May 17, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (mikhailtū) - Does Greg Davis leave the coaching staff with Mack? Let's assume he does, and let's assume it's in two years, do you think Will Muschamp turns to Major Applewhite for OC duties? Do you think Major in two years is ready/capable to play-call at Texas? If not Major (or GD) then who?

Also, what do you know about David Durham out of Westlake. Is he an tOSU legacy or is it a curious case of Jordan Hicks-type situation?

A: The Greg Davis situation is one of the great question marks that remain when looking ahead to any transition at head coach from Mack Brown to Will Muschamp. While people have been projecting a possible departure for Brown for a while (and slotting him at athletic director on top of it), I've never felt like Davis is ready to walk away from coaching.

My prediction: Davis will outlast Brown as a coach by at least five years if there's a head coach transition in Austin in the next couple of years. But, does that mean he'll remain the offensive coordinator if Brown isn't the head coach?

The elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge is that Muschamp is a little behind the eight ball on a few issues such as recruiting and the coaching staff. He won't be inheriting a program that really needs fixing, so he'll have to be careful not to change too much (some might even say rock the boat), while putting his own image and imprint on things.

You would have to believe that Davis would have a job as the offensive coordinator for at least a year or two after Brown departs, if he wants it, after building the most productive offenses in the history of the school. Seriously, say what you want about Davis, but his last 10 years have been as good as anyone in college football and he doesn't have any peers when it comes to former offensive coordinators at this school. For all of the criticism he has received over the years, who has been better?

Perhaps there are younger guys out there that can help in recruiting better, but Davis is one of the best quarterback developers and coordinators in the nation, and he's seen and been through it all. Also, where I can see Davis taking a job at a place like Lamar because it's home for him and he loves to coach, I think there are others on the Texas staff that would love to coach at Texas until they decide to hang up their whistles and shorts.

It's a bit of a complicated issue and I'm rambling on a little here. The bottom line is that it's impossible to know how any future transition will unfold at this point, but I do think Applewhite will have a major role in the Texas offense under Muschamp, unless he gets a job offer elsewhere that he cannot refuse (a real possibility). Yes, he'll be ready in two years if he gets the call.

As far as Durham is concerned, he's a nice player/prospect. I saw him in person twice last season and I think he has some ability, but he's a classic tweener and has some athletic limitations. I do not think he has the feet or lateral skill to play linebacker, but I thought the same thing about former Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel. I'm looking forward to seeing him again this fall.

Q: (Treefitty) - Assuming we do struggle on the D-line early this season, what does Muschamp do to cover it up with the personnel we have on the field - how does he make the offense get away from testing our D-line?

A: It depends on your definition of struggling. I assume you mean at defensive tackle and in the defense of the running game. First, let's hold off on any panic until we get to the fall and get a real feel for what the depth within the interior of the line looks like. The staff feels good about where Lamarr Houston and Ben Alexander were at the end of the spring, and there are high hopes with sophomore Kheeston Randall. If the Longhorns can get some meaningful snaps from freshmen Derek Johnson or Calvin Howell, they've got a chance to be pretty good. Obviously, the team will need to cross its fingers and hope the injury bug doesn't bite.

The good news is that there are only a couple of teams on the schedule that could probably take advantage of an inefficient run defense and the Longhorns won't have to play them until the middle part of the schedule, which should allow the coaches to fine-tune things with the scheme that play to the strength of the defense. When Will Muschamp speaks of having a multiple-defense, he means he wants a defense that can give a variety of looks at any time and get away from the chains of the conventional 4-3 set.

Barring a problem with injuries, I'd wager that the Longhorns will pull it all together.

Q: (OleBraach) - Will all incoming freshmen be in school this summer and taking part in the workouts? Will we have any clearing house issues?

Will D.J. Monroe still be concentrating on class work? Or will he be participating this summer?

A: Yes, the overwhelming majority of the 2009 recruiting class will be on campus and enrolled in the first summer school session by the end of the month. That means they'll be lifting and working out with the rest of the team for the next two months, which gives them a major advantage, both with their on- and off-field adjustments.

You can never take the Clearinghouse for granted, but 20 members from this class are expected to participate in drills when August rolls around.

As far as Monroe is concerned, everyone needs to cross their fingers/toes because his fate will probably be determined after the spring semester. After a tough first semester at Texas that nearly led to his departure, Monroe really needed a spring semester, so that he'd have a fighting chance going into the summer. If all goes well, he will be participating in summer workouts.

Q: (Insp_Clouseau) - Obviously we could still win out with the remaining 5 star recruits, but I am less confident than back in March. It seems that every year we get a whole bunch of guys early, and yet for those top notch guys that wait, we seem to have less success.

Why is our success rate so much less on guys that commit later? Obviously there have been some cases where we backed off our recruiting and this will have an effect. Is that the case across the board, in that we put less effort as things go forward than say other competing schools? Or is it that the recruits are turned off by the fact that we have so many commits? I have heard that some of the guys that wait might be some sort of under the table agreement by a recruit or someone associated with the recruit and the fact that Mack does not deal with that may have an impact. Is that the case with some players?

A: First, I think it's important to understand that every recruit has a different story. You're dealing with a bunch snowflakes, with the word flake bring emphasized greatly at times.

I don't know if there's a trend yet that would explain why the Longhorns have been unable to close the deal with big-time prospects late in the process, but it's no secret that the closer the Longhorns get to the first Wednesday in February, the more likely their recruiting efforts are going to go unrewarded. It's a trend that the staff needs to find a way to disengage itself from, but it might require some adjustment to their recruiting tactics and I'm not sure that Mack Brown is willing to make those concessions.

From a philosophical standpoint, Brown has built his post-VY program on the idea that there are no stars in his program and that has really extended to their recruiting strategies. In my conversations with Mack, I've always felt like he believes the thought of compromise on his recruiting tactics would lead to trouble down the road once the prospects get on campus and some entitlement starts to kick in.

Mack isn't about selling a kid on early playing time or the NFL. He's more interested in selling the program, the school and the opportunities the school will open up from a global perspective. In order to close the deal with some of the attention magnets that emerge late in the recruiting process, he's probably going to need to change the staff's tactical approach to one that is more attractive to the desires and interests of the prospects still on the table.

In my opinion, that translates to a concession of principles and I'm not sure that Mack is willing to make that, especially when he takes a look back at the success the program has enjoyed under his evolved program-building philosophy. In his mind, his way works and it works at the highest level.

Q: (mckwall) - Given that it's essentially a foregone conclusion that Garrett Gilbert isn't going to redshirt next year, how do you anticipate him being used? The purpose of getting him time would be to get him a little experience before he's handed the keys to the kingdom in 2010, but I wouldn't think he's going to take significant snaps from Colt in the first three quarters of most games due to the negative impact it seems to have on an offense's rhythm. Do you think I'm wrong and they'll try to force him into an occasionally series in the first three quarters (like they occasionally did with Chiles)? Will he be relegated to simply handing the ball off in the fourth quarter of blowouts, or do you think that Mack is serious about running the offense through his second team all the way through the fourth quarter so that Garrett would get some experience in mop up duty?

A: The smart money says that Gilbert will likely take his snaps exclusively in the fourth quarter of blowout games and most of his work will involve running the same run play until the offense is forced to punt or the game ends. It's pretty much been that way for the last decade, regardless of who the back-up quarterback has been.

I think it's imperative that the staff keep one eye on 2010 this season and that means making sure that Gilbert gets some quality work in game situations this season. If that means that a school that is under contract to take a beating is forced to lose by 50 points instead of 40, so be it.

It will be curious to see if there's any change to Mack's attitude towards late-game situations following the BCS disaster of 2008. Mack has hinted that he might have to keep the foot on the gas a little longer if it's that important to the pollsters that huge numbers are posted on the scoreboard. If the 2009 season emerges as Mack's payback to the college football world for their omission from the Big 12 Championship game and BCS title game, Gilbert will get some good work this season that will certainly prepare him for the start of 2010.

Q: (Marka1) - Two years ago you said the team was lacking in team chemistry and the team suffered through a mostly tough season. Last year before the season you said there was something about this team and you had a good feeling about the team chemistry. You were dead on with both predictions. What does your crystal ball tell you for team chemistry this year?

A: The chemistry issues that plagued this team for a couple of seasons following the 2005 national championship season have evaporated and I would rate this team's cohesion and unity as a primary strength. I'm not sure that it's on the same level as the 2005 group, but there was a special bond by the players on that team and I'm not sure that we'll ever see a group quite like that recreated again.

I knew that season was going to be special before they ever played a game that season after watching that group work out together all summer.

Q: (texaztom) - Besides looking for a team that Texas should be able to beat, with the requisite contractual agreements, does Texas look for any particular traits in a non-conference football opponent? A particular style of offense or defense? Emphasis on a particular facet of offense, such as power running or deep passing threats?

A: There are a number of things that DeLoss Dodds and Mack Brown look for in their perfect world when looking to schedule an attractive home-and-home series. First, they absolutely prefer to play other schools that have outstanding academic reputations to go along with their on-field exploits. Second, they want the road trip game to be something that gets the fan base excited, whether it's based on the competition of the location spot. I'm not sure that the particulars of a team's offense or defense come into play much because the schedules are made so far in advance in a lot of instances. Of course, the biggest factors are always financially related and with everyone looking to play as many home games as possible, finding ideal trading partners for home-and-home series have been come much harder to come by.

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