauled in and the fact that we have been able to pick and choose who we wanted as far as in state talent. Obviously, this year is shaping to be a little different with many of our targets looking at other schools seriously.

There are multiple factors for this including our dreadful year, the large turnover in coaching and the improvements A&M and TCU have made on the field. That being said do you think this is a temporary or even one year deal or is the worm turning for schools like Aggie and others?

For those of us who followed the Horns in the 80's and saw A&M dominate us in recruiting, especially on the defensive side, I hope this is not a true change and is just an aberration.

A: I don't think we even know yet if Texas is going to truly feel any effects of the 5-7 season, outside of longer delays in when they get answers this year. It's not like Texas A&M or TCU have won any head-to-heads over the Longhorns. It's going to happen, but it hasn't happened yet. Perhaps things will never return to the dominance of the 2009-11classes, but that kind of stuff has never been seen before in the history of college football, at least not in these parts. My guess is that Texas will continue to win the overwhelming majority of its in-state recruiting battles, but perhaps they won't be taking their shots in a lay-up line.

Q: (Les_Campbell) - By and large Mack and the UT program project an image that they live by a code of conduct that is higher than what most expect from college football. When they get an early commitment, they honor it even if that player sustains an injury and in turn expect that player to not take trips to other schools etc… Similarly, at least publicly they say they don't recruit guys who are verbally committed elsewhere. For example, last year when it came to Mike Davis the story was that he expressed unsolicited interest in UT while committed to LSU and they leveraged that fact to open the door. I'm just curious as to how Mack and staff justified their last minute push for Spencer Drango? I respect Mack and wish Drango would have flipped, but I don't see how there is any way to describe this other than to say that Mack and staff are employing situational ethics…right???

Bottom line, what's the company line justifying the course of action?

A: I think the Longhorns broke their normal code of conduct out of what they would call an extreme and unfortunate set of circumstances, but what good is it to have ethics if they are only enforced when it's convenient? The real bottom line is that college football recruiting is a street fight and although the Longhorns hate to engage in bear-knuckle fights with a set of brass knuckles in the back pocket, sometimes you have to use them when you have to use them. I don't have a problem with that, but everyone should have an understanding that everyone in college athletics lives in a glass house with a garden full of rocks out front.

Q: (the Old Man) - So I pop the gametracker of the "Lady Longhorns" (they're not good enough to carry the PC name of just "Longhorns") and I see they're down by 27 early in the second half and down 34-8 in the paint at that time. When is it enough about start sliding G out the door. I mean she's getting whipped on the court, in recruiting, at the carwash, in the grocery line, just about anywhere she goes. This is not up the standard expected and hasn't been her entire tenure so far. By her fourth year we should be contending for the national championship, not fifth place in the conference. I've been a UT B-ball fan since as a student I watched Leon Black play Larry Johnson out of an NBA career in the late sixties. I could suffer the obtuse issues as long as nationally competitive ball was being played. It took a while for Dodds to find someone that could continue what Abe Lemons had started. What's it going to take for Plonsky to do the same.

A: Nice old man rant. *slow clap*

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