May 21, 2008

Serious football talk in this week's Locker Room

Q: (Cgarcia89) - Why has the TE position become an after thought in this offense? Since David Thomas left it seems the TEs have been the very last option in the passing game. We wasted the talents of Jermichael Finley in my opinion and now Blaine Irby seems to be the next casualty. Is it because the lack of playmakers at that position or is it the offense is just not really looking at the TEs as much with Colt McCoy at QB?

A: Wow, that's a loaded first question. I think the biggest reason for the tight ends becoming a less important piece of the offense is that there's been a dip in the talent level when you go from having Bo Scaife and David Thomas to the next generation at the position. I'm not sure that Finley was wasted in the offense because he did have one of the single-biggest seasons in the history of the program at the position. Only Thomas has ever posted better numbers in a season than the ones that Finley posted in 2007. The area where Texas could have done a better job of featuring him was in the vertical passing game. There were just too many underneath routes for my liking, especially when you consider the lack of vertical passing game weapons that were available in the second half of the season once Limas Sweed finally called it quits. It's also important to note that he was a tough player to trust at times because of his inconsistent route running. None of the staff members will ever say it publicly, but Finley wasn't in the same ball park as Thomas or Scaife when it comes to competing well consistently.

In looking into the future, it's way too early to proclaim Irby as a success or failure, but keep in mind that he played quite a bit as a true freshman, which isn't something that Finley was able to do. Let's give him a few seasons before passing judgment because he still has plenty of time to develop into a very good player. Heading into this season the tight end position is definitely going through a transition because-there's nothing known about this group other than they lack a proven resume. Greg Davis loves the tight end position and if he has guys that can make plays, he'll put them on the field. This de-emphasis of the position this year, or at least the projected de-emphasis of the position, isn't by design.

Q: (HookemUK) - There seems to be a growing debate among the OB community regarding the actual OOS threat that LSU's football program poses in the recruitment of Texas kids.

What I've noticed in recent posts is that the more senior OB members (in terms of subscription length that is) are adamant that LSU does not represent a serious threat to Texas recruiting (probably a bigger concern for Aggie in fact). On the contrary, however, the newer OB members (yours truly included in this group) are equally as committed to their belief that LSU is absolutely a serious and immediate threat to Texas in this regard.

The recruiting numbers from the past five years suggest that the senior OB members are indeed justified in their assessment given the fact that LSU has only signed roughly 4 Texas kids in each of its last 5 classes. Of course, with an average Rivals star rating of ~3.5, there is no denying that the 21 Texas kids that LSU signed during this period were/are quality players. In fact, all but a few have been rated as among the Texas Top 100, with two Rivals 100 members sprinkled in for good measure. That said, however, the actual volume of recruits signed doesn't suggest anything even close to an OU-like OOS recruiting threat. At least, not yet.

Therefore, in an effort to gain a balanced view regarding the matter (or more likely to stir things up just a bit), I'd like for you to give us your views regarding the level of threat that LSU currently poses to Texas specifically in the recruitment of in-state, Texas kids.

I suspect that you have an opinion on the matter. In fact you recently noted in a 2010 recruiting profile that you risked sounding like a "broken record" due to the fact that so many Texas recruits seem to be mentioning Texas and LSU almost in the same breath in terms of their top schools. I suppose I'm wondering if you believe that this is the beginning of a worrying trend because at least based on the early '09 LSU verbal commitments in hand (not to mention a very visible recruiting duel at the moment for another '09 Texas commitment) it sure feels like one is developing.


A: Heading into 2010, I think LSU has replaced Oklahoma, at least for the short term, as the real headache for the Longhorns in competition for in-state prospects. The Tigers have already had their hands in Houston, the Golden Triangle and in East Texas for years, but their reach is starting to extend into Dallas and other areas of the state. Mike Sherman has yet to prove that he can recruit at a high level at Texas A&M and Oklahoma is mostly relegated to East Texas/Metroplex when it comes to having real recruiting juice. Since their Rose Bowl win over Michigan, the Sooners have only occasionally been a factor in head-to-head recruiting against Texas. Outside of Brandon Mahoney, there's not much on the current Oklahoma commitment lists that the Longhorns had an interest in. That doesn't mean that OU's haul from this state isn't strong or that they won't turn out to be better players than the ones Texas recruited, but it does reflect a four- or five-year trend of Texas crushing the Sooners in head-to-head competition. Heck, if you take out Stephen Good and R.J. Washington in 2008, it gets to be pretty slim pickings for OU when it comes to recruiting victories over Texas since that initial Rose Bowl win.

Through this season, LSU hasn't been much of a factor in head-to-head recruiting, especially outside of the Southeast portion of the state, but that's likely going to change in the next year. If Texas fans didn't like Les Miles before this year, they might really start to dislike him in the very near future.

Q: (UTtreetop) - I'm a little curious about the state of the quarterback position. While the idea that Colt McCoy is the starter is undisputed by almost everyone that follows the program, I continue to hear from friends that are connected to the program that John Chiles is going to receive a heavy dose of snaps in front of McCoy. My first question is simple - what's your projected snap total for both players by percentage? Secondly, if I painted a picture of this team struggling offensively and perhaps dropping two straight games in Big 12 play at Colorado and then against Oklahoma, would there be a point where the staff would bench McCoy in favor of Chiles? If the answer is yes, what would that mean towards the projected direction of the offense we appear to be headed forward with? If Chiles were to ever pass McCoy on the depth chart, could it potentially leave us in a position where we'll be stuck in the same kind of offensive no-man's land that we've been in for much of the last two seasons? I'll hang up and listen.

A: Heading into this season, I'd guess that McCoy is going to take 70-75% of the snaps at the quarterback position this year and it's hard to project otherwise until Chiles has a little more success in live-game action. Although the reports from the spring about Chiles were positive, the jury is still out on his ability to have success in the passing game and move the offense consistently. Of course, the jury is still out on McCoy in several areas, so there are quite a few final rulings that haven't been made.

It's really hard to answer your second question without getting a few more specifics. For instance, what if the running game struggles behind an offensive line that isn't yet a high-level proven product? The teams that Mack Brown has had that have struggled to run the ball consistently have usually struggled to win games against quality competition. If the team were to struggle on offense and Brown didn't feel like it was McCoy's doing, it's hard to imagine him making a switch, unless he thinks Chiles is ready to become the guy. I think this team is McCoy's team right now and that dynamic often gets lost on a lot of people when this position is discussed. For the guys on the team, McCoy is not only extremely popular among his teammates, but he's seen as someone with skins on the wall. Whether you think that should matter or not, it does make a difference in the way everyone thinks about the two.

If we're comparing this season to 2003, it's important to remember that Chiles isn't considered the future of the position in a way that Young was viewed upon his arrival. Heading into that season, a lot of people (including myself) felt like Chance Mock was better prepared to lead the offense, especially with the strength of the team's skill being at receiver. Even if you believed that to be true, it was hard to envision Mock holding off Young beyond that season because it was projected that Young was on his way to stardom. On the other hand, most people seem to think that the starting job is McCoy's for the next two seasons and it would take a really bad team situation to occur in order for a change to be made.

As far as Gilbert is concerned, I think the direction of the offense was decided the day that he officially committed. It makes sense to think that when McCoy departs after 2009, the keys to the offense will be handed over to the hometown-kid with the five-star talent. His talent will dictate a big shift away from the 2005 offense that won a national championship, and I think you'll see the Longhorns recruit for that kind of scheme in 2010. It's interesting to think about how the Longhorns might have tried to recruit from 2004-07 had they known then what they know now about where they would ultimately go with the offense post-Vince Young.

Q: (Burnt Orange Media Conspiracy) - One of the rumors going around is that John Chiles has recently gone into Mack Brown's office and asked to be moved to wide receiver. Have you heard this? Where would that leave Texas at quarterback?

A: That rumor did float around a few weeks ago, but several people close to Chiles strongly refuted it. I'm of the opinion that Chiles likely feels like he's closer to being a starter at quarterback than he is anywhere else, so this rumor is likely going to be something that pops up throughout the off-season because Chiles has becomes every Longhorn fan's favorite offensive Play-station weapon, but it likely has little substance. Texas is fairly thin at quarterback at the moment and if he did make a request like that, it would leave the Longhorns without much of a safety net.

Q: (ElPasoMD) - Did I or did I not hear everyone say that we were going to go out of state more in recruiting? Here we are nine months from signing day and we've basically narrowed our out of state recruiting down to one kid that paid his way to Austin in the spring and one other that might come down in June. Is this just another case of Mack Brown saying one thing in February, because it sounds good to the alums, and meaning something else when it comes time to make actual recruiting decisions? It seems safe to say that Texas will never be a factor in national recruiting while Mack is the coach.

A: I had a person that I know and trust tell me that Brown had personally told him that he was frustrated by their national profile and that he wanted to start changing their approach to out of state recruiting. The hiring of Major Applewhite and Will Muschamp was supposed to be a boost to this exact area of recruiting. However, the Longhorns don't appear all that interested in expanding their search for talent nationally. Texas might be looking to add only another prospect or two in the 2009 recruiting class, and those that have been targeted have been known for a while. There are a couple of different ways to perceive this approach and the defenders of it will say that it shows just well prepared the staff was for this year's class and how well they believe they've already filled their needs.

Q: (SmokeyHorn) - How would you compare the current defensive backfield talent to the class that graduated in 2005-06?

A: I believe the overall depth at the defensive backfield position is stronger right now than it has ever been at any time in the program during Brown's tenure and that includes the time when Cedric Griffin, Michael Huff and a host of other future NFL players were on the way up. If you look at the 2005 team, there were five great players in that group, but there wasn't much behind those players in the way of comparable depth. The current five best players in the secondary aren't in that kind of league yet, but this unit has four or five extremely talented options at cornerback and safety. In my opinion, Duane Akina has more overall talent to work with right now than he's ever had.


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