October 22, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room



Q: (censored handle) - There is the possibility that OU could lose 4-6 games this year. After losing 4 out the last 5 to Texas, BSC bowl history, and recent poor recruiting, now may be the best time for Bob Stoops to jump to the NFL. If not the NFL, maybe Ohio State. Bit of a stretch, but a loss to Michigan could really make things interesting there. To my question, Stoops to the NFL, is Kevin Sumlin the logical choice? He has had success at UH, but with players Art Briles recruited. Who else would be on OU's short list of candidates? Mike Leach, Brian Kelly, anyone currently on the staff? I think Stoops may give it some consideration, if the NFL comes calling. Maybe your Cowboys!!!!

A: Two questions:

1. What NFL team in their right mind is going to go after Bob Stoops? I can't imagine that there's a long line for that hire. Not even my Dallas Cowboys would do that… I think.

2. Why would Ohio State get rid of a coach with big-game struggles so that they could turn around and bring in a guy whose program hasn't been winning big games in the back-half of the decade and is .500 away from home in the same time?

3. What makes you think that Oklahoma is going to have to sort through the non-BCS school ranks for a head coach if Stoops were to leave? This program is in a much different spot than they were when they hired Stoops in 1999. They can aim much higher and likely would.

I don't think Stoops is going anywhere, although I used to think he'd leave because the coaching grapevine was whispering that his wife hated living in Norman. Of course, the guy that told me about that was a former D1 head coach that desperately wanted Stoops to leave Oklahoma because he hoped he'd be a candidate for his job. This was way back when Steve Spurrier first left Florida. I fully expect Stoops to keep plowing ahead in Norman because if he were to leave now, he'd be leaving as a defeated man in my mind. The story of his coaching career is at a bit of a crossroads and he's not going to walk away from an ending that he deems suitable.

Q: (PatrickGood21) - Which of our current players do you see possibly entering the draft early this year? Next year?

Who are the top 5 NFL prospects on our team at the moment, and where do you see them being drafted? By the Cowboys possibly? :)


A: I don' think there's anyone on the offense that will be considering an early departure, but there are probably a couple of defensive players that will be in a position to at least contemplate the possibility. Junior defensive end Sam Acho and third-year sophomore Earl Thomas are both having great seasons and they might have first-day upside if they were to come out this year. Of course, most people expect that Acho will finish his four years of eligibility, but Thomas could be a wild card. ESPN's Todd McShay recently ranked Thomas as a late-first round value and if that's the case, it could prove tempting for Thomas. Two things he'll have to contend with when making a decision about the draft is that his upside on the safety board probably is no higher than third because of the presence of Taylor Mays and Eric Berry. If he comes back for another year his draft position could improve. The other thing that he needs to consider is the need for him to continue to improve his strength as a player, which would really serve him well when he does land at the next level.

As for the top five NFL prospects on the team, I'll rank them like this:

1. Sergio Kindle (high first round)
2. Aaron Williams (high first round)
3. Lamarr Houston (first two rounds)
4. Colt McCoy (first two rounds)
5. Earl Thomas (first two rounds)

Q: (In Stink) - Along with all the discussion of Texas's offensive problems this year from the scheme and execution perspectives, the observation that Colt McCoy and the offense appeared "tight" really seemed to have some truth to it. Colt and the offense seemed to struggle with living up to incredibly high expectations. They really didn't seem to be having fun and just playing. How much do you think the offense was a unit just waiting to exhale? Now that revenge has been had on Texas Tech, Texas has beaten Oklahoma yet again, and the offense really got some nice production against the Sooners from a running game that had been god-awful, do you think the offense has reached a position where it can just exhale, not feel the pressure of what it did last season as the standard for this season, and just relax and play better? Or do you think that was never really a significant factor in the offense's performance?

Obviously, some of the scheme and execution issues are still troublesome and likely will never be completely resolved this season, but the offense began to look like it was finally forging a bit of an identity against Oklahoma, particularly in the second half. Any thoughts?


A: I think the very last thing you wrote was the single most important part of your question - they finally started to forge a little bit of an identity in the second half against Oklahoma, at least that's exactly what the Texas coaches are hoping as they head into the Missouri game.

This group isn't "tight" as much as they just aren't in any kind of a rhythm. You can be as loosey goosey as a baby passing gas in a tub, but if every guy on that offense isn't on the same page, the group is going to struggle. It was trendy early in the season to pass all of the blame on Mac McWhorter and his offensive line, but the truth of the matter is that you're closing your eyes to reality if you're in the camp that believes that to be true. The hard truth is that this offense is a different group than we saw in 2008 and they haven't been clicking consistently on any level, which needs to change soon.

The loss of any real quality tight end play is catching up to Texas. The chemistry between McCoy and the receivers has been off. The running backs have taken turns on the injury report. And yes, the offensive line has been a major disappointment. If you add all of that together, you'll see the source of the problems.

In my mind, Mack truly believes he has a defense and special teams that can win a championship and he's going to attempt to play a little more controlled with a heavier dose of the running game (with a tight end), more play-action passing and less risk. If the Longhorns weren't a turnover factor on Saturday, they win that game going away, even with the offensive struggles. The Longhorns have been wide open on offense in recent years because they've needed to be in order to win consistently in the Big 12, but that doesn't appear to be the case this season.

This is going to be an important game for the Longhorns this weekend because it could be Mack's test-case for how he wants to move forward philosophically for the rest of the season. If the Longhorns struggle to move the ball with their "11 personnel", they can always open it back up to four- and five-wide sets, but my gut tells me he wants to find some consistency with what they felt good about from Saturday's win.

Q: (krandolph) - Thanks again for taking questions. Can you rate each of Texas' assistant coaches? Two ratings on a scale of 1-10 for each; first rating for Xs/Os/game day coaching and the second for finding, signing, and developing talent. I'd rather see the ratings geared towards recent history as opposed to career wise.

What have been your impressions of Alex Okafor for this season and for his future.


A: Wow, you've given me a tough task and I'm not sure how fair and accurate my feedback on grading the coaches on their X's and O's acumen and game day coaching will be. To be fair, there's only one person that can accurately make those assessments and he's a little beyond my pay grade.

That being said, I'll give it a shot with whatever comments I deem necessary.

Offense

Coordinator/Quarterbacks: Greg Davis

X's and O's/Game Day: (9.0) - Davis' score might be a little higher if we're doing a global review of his tenure at Texas because I'm not sure anyone in college football can claim a better offensive resume during the same era. His development of quarterbacks is his strongest asset and you make the case that no coach in the history of college football has ever produced a better back-to-back one-two quarterback bunch as Davis has with Vince Young and Colt McCoy (2004-09).

Recruiting: (10.0) - During his tenure at Texas, Davis has landed commitments from five-star quarterbacks Chris Simms, Vince Young, Ryan Perrilloux, Johnny Brantley and Garrett Gilbert, even if he didn't land all of them. Once you throw in his other nationally rated players like Jevan Snead, Chance Mock and Connor Wood it becomes clear just how underrated his recruiting ability has been. Name another quarterbacks coach/coordinator who has had better run since 1999.

Running backs: Major Applewhite

X's and O's/Game Day: (8.0) - His group has been very sound fundamentally the last two seasons, especially in 2008, and he's been able to bring a fresh mind to the table for the Longhorns in recruiting. The Longhorns have lost one game and been one of the nation's top offensive teams in his short tenure.

Recruiting: (8.0/Incomplete) - I neither give him credit or blame for what happened at the running back recruiting in 2009. He certainly did a good job of helping pull in Chris Whaley into the fold, but the decision to offer him as the only back in the class was already in motion before he arrived, which means that he was handcuffed in 2009. This year he went out and landed Traylon Shead, but the only true must-have back in the state is Lache Seastrunk and I can't put an ounce of blame on Applewhite for the direction that recruitment has gone in. His real coup in recruiting this year came when he helped close the deal with Connor Wood and he probably doesn't get enough credit for that because he worked his tail off to help close that deal.

Wide receivers: Bobby Kennedy

X's and O's/Game Day: (8.0) - His group has been inconsistent this season, but they were sensational last season and the receiver position has been a consistent and steady from the moment he arrived from Washington. His underrated role on this year's team involves getting a kid like Marquise Goodwin in a position where he can win a game for the Longhorns despite little in-depth receiver training previous to his arrival in August.

Recruiting: (9.0) - You can debate some of the staff's selections at wide receiver, but you can't debate his effectiveness as a recruiter - both at his own position and as the guy who handles most of the Metroplex. He was brought in to help regain control of that region from Oklahoma and that's exactly what he's done. The Longhorns have been getting who they want from Dallas for the most part since 2006 and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

Tight ends: Bruce Chambers

X's and O's/Game Day: (Incomplete) - I don't know how to grade a guy that doesn't really have any healthy, ready-to-play options. Greg Smith has been serviceable, but there aren't any other upper-classmen available and the young kids in the program are either hurt or aren't ready to play in a national championship run. Chambers would probably look like a hell of a coach right now if Blaine Irby was healthy. Let's not forget that this is a guy that did help tutor and develop David Thomas and Jermichael Finley.

Recruiting: (8.0) - Chambers is not a true closer for the Longhorns in recruiting, but his steady hand in Dallas has been important because the Longhorns were dead in inner-city Dallas when Mack Brown arrived in 1998. It's easy to forget that a decade later, but when the Longhorns have a Sergio Kindle or Malcolm Williams on this team, it's important to understand that might not have happened without Chambers' work upon his arrival. He also serves as the recruiting coordinator, which means he has to get points for overseeing a recruiting operation that has been dominant in-state.

Offensive line: Mac McWhorter

X's and O's/Game Day: (8.0) - McWhorter was a Godsend when he arrived at Texas and his presence helped the Longhorns produce a national-championship quality offensive line in 2005. The group has really struggled at times this season, but McWhorter has had a lot of success in Austin.

Recruiting: (9.0) - Again, we can haggle over the selections in hindsight, but there's no denying that McWhorter and the Longhorns have pretty much landed everyone they've wanted in the last few years, with the exception of Jake Matthews this year.

Defensive tackles: Mike Tolleson

X's and O's/Game Day: (8.5) - It occurred to me just now that Tolleson was pretty much in the same position that McWhorter finds himself in just a couple of seasons ago. There was a time when he was valued as much s any assistant coach in the program and then he had a few seasons where the defensive tackle play wasn't as strong as everyone thought it should have been and the questions of retirement started to pop up each year. However, in the last couple of seasons the inside play has been outstanding, despite some personnel setbacks, and the development of guys like Lamarr Houston and Ben Alexander the last two seasons is another feather for his cap.

Recruiting: (9.0) - The Longhorns have missed out on a few like Demarcus Granger and Jamarkus McFarland in the last few seasons, but they've landed almost all of their intended targets in recent years and the Longhorns really cleaned up in 2010 with their current three-man class. He might not be Mr. Automatic, but he's been in the neighborhood for a lot of his career.

Defensive ends: Oscar Giles

X's and O's/Game Day: (10.0) - Giles might be the most underrated coach on the staff. His arrival in 2005 has helped the Longhorns finally produce double-digit sack guy guys off the edge and perhaps it's easy to forget that fact in the wake of Tim Crowder, Brian Orakpo, Sergio Kindle and Sam Acho in recent years. The bottom line is that this group is among the nation's most productive defensive end units.

Recruiting: (8.0) - This is still an area where Giles needs to build a bit of a bigger reputation.

Defensive coordinator/linebacker: Will Muschamp

X's and O's/Game Day: (10.0) - He's the best in the nation at what he does in my opinion.

Recruiting: (8.5) - The Longhorns have dominated in defensive recruiting, but we're all still waiting to see if he can close the deal with a big-time out of state prospect.

Defensive backs: Duane Akina

X's and O's/Game Day: (9.0) - The 2006-07 seasons were forgettable, but he was the coach of one of the best defensive backfields in college football history (2005) and he deserves a lot of credit for forming a capable secondary full of freshmen in 2008 and then helping mold them into a dominant, lock-down unit in 2009.

Recruiting: (10.0) - When it comes to recruiting defensive backs, Akina has been pulling in the state's elite of the elite for most of this decade. Aaron Williams, Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown, Earl Thomas, Christian Scott and Nolan Brewster are not accidents.

Finally, to answer your question on Okafor, I think he's been very good this season, but nearly as impacting as I expected when I projected him as a legit Big 12 Freshman of the Year candidate. He's been playing well, but the big plays haven't come yet. They will.

Q: (Riveroak) - Was having a friendly chat with a Sooner fan on Sunday who has deep respect for Colt and he brought up an interesting observation. He has had connections with Oklahoma's athletic department in the recent past because his son was an All-American wrestler for the Sooners. He believes Colt is struggling this year because opposing team Defensive Coordinators have 3 years+ worth of tape on Colt in Greg Davis's offense and they know Colt almost better than Colt knows Colt. It was an interesting observation to me. I realize this is not necessarily a new idea but how difficult do you think it is for a college quarterback to change his tendency's to adjust for very smart coordinators who know what he likes to do and when he likes to do it?

A: I don't think there's any doubt that teams have adjusted to some of the things Texas did very well last season and the Longhorns are currently in the middle of making their own adjustments, which has a lot to do with their slow starts.

Q: (281texfish) - We have all assumed that Coach Brown would step down in 2010 or 2011 or maybe even at a later date. Could we all possibly be wrong and Mack be considering stepping aside after this year? I was watching his reactions on the field after the win this past weekend at the Cotton Bowl and he looked different. He was truly emotional like I have not seen from him in this game. He also has had a much more "you take it or leave it" attitude in the media lately that I have really enjoyed and that we have not seen from Mack. It would make sense that he might like to leave with Colt (whom he definitely has a special bond with) and if we are fortunate enough to win the title then why not? Also, I notice it seems that Coach Muschamp has really gotten a little more involved with Garrett Gilbert and some of the younger offensive players. Could we all be wrong on our dates as to when this takes place?

A: I've always said that we should take it year-by-year following the 2009 season. It certainly wouldn't shock me if this was Mack's season, but it wouldn't surprise me if he coached for another five seasons. He seems as happy and comfortable as I've ever seen as the head coach at Texas.

Q: (Principle) - What is your gut feeling about where this team is and how will they respond to the changes on offense made this week?

A: I think the team is in a great place mentally because they seem to have prepared themselves well for the grinding task that awaits them. I do think it's possible that some of their early-season struggles that have created national skeptics might actually help this team build a chip on its shoulder that could end up carrying them down the stretch.

As for the offense, I'm not ready to go all-in with the idea that adding a tight end to the field at the expense of a better athlete is the right way to go and I wouldn't be shocked if the Longhorns start out slowly once again on Saturday night. The coaches like their second-half production against Oklahoma quite a bit more than I do, but we'll have to see how things go. I'm certainly taking a wait-and-see attitude with the changes.

Q: (Jason9925) - As fans we either we have orange color glasses on and can't see the faults or we focus strictly on what is wrong. In your opinion what is some of the positive's with this team heading into the future and what are some things that need to be improved?

Same question in regards to recruiting, what are some positives and negatives.


A: I could probably write a 20,000 word thesis on the things that are right with the program, both in the present and in the long-term future. Frankly, 94.37% of what the football program does ends up succeeding at a nationally elite level, whether we're talking about the on-field product that has won 19 of its last 20 games or a global recruiting strategy that allows you to dictate everything that happens inside your own state.

The program is stocked with elite young talent, which includes its quarterback of the future, and the coaching staff is among the best in the nation.

If you're looking for negatives, the combination of bad luck and poor preparation has left the team in a tricky spot at tight end, the offense has been inconsistent this season, the linebacker numbers could be better and the out of state recruiting could be better.

Q: (caldonna)- How many running backs do you figure that the coaches are going to target from the 2011 crop? If there was one running back they just HAD to have, who would it be? After the experiences with Darrell Scott and Lache Seastrunk, do you think that they will approach running back X any differently?

Finally, Hogan or Flair?


A: I'm looking for the Longhorns to go after three running backs next season because of the need at the position and the quality available in-state. If you held a gun to the staff's head they might take Aaron Green first because of his performance at their summer camp this season.

Also, I asked the coaches this month if there was anything specific they were currently looking for at the position in recruiting and I was told the only thing that matters is finding and landing the most talented player/s possible.

As for your last question, this is an easy one for me. While there was certainly a time in my life when I was swept away with Hulkamania, but Flair is the greatest showman and ring-worker of all-time.

Plus, he coined the phrase, "To be the main, you've got to beat the man."

Q: (6369700509)- 1. Last year and preseason David Snow was constantly mentioned as a player who needed more playing time... what do you think has derailed his progress?

2. Why has our offense turned into one where Colt must run or we are easily schemed against? Simms and Major couldn't run and they had success passing under Greg Davis. and thinking ahead…I know Gilbert had the great TD run in his first game but how would you compare his skill level running the ball with Colt's?

3. It seems strange that Herschel Sims would attend so many UT games this year (some describe him as recruiting UT) and then wear OU colors to the Cotton Bowl (assuming that rumor is even true)…any thoughts on that contradiction?


A: There are a couple of things that have happened with Snow according to the coaches and those close to the program. First, cross-training him at multiple positions might be taking its toll on him and the staff seems committed to allowing him to focus on center for at least this week because the switch to starting at guard did not work well. I also think he's likely fighting himself right now with confidence issues. This is the first time in his athletic career that he's probably had to battle like this for an ounce of success and the results of this test will determine what kind of player he becomes moving forward. He's still a player that everyone has very high hopes for.

Second, as I explained a little earlier in this article, it's important to understand that the Longhorns are still trying to adjust in the changes of their personnel from 2008 through this point of the 2009 season. It's just taking longer than anyone associated with the program would prefer, but that's what is going on. As for Gilbert, he's a solid scrambler and he's covers a lot of ground when he runs, but he might not be quite as fluid as Colt McCoy as an overall athlete. Still, I'm not sure that Gilbert needs to be a guy that is being asked to carry heavy weight in the running game once he takes over.

Finally, I think the wild imaginations of Texas fans have gotten the best of them this week when it comes to Sims. So, let me see if I have this straight… someone was on Facebook and reports that Sims had a pro-OU message on his page and then later that day an unconfirmed rumor of some unidentified recruit wearing crimson shows up on the message board and everyone leaps to the conclusion that it was Sims. Unless, I have the details wrong, that's exactly what happened. Overall, I don't think much of it all at the moment.

Q: (Classic54)- Two questions: 1. Traylon Shead appears to be the only RB we are taking in 2010. What RB, on our roster or not, is he comparable to?

2. With the debacle that is aggy football, I am sure some of their 2010 commits will go elsewhere. Does our staff stay in contact with players who have committed to other schools and do you think they will take a second look at Askew, Nelson and Ogbuehi, the three A&M commits that I think have the most upside?


A: First, I'm not sure I would compare Shead with anyone currently on the Texas roster. I think Shead gets a lot of Rodney Thomas comparisons and there's some merit to them because of his unique size/speed combination and the fact that they both attended small in-state high schools, although Shead has more size and perhaps not quite as much explosiveness.

I checked in with Corey Nelson a few weeks ago and he told me that he really hasn't heard much from the Texas staff this season and I don't expect that to change with any of A&M's committed prospects unless they extend the olive branch first. Usually, that's the way this staff works and keep in mind that Nelson is the only guy, along with Matthews, that the Longhorns had an interest in before they committed to Mike Sherman. Don't look for Mack Brown to throw out any life-vests to those commitments.


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