April 23, 2007

The Locker Room Report

Q: (Rmsjd79) - Since there appears to be no recruitment of California's Darrell Scott at this time, what do you think the staff's strategy is? We don't have a proven power runner on campus and it would appear that this would be a priority. So if we are not going after him, are there RBs candidates as good or better in state in '09 that they are making a priority?

As for this year, it appears that Jamaal Charles is a better slasher than power runner, and while Vondrell McGee may be better through the middle, he's no Cedric Benson. Do you think we might try to employ a multi-back strategy besides the I-formation, reminiscent of USC's Bush/White? It appears that our primary strategy in the running game is to divide and conquer the defense with 2 running threats, one of whom is the QB. So if Colt is not that much of a threat, what other approach can they employ in this strategy?

A: Let's start off with the first question. I imagine that the staff is aware of Scott's interest in the program and I rally think you might see them begin an aggressive pursuit of him before the end of the spring. However, it's quite possible that the Longhorns are content with the commitments of Jeremy Hills and Tre Newton or that the scholarship numbers crunch will preclude them from taking another back. Regardless, I don't think the coaches are holding out in hopes of landing a "special" back in 2009. The Longhorns haven't signed a "special" back since Cedric Benson in 2001, so it would be pretty presumptuous to think that they could simply write off a big need for another year. The facts are that the Longhorns have signed/committed seven different running backs in the last three years (2006-08), so numbers aren't an issue. The bottom line is that the Longhorns are going to need those players that make up the list of eight to be the answer to their needs and most likely a combination of several players from this collection of talent will do exactly that.

As for what you can look to expect in the running game this season, it would appear to be obvious that the Longhorns are going to have a committee-approach to a certain degree because they simply don't have any reason to believe yet that Charles can be a 20+ carry per game player at this level for an entire season. In order for the running game to really be good this season, Charles is going to need to take his game to another level and some other running back on the team is going to need to step forward. The two obvious choices are Chris Ogbonnaya and McGee, both of whom were very good in the spring.

Still, how does McCoy fit into the mix?

The staff cannot seriously expect McCoy to be the answer for the running game and if they think that the answer to what ails this aspect of the offense is more carries for McCoy out of the zone-read, then the staff is crazy in my opinion. I will not be surprised if the staff tries to mix in some quarterback runs over the course of each game by mixing Sherrod Harris' and John Chiles' skills as runners into the game plans, but McCoy alone isn't the answer. The truth of the matter is that we're likely looking at a question that doesn't yet have an answer and won't until the season starts and we begin to really see what some of these key components on the offense look like against someone not wearing burnt orange.

Q: (Jasondire10) - Ketch, I think it is safe to assume that this year's defense will be the "attacking style" defense we all like to see. However, to do so you have to have the utmost confidence in your corners, to leave them out there on an island. Do you think the secondary will progress accordingly to allow Duane Akina to be as aggressive as he wants to be? If you had to make a guess, who do you see starting come 1st day of the season in the secondary?

A: The secondary in 2007 will not be as good as the 2006 group, but they have a chance to me more productive. I think a lot of the answers in the pass defense have to come with improved play in the front seven, especially with the pass rush. Mack Brown is still looking for a defensive line that can get to the quarterback without having to blitz and as he enters his tenth season at Texas, he still hasn't had it. If Brian Orakpo, Eddie Jones, Lamarr Houston and the rest of the gang can help in that area, the secondary is going to be a lot better. I also think improved linebacker play will help a young secondary because last year's group had to compensate for a lack of playmakers and skill from the second-level of the defense.

I really believe that Akina will have his secondary guys ready to go by mid-season, but it's going to take some time for this group to be a cohesive unit. If I had to guess, I'd think that you're likely going to see a mix of veteran experience and young talent in the starting line-up. I'd project Brandon Foster and either Deon Beasley/Chykie Brown at the corners, while Marcus Griffin and Drew Kelson man the safety spots. That being said, I truly believe that the battles at every position are still open for competition.

Q: (thebigbopper) - After the season and into the spring, Mack talked about improving the running game and in so doing, mentioned we needed the QB to be a running threat. Do you see them trying to utilize Sherrod Harris in late game situations where we have a two score lead and need to run the clock out to help us get more production out of our run game in crunch time?

A: As I said earlier, I'm not sure that the Longhorns have all the answers yet as it relates to the running game. I think the staff has to be seriously considering the idea of using either Harris or John Chiles in the role as a situational running threat in replacement of McCoy, but the how's and when's of something like that haven't been ironed out. I do think that this is an issue that's going to need some tweaking. If the staff waits until the season to see what works and doesn't work, without properly installing some changes to the offense from last season, you might just see this pop up as a reoccurring theme during the 2007 season.

Q: (Beagleme): Can you explain to us what the NCAA rules are for recruiting Month by Month in terms of when the coaching staff is allowed to call players, when it can visit schools, etc,….. Do these rules pertain to ALL coaches ? Is there a maximum # of coaches Texas can put on the road to evaluate talent? Also, what does Mad Dog and his staff do between the end of Spring Practice and the beginning of Fall drills? Are they allowed more interaction with the players than the other coaches?
Lastly, if you were a Coaches daughter looking to plan a wedding which month is the one where coaches would have the easiest time taking time away (vacation) - June

A: Ok, here's the deal with the recruiting contact periods. According to an article on Rivals.com, "NCAA rules say a school can use four weeks - excluding Memorial Day and Sundays - to make two trips to gather more information on a prospect. One visit by an authorized recruiter may be used to assess the prospect's athletic ability and the other can be used to assess the prospect's academic qualifications. By rule, the college coaches are not able to talk to the prospects in person or arrange a meeting with a player, but what often happens is that coaches ask the high school coach if they can accidentally bump into a prospect. When that happens the bump rule comes into play."

While the coaches are on the road this month, Coach Madden and the rest of the strength and conditioning staff will continue to work out the team in preparation for the upcoming season. Each player and position has its own workout program and the players will stick to that program throughout the rest of the off-season. There's no question that Madden and the rest of the S&C staff have much more day-to-day contact with the players than the coaches.

Finally, if you're looking for a month to plan that wedding, I would suggest getting it done in July.

Q: (Newfroid) - Texas football fans have a rep for being quick on the trigger to criticize coaching shortcomings. Let's assume that there is not much new to say on the negative side of the discussion. What about the positive side- can you comment on the areas where you think the UT coaches have performed well, exceeded expectations, transformed a potential weakness into a strength, etc.

A: Let's start at the very top. I think Mack Brown is the best program builder in America. When it comes to taking care of every facet of a program, Brown does it better than anyone - from recruiting to sending scholarship paper sin the mail to newborns to simply making sure that former players know that they are welcomed with open arms. In general, I think this staff does a very good job of developing players. Greg Davis has not had a season in nine years where his quarterback wasn't among the best in the Big 12 at the end of the season and it hasn't mattered whether he's had a five-star freak of a player or a pimple-faced freshman. His guys have been good every year. I think the same can also be said of coaches like Duane Akina, Bobby Kennedy, Mac McWhorter and Mike Tolleson.

Q: (Okiehorn) - What is up with all the Aggie de-commits? Is this fallout from early recruiting?

A: Texas A&M fans are never going to want to admit this, but their program is just another middle of the pack program that has mostly been seen as the constant step-child to the state's flagship school in the eyes of most elite prospects. If all we do is look at the last 10 years, you'll see one program with a national championship trophy and a steady stream of top ten rankings and high-profile moments, while the other is trying to re-capture the magic of its Gallery Furniture Bowl win at the turn of this decade. The problem for A&M this decade is that they still think it's 1993. Once they understand that they've been mostly irrelevant for the last decade-plus, they'll start to understand what changes really need to be made in order to get back to relative national prominence. As long as their program is defined by beating their arch-rival once every decade, they'll remain a step-child in the recruiting wars. That might sound cold and brutal, but it's the plain truth.

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