October 9, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Principal) - Which team left on our schedule do you feel will be our toughest game to win? If Mizzou can beat Nebraska, I'd have to give them my vote. If Neb. wins that game I don't see any team being able to beat us ....but ourselves.

A: In truth it's probably a question that cannot be answered at this point for a couple of different reasons:

a. We don't yet know if Sam Bradford is going to play against Texas or what that even means. The Sooners have a lot of non-quarterback issues in my mind, but you'd have to rank the return of Bradford (good or bad) as a wildcard.

b. We don't yet know what Oklahoma State is going to look like without Dez Bryant, who may or may not play in the game. The Cowboys are not nearly as imposing without him.

c. We don't yet know what Kansas is going to look like when they come to Austin in November, but I've always considered the return of Todd Reesing to his hometown as the biggest trap game on the entire Texas schedule.

If you pressed me to make an educated guess, I'll rank them in this order (from toughest to weakest): Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas, Texas A&M, Central Florida, Baylor and Colorado.

Q: (MCB0703) - From 2007 - Present, Texas has owned the state for recruiting, especially over OU. I know that OU was able to get players like R.J. Washington, Jermie Calhoun or Stephen Good, but for the most part, Mack & Co have secured the best overall talent in the state. That being said, could you list some of the players you believe Texas should have recruited or you were surprised Texas did not recruit during this 3 year period?

2. Could you list a few players that Texas did recruit that you thought would end up in Austin? The recruits that surprised you by heading to other schools (RS, Aghayere, etc).

3. Hypothetical question...if Will Muschamp decided to take another job, who would be the top candidates to replace Mack Brown? My initial thoughts would be Turner Gill, Steve Sarkisian, Jimbo Fisher, Mark Richt or Tim Brewster...or is there an NFL coach that may look at the job with serious interest?

A: I suppose there are two ways to look at this question realistically and we'll need to separate each year into two groups - guys I thought they should have recruited in-state all the way back in 2007 and guys I think they should have recruited using hindsight as my biggest ally.


Guys I thought they should have recruited: current Arkansas starting quarterback Ryan Mallett (Texas High), current LSU starting wide receiver wide receiver Terrance Toliver (Hempstead), DeSoto linebacker/defensive end Von Miller and Oklahoma State starting running back Kendall Hunter (Tyler John Tyler).

Notes: Mallett would have been a Longhorn in my opinion if they had been a little more patient and not fallen in love with the John Brantley love boat. Tolliver was a guy whose talent I loved, but the Longhorns had their reasons for not offering and I won't second-guess those concerns. As for Miller, he was a die-hard Texas fan that would have initiated the DeSoto pipeline before the arrival of Claude Mathis as head coach in 2008. As for Hunter, he was coming off of a serious knee injury and wasn't 100% healthy as a senior, but he showed special ability as a junior and I thought he was a worth the flyer.

Guys they should have recruited using hindsight: Miller, Hunter, Tennessee wide receiver Darnius Moore (Tatum), TCU wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (Hutto) and Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis (San Antonio Lee).

Notes: Not offering Miller was a clear mistake in my mind and he's emerged as perhaps the best player in the A&M program as a pressure player off the edge. Obviously, Hunter and Lewis have emerged as stars as well, while Kerley and Moore are both very skilled players.


Guys I thought they should have recruited: Starting Michigan wide receiver Darryl Stonum (Sugar Land Dulles), Oklahoma reserve running back Jermie Calhoun (Van), Texas A&M starting running back Cyrus Gray (DeSoto) and reserve Oklahoma linebacker Joseph Ibiloye (South Garland)

Notes: I still don't understand the thought process behind the decision to not recruit Stonum and I felt like both running backs and Ibiloye represented athletic upgrades over some of the other options in this class or players currently in the Texas program.

Guys they should have recruited using hindsight: Stonum, starting Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright (Pittsburg), Starting Oregon running back LaMichael James (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau), starting Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin (Copperas Cove), starting Oregon State running back Jaquizz Rodgers (Rosenberg Terry) and starting Texas A&M safety Trent Hunter (Katy).

Notes: They should have handled Stonum a little differently and they could have had Wright and James with ease if they had gone in that direction and both were given at least token consideration. Rodgers' quick emergence is a total surprise.


Guys I thought they should have recruited: reserve Texas A&M running back Christine Michael (Beaumont West Brook), reserve Texas Tech athlete Eric Ward (Wichita Falls Rider) and reserve Texas Tech running back Eric Stephens (Mansfield Summit).

Notes: Not going after Michael was a big mistake in my opinion and I thought Stephens was perfect for the current Texas offense.

Guys they should have recruited using hindsight: Michael and Stephens

Notes: Both of these young backs are making first-year impacts with the Aggies and Red Raiders, respectively.

As far as a list of prospects that went elsewhere that I thought would end up in Austin, that's a harder question to answer because each of these recruitments usually go through stages where the information that's available is very fluid. For instance, if you had asked me in February if I would have been shocked to see Darius White anywhere other than Texas, I would have said yes (as would the Oklahoma coaching staff). If you ask me that today, there's very little surprise to it.

If you're talking about true surprises, there have probably been very true. I thought Martellus Bennett would end up at Texas because he told Mack Brown as much, but I also had up-to-the-second information on the chaos that went on in the 30 minutes before he announced his decision, which meant that I wasn't surprised when he announced for Texas A&M.

I went back and looked at the last eight or nine years and here are the names that I can remember:

2002 - Justin Warren - LB - Tyler Lee
2005 - Reggie Youngblood - OL - Houston Yates (the suddenness of his commitment shocked me)
2008 - R.J. Washington - DE - Keller Fossil Ridge (I was very surprised his recruitment was over before it ever started)
2008 - Jeff Fuller - WR - McKinney Boyd (I was under the impression that he would commit to Texas if they came forth with an offer and he didn't when they did)

Finally, if Muschamp were to take a job elsewhere, I don't think the Longhorns have any restrictions on the search that can take place. Forget about assistant coaches, the Longhorns will have their pick of top college and pro coaches in my opinion. There are very, very few college head coaches that wouldn't donate a lung for the chance of being the head man in Austin.

Q: (dragworm) - We've heard/read a lot of conversations with the coaches where the defense is described as being "multiple". Can you give us a little detail on what multiple means and some specific examples of when the defense is multiple? How much of the full defensive package do you think that Muschamp has held back so far?

A: When you hear Muschamp use the word "multiple", he might as well be saying versatile because it's exactly what he means. The Longhorns have a base 4-3 defense, but Muschamp wants to be able to line up in just about any front or secondary coverage, and ideally he'd like to be able to do it with the same group of players.

Again, that might mean playing a three-man or four-man front, but even more important than the number of players at defensive linemen, linebackers or defensive backs on the field is the number of things those players can do from a skill and talent standpoint. It's all about being able to have 11 different members of personnel on the field at once that allows Muschamp to call a game without having to tip his hand pre-snap based on a single piece of personnel. Having the athletes that Texas has across the board in all three layers of the defense means that Muschamp can call any assortment of line stunts, blitzes and secondary coverages at any time.

Frankly, I think there's still quite a bit in the defensive arsenal that we haven't seen yet because Texas has been able to dominate teams without a lot of whistles and bells. When the Longhorns have needed a key third down stop or of down/distance calls for it, Muschamp has brought out a few exotics, but you have to believe that there are pressure tactics with certain personnel groups that they've been saving, especially with the meat of their schedule approaching. Overall, Muschamp might not have been able to unveil everything in his bag of tricks in 2008, but that shouldn't be a problem this season, barring a surge of personnel hits.

Q: (texaztom) - There has been a lot of speculation lately about what our O-line might look like in the next couple of years. You addressed some of those questions last week. My question is: Is it possible that Texas, with an eye towards finding starter quality linemen ASAP, might alter their evaluations of HS players to specifically look for guys who seem ready to jump into the O-line early, as opposed to the usual redshirt development route?

A: Probably not. The company line from the school would likely be that they are always looking for the best possible talent - period. I'm really not sure that the staff is of the opinion that there's currently a problem in their current evaluation process of offensive linemen.

Q: (sgdfly) - With the decline of Oklahoma, Ok State, and Baylor due to injury and dismissal, our schedule looks much less daunting than it did to begin the season. We are now easily favored in every other contest for the rest of the year, assuming we stay healthy. I understand that you have to still play the games, and we as fans should assume nothing, but my question is this. Where will our challenge come from? Will we have to wait to play our first legit team in our bowl game, which could possibly be the championship game against a Florida or an Alabama? I'd like to hear your take on whether this should be a concern, and whether you think the team will suffer for not being totally prepared. IMO that's a big jump in competition and our need to adjust to a different level of speed and physicality will hurt us in such a match-up.

A: Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Texas is 4-0 and is nine games away from completing a mission that they've accomplished just once in the last 39 years and the 1969 national champions only played 10 regular season games and two ranked teams before their clash with Notre Dame. When it's all said and done, I believe the Big 12 will offer up strong competition for the Longhorns, but I'm not sure there's anyone on the schedule that can prepare them for a team like Florida or Alabama in a national title game.

The good news is that they do get tested at an elite national level every day in practice. That's where great teams are made and it takes depth to get there. There wasn't anyone on the Texas schedule in 2005 that could simulate USC's talent and skill, but they were able to take the needed steps in adjusting to the upgrade in competition in the championship game because of their efforts in practice.

You're worrying about something you shouldn't be worried about heading into game five.

Q: (updownallaround) - Is there an official protocol that the University of Texas Athletic Department must follow concerning student-athletes that have warrants for arrest issued from the University of Texas Police Department, as opposed to warrants for arrest issued from the Austin Police Department?

Is there any official difference in how the University of Texas handles warrants for arrest from the University of Texas Police Department (not from the Austin Police Department) for student-athletes as opposed to regular members of the student body?

A: I checked in with Texas SID head man John Bianco about the matter (just to be safe) and he confirmed that the school treats all of these situations exactly the same. If a situation reaches that stage, it becomes a legal matter and there's a standard protocol that the school will follow from there, whether it's in-state, on-campus or out-of-state.

Q: (Hookem83) - My questions are kind of all over the place, but here goes...

(A) If you're Mack, how worried are you that the players become overconfident and think that this year's big games are already won due to the apparent misfortunes of our conference competitors (OU's injury problems, Dez Bryant's eligibility issues/OSU's injury concerns)? What would you tell the players to keep them grounded?

(B) How many more commits do you think we will get in this class? Which positions do you think they will be?

(C) Finally, what are your picks for this week's more interesting games?:

OSU at A&M
Florida at LSU
Alabama at Ole Miss

A: First, I don't think this Texas teams looks at the schedule with the same condemnation as some of the Texas fan base. I really don't think complacency is an issue with this team because they know how tough games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas and others can be.

Second, I think Texas adds two more commitments this year on the defensive side of the ball - edge player and linebacker.

Finally, give me the Aggies, Gators and Tide this weekend.

Q: (Anchor Roofing) - What does the team think about the new turf? Is it faster or slower than the old grass? How bad are turf burns? More or less likely to contribute to injuries? Doesn't the little black stuff - ground up rubber? - get in their eyes?

A: There hasn't been a lot of discussion about the turf since the first game and I'll have to check with the players in the next few days to get their opinions on the matter. The one thing I have heard is that the players hate the added heat that comes with the rubber surface. The temperatures on the field are so intense at times that Earl Thomas mentioned this week that he thought his feet were going to all but burst into flames against UTEP because of the heat. Let me dig around a little on the matter this weekend and I'll come back to this question next week.

Q: (lsampson)- There has been a lot of comparison between this year's team and the 2005 national championship team. I've seen position by position comparisons and overall comparisons done. Since the RRR is a little over a week away, could you do a position by position and overall comparison of this year's OU team vs. the 2005 OU team that we beat by 30+ points?

A: Good question and it's not something that I've thought about. Let's take a look:

Quarterback (Edge 2009) - If Bradford plays, this edge goes to 2009, even if his arm is hanging on the ground. Landry Jones vs. Rhett Bomar is probably a push, but I'd lean Bomar.

Running back (Edge 2009) - Adrian Peterson was gimpy and a non-factor in that game and he had nothing behind him. The Sooners have more depth at running back than perhaps any other position on the field.

Wide receivers (Edge 2005) - This one isn't even close. A young Malcolm Kelly, and Juaquin Iglesias, plus Travis Wilson makes this very lopsided, even if the 2009 group still had Ryan Broyles to work with.

Tight end (Edge 2005) - Brody Eldridge is a nice player, but I think James Moses was better because of his athleticism and stronger receiving skills.

Offensive line - (Edge 2005) - The group might not have been playing at an elite level in 2005, but the line-up was full of very talented players that didn't get pushed around like this 2009 group.

Defensive tackle - (Edge 2009) - The Sooners strongest position on defense.

Defensive end - (Edge 2009) - Jeremy Beal is a difference maker that the 2005 group couldn't match and the depth at this position is very strong right now.

Linebackers - (Edge 2005) - Give me a group that had Rufus Alexander and Clint Ingram over the current group.

Secondary - (Push) - I can't really tell the difference.

Special teams - (Push) - The 2005 group has the edge at place-kicker, while the 2009 group has the edge at punter with Tress Way, who was sensational at Miami last week. I'm not sure there was enough in either year's return game that could break the tie.

Overall, I've got it split right down the middle: 2005 (4), 2009 (4) and Ties (2).

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