January 13, 2008

Could Muschamp replace Mack?

Q: (bryrob■) - Let's talk defense! I'm looking ahead to next season on defense, specifically the defensive line and secondary. The ends look solid, however with three seniors graduated at the tackle spot, who steps up beside Roy Miller to fill the other starting spot and who provides quality backup/rotation? Have Ben Alexander, Brian Ellis, Michael Wilcoxon and Tyrell Higgins done enough in 2007 to make an immediate impact for 2008 at DT? Will the hire of Will Muschamp have an effect the D-line rushing opposing QB's with more success than we saw last season?

The safety position is very thin with Ishie Oduegwu being the only upper classman on the longhorn roster at the safety position. Christian Scott and Ben Wells must step up to fill a huge void. Other than the 2 incoming freshman, who on the Texas roster can provide quality depth at safety and who do you see filling out our starting defensive backfield next year? Will one of the corner backs slide over to safety and, if so, who?

A: The who, what and how of the defensive tackle position is going to remain one of the team's more perplexing questions heading into the spring. The Longhorns feel like they'll have an All-Big 12 performer in Miller and they know that Alexander can give them some snaps as a nose-guard, but there's not much that they can bank on at this point beyond those two. The pool of available players could open up if a player like Aaron Lewis or Henry Melton gets moved inside because of the depth at end. The wildcard in all of this could be Ellis because of his immense physical tools. If he can put himself back into the mix for playing time, he's has the ability to be an impact player. As for your question about the possibility of an improved pass rush, I think you're going to see Texas playing very aggressively up-front with its front four. Assuming that Will Muschamp has full control of the defense and is allowed to do his thing, this is going to be a visually different defense in 2008 from what everyone has seen in Mack Brown's tenure.

When looking at the secondary for next season, I think everyone really needs to forget everything they've seen to a certain degree because there's a possibility you're going to the staff take the entire group of defensive backs and just make it open competition for all four spots, including nickel and dime package roles. I'm expecting a lot of cross-training throughout the secondary in the spring. That means players like Deon Beasley, Curtis Brown and Earl Thomas[/b] could be in the mix for playing time at safety. These guys lack experience, but there is probably more overall talent to choose from in 2008 than there was in 2007.

Q: (cgarcia89■) - Are there any early rumblings of players transferring either due to playing time or grades?

What is your take on UT offering players and setting up on campus visits so late? We all know about Scott but what is it with UT looking at [db]Rod Davis and Kapron Lewis Moore? I thought since UT would have a lot fewer ships next year that they would save these 3 for 2009…What gives?

Who do you think has a great shot at getting an offer on Junior Day on 2/10?

A: There actually hasn't been a lot of buzz about potential transfers. Everyone had heard the talk about Jamaal Charles and Jermichael Finley leaving for well over a month, but there's not anyone that we've heard that is itching to get out the door.

There are probably several reasons for the Longhorns going after a few prospects before signing day next month. First, with the departures of Charles and Finley, there are a couple of extra scholarships to work with than they had originally projected. Also, don't think that Mack Brown doesn't care about perception. If they shut down all of their 2008 recruiting and only focused on Darrell Scott and perhaps another guy like Rahim Moore, some might interpret the lack of activity as a sign that the Longhorn program is in a lull. After losing to both the Sooners and Aggies this season, Brown needs to flex his recruiting muscle around if for no other reason than to remind everyone who possesses the iron fist in this state when it comes to recruiting.

Finally, I think every player that we've confirmed for the first Junior Day will receiver an offer on that day.

Q: (jwrjr) - The spread offenses are way ahead of the defenses right now. For defenses to catch up, I believe you're looking at either 4-2-5 or 3-3-5. Both schemes would require larger (6'+) athletic db's who can cover man, and faster lb's. The 4-2-5 needs a safety that could roll down to lb on occasion. 3-3-5 needs a lb that can speed rush and drop into coverage. 4-2-5 may have an advantage against the run. What are your thoughts and do you see our new DC heading in this direction as we seem to be going after faster lb's and more db's.

A: I think Will Muschamp said something in his introductory press conference that I've been preaching for years when discussing the Texas defense The key to surviving each week in this current age of college football is being able to remain versatile at all times on the defensive side of the ball. There have been occasions when the Longhorns have shelved their base defense, but far too often the Longhorns remained too committed to it and its hurt them in some spots in the last few years. Muschamp is notorious for having completely different looking defenses from week to week. The substitution packages have also been an area where the staff can improve greatly in my opinion. I think you'll see Muschamp spend a lot of time trying to develop roles for everyone that's allotted to him. Quite simply, you'll see more personnel decisions made next year based on the situation of the game than the philosophy of your scheme. When you're at a school like Texas and you've recruited the talent that you're able to bring in, every look and scheme in the book ought to be available to you.

Q: (Beagleme■) - What has happened to Tray Allen? Can he win a starting spot or 2-deep spot during Spring Drills? How about ? Is he a lost cause? Can he move back into our plans with a good spring and a strong August? How about [db]Dustin Earnest? Will he get a fresh look under our new DC? Lastly, do we consider moving Sherrod Harris to another position or does he have a real chance to beat out John Chiles for the Mop Up duty role ?

A: There seems to be a rush to judgment on Allen after his true freshman campaign and I feel the need to quickly remind everyone that he was a true freshman this season. It was not Allen's fault that the Texas offensive line depth was in ruins when he arrived, which caused the need for him in 2007 to be more severe than in most cases when the Longhorns have recruited elite-level offensive linemen. The staff felt like he came on strong at the end of the season and he'll compete for a starting spot this season. Allen's best football is clearly in front of him, but everyone needs to be patient.

Gerland has struggled with his consistency and until he can improve in that area, he's going to be a question mark. Justin Moore is departing after a solid season and the staff wants Gerland to take the job and run with it this spring. If he struggles and they have to dig for a walk-on to fill the role, it would be a major disappointment. Earnest needs more reps and opportunities in game action and he'll get a chance for that with a couple of departures in the linebacker unit. Finally, I think Harris is going to have a real challenge on his hands if he's going to take snaps away from Chiles, but I don't expect him to change positions.

Q: (bman25) - With all the excitement circling the program can you give us your take on the future(next2-4 years)? It seems that Mack wants his second crystal and is swinging for the fences. In your opinion when can we start challenging for a title and do you think our talent in the wings is enough to contend with USC and Florida and OU for that matter?

A: The quality of play across the country dipped to a level this year that the Longhorns probably had the talent to compete with anyone this year, but they just seemed to be stuck in neutral all season, until the very end when they exploded against Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. If Muschamp can turn the Longhorns into a top ten defensive team, the Longhorns will have a chance to compete at a national level in 2008.

Q: (A-Train #123) - With Jeremy Hills coming in early for Spring Ball, and Jamaal Charles leaving for the pros, do you see him making a move for early playing time with the void at RB and the fact that there are no real proven players in front of him?

A: It's certainly possible. Neither Fozzy Whitaker or Cody Johnson have done anything to create separation between them and the true freshmen coming in, so Hills is going to get a fair shake at getting on the field. If he can give this team some big-play pop, he'll likely be on the field because with the absence of Charles, this team needs a game-breaker.

Q: (Sundance7) - Have you heard anything from Garrett Gilbert regarding his recruitment and where he may be leaning? Has he said anything?

A: Gilbert's a quiet cookie ands he's playing this thing very close to the vest publicly, but behind the scenes most feel like he's not only going to end up committing to the Longhorns, but it might end up happening on the very first Junior Day. Will that happen? It's tough to project, but the buzz going around right now from all areas is that Texas is in better than good shape with the state's top throwing prospect.

Q: (Horn In Exile) - Looking at their bios in last year's media guide, it would seem that both Scott Derry and Billy Pittman would be eligible for a 6th year with a medical redshirt. Is this a player's option, or does the staff need to support it? Do you know if Derry or Pittman is planning to play for the Horns in 2008?

A: Usually, you have to find two sides (the player and the school) that want to push for that fight and I think in both of these cases, everyone involved was ready to move on to the next phase of their lives. Derry is competing in one of the post-season all-star games this month and Pittman has pro aspirations as well. I don't think either player feels like another year of football would help them in their developments, so it would simply be about the guys wanting to squeeze in another year as a Longhorn and neither has shown an interest in that publicly.

Q: (cubs17) - Ketch, I'm sure you're going to get a ton of questions about Major. Don't you think Mack would be crazy not push hard to get that guy back on campus. It's obvious he has an incredible upside as a coordinator with the way he has shot up the coaching ranks. Also, I think he would have a tremendous effect on recruiting. What do you think?

A: I think finding a way to get Major Applewhite on staff would be a major coup for a number of reasons, including help I think he would bring to the offensive side of the ball and in recruiting. He's star is obviously on the rise, so if you can land one of the top young offensive minds in the game, your program is going to be better off for it. The obvious issue is that bringing Applewhite back at this point could potentially make things uncomfortable for Greg Davis and Mack Brown because this is a young coach that a lot of Longhorn fans want to see behind the big head set some day. All of a sudden you'd have a rock star as an assistant coach on your staff and Brown's staffs have historically been faceless during his tenures. Outside of the coordinators, you don't hear much about them and that would certainly change with Applewhite aboard.

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