September 24, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (MBarnett) - 1. Why do you think our defense went to a softer zone when it appears the combination of pump & run coverage combined with bringing pressure on Potts seemed to be working so well?

2. Are there any grumblings INSIDE the program about the offensive line play? I know there isn't supposed to be any of that 'bleed for the program' stuff anymore, but I wonder how true that is on offense. I honestly think Tre' Newton never gets a legit shot to win the job if Foswhitt Whittaker and Vondrell McGee don't get hurt.

3. How would you compare Roddrick Muckelroy's play thru 3 games to that of some of the best LB's Texas has had in the last 15 years? I think he has been absolutely outstanding and he doesn't seem to be talked about much on the board.

A: I think there were a couple of factors that probably led to the decision to play softer coverage in the second half against Texas Tech. Although the Longhorns had a lead on the scoreboard and held the Red Raiders to three first-half points, the inability of the UT offense to consistently stay on the field in the first half put the defense at a huge disadvantage and it led to the Red Raiders owning a healthy time of possession lead through two quarters.

Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp had to know in the back of his mind that the Texas corners/secondary members were going to be playing on fumes in the final two quarters. Guys like Aaron Williams, Earl Thomas, Curtis Brown and Chykie Brown were on the field for almost all of Tech's 80 snaps and Muschamp probably felt like asking them to play balls-to-the-wall press coverage for all 80 snaps would eventually lead to bigger problems. For players that contribute on special teams, their snap level might have approaching close to 100 on the night.

Therefore, once the Longhorns were able to get ahead by multiple scores and create a little separation, Muschamp went to the soft coverage for two reasons in my opinion:

1. To prevent the Red Raiders from a quick scoring play.
2. To protect his team's legs.

Obviously, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Tech was completing a lot of passes on the soft coverage, but Muschamp probably felt like it was the best to preserve his players in the event they needed to go back into the aggressive mode, which they were able to do at various times in the second half.

As far as the offensive line is concerned, those inside the program (from the coaching staff to the players) seem to have rallied around that bunch and it seems like the staff is excepting some of the blame for their problems by reducing the volume of plays and players involved in the running game this week. There's no question that this group needs to perform better, but as someone asked me this week, "What would you have them do? Bench Charlie Tanner for Tray Allen? Do you think that would do the trick? It's bigger than one guy and it's going to take more than one player playing better."

I don't buy the "spilled blood" theory holding on the offensive side of the ball because it's taken less than a month for players like Newton, Dan Buckner and John Chiles to carve out starting positions. That being said, I'm not sure that Texas truly feels like they have any options behind their starters that would improve the line's overall play.

Finally, I said this over the weekend and I'll stick by the comment - Muckelroy's play through three games has been as good as any linebacker that the Longhorns have under Mack Brown, and that includes Derrick Johnson. Although I thought he disappeared against Wyoming, his performances against La-Monroe and Texas Tech were at a nationally elite level. I've always been tough on Muckelroy because he hasn't always been a difference maker. Well, his been that kind of player so far this season.

Q: (Bustahorn) - I read with interest about the Pedialyte and peanut butter sandwich treatment Colt McCoy got at halftime for Texas Tech. How closely is his pre-game hydration and eating monitored on a routine basis? Do football players carb-load like swimmers?

A: The Longhorns do not have a team nutritionist like a lot of schools have employed in recent years, including Texas A&M, but the entire staff from strength/conditioning to Mack Brown all take an active role in making sure that each player is properly prepared from a physical/hydrated state before each game. From the pre-game meals on Friday night to everything that goes in and out on game days, the Longhorn staff makes every effort to have its athletes in ideal game condition. Personally, I think adding a team nutritionist to the staff could only help in a number of areas.

Q: (Leakycow■) - Do I remember correctly that during the season last year, we heard that John Chiles didn't really like the Q-package that was created for him and that was one of the reasons that it was scrapped before the year was over? How did the staff sell him on the idea of the Wild Horn package and is there any indication that Chiles enjoys/likes his role this year better than last year?

A: I think the biggest change in Chiles came in the form of a mental break-through in the off-season. For the last few years Chiles has been banging his head into a wall called the quarterback position when you consider that this is a player with NFL aspirations, it made for a frustrating situation.

If quarterback was his path, then he probably felt like his time in 2008 was better spent at trying to actually develop his talent at quarterback and not in the "Q-package", which probably made last year's gimmick a little unfavorable. However, with his change to wide receiver, Chiles has a clear blueprint for what he needs to do to make it to the next level of football.

He's lost weight and is maximizing his physical ability, which he never did or was able to do in the last two seasons. We're watching a relaxed Chiles for the first time in his career and I think the mental relief has as much to do with his sudden success at receiver as much as anything.

Chiles simply seems like a kid that was without a plan the last two seasons and that's no longer an issue, thankfully.

Q: (Hornrush) - We both know that playing with pain is different than playing with an injury. Going back to the beginning of two-a-days, Fozzy was said to have "tweaked" his knee and yet he still hasn't seen any playing time. Is he injured? If so, how serious is the injury? If not, and I'm not faulting the young man, but does he realize what's happening to him and his future with the team?

A: Whittaker's injury situation has been frustrating to watch, but imagine how anxious he probably is to get on the field. The bottom line is that he's been too banged up for action in the first three weeks, but the good news is that he's been back at practice this week and he'll probably get some snaps as the No.2 back behind Newton this weekend.

Yes, it's tough to know how to project Whittaker at this point and he has yet to prove that he can be more than a situational player when healthy. That's the reality of the situation and he knows that he has to stay healthy in order to change the perception/reality of his plight. All the kid can do is get healthy and give it his very best.

I'm not sure what else he could do. It is what it is.

Q: (Bill Boy Bryant) - Reading Dan's write up on the Tech game and the running game, he mentioned that he had noticed that Texas is running a lot less Zone Read and has run more Counter plays in the running game this year. Any thoughts regarding this? I have not looked up the stats of how many rushes or rushing yards Colt has through the first 3 games of 2009 versus 2008 or even 2007 but it is pretty obvious he has not run the ball much this year. It appears some of this has been by design to protect him but if Texas is going to get to where they want to be offensively, you would think that Colt is going to need to run the ball more as this is a definite strength of his even though in the few times he tried to run on Saturday Tech was able to keep him contained.

I also feel Texas needs another option at RB besides Newton, it appears right now that he may be asked to be an every down back but will rotate D.J. Monroe and McGee in from time to time, while using Cody Johnson on short yardage. Pretty amazing that in the Spring and in August, there was talk of Vondrell, Cody or Fozzy being the main guy at different times and right now, it looks like they are #3, #4 and MIA. Maybe they need to give Jeremy Hills a few carries and see what he has to offer and they really have not given Cody an opportunity other than in short yardage. They need to figure out a better way to get the ball to DJ in space, they definitely have not done that the last 2 games. All night I was waiting for the wheel route out of the backfield to DJ, I assume it is coming soon GD……………………………..

How do you see the running game evolving as the season moves forward?

A: The Longhorns are still trying to figure out who they are as an offense through three games, especially as a running team. Part of that indecision stems from trying to protect McCoy from taking as many hits each week and I think the staff originally thought they could get by without him holding a star role in the running game, but they seem to be learning that he has to be involved weekly in order for this part of the offense to be maximized.

In my mind, that's what this week is all about - defining what you want your running game to be. With conference play right around the corner, they've got to figure this out, which is exactly why Mack Brown is mentioning the staff wanting to simplify the running game with fewer plays and players this week. Look for the counter to be one of the offense's big plays this week because it seems to be the play that everyone has the most confidence in.

The starting job and the heavy workload is now Newton's to lose and McGee/Whittaker/Johnson are all fighting with each other for a role as the team's No.2 back, while Monroe mixes in at the position a few times each week. That's where things are headed right now. The coaches appear eager to end the platoon rotation and it will likely begin in earnest this weekend.

Q: (colliedp) - After week 1 I was a little embarrassed to see the homer crowd make an appearance...You know the ones who think everything at Texas is better than anything else in the whole world? "Deep Snapper is a 1st Day selection next year!!! Hook'em!!" Yeah, I dislike those peeps too. Anyways, when I tried to simmer some of these people's hopes and dreams down, I got scolded. So I thought, maybe, just maybe they'd listen to your opinion.

1st Topic - OU's record: Many, too many, posters responded to your post with comments of OU possibly going 6-6, and 7-5 was highly likely, with 8-4 being best case scenario. Let's remember that Stoops has only lost 24 games in his ENTIRE 10 year career at OU prior to this season, but I digress. I heard that they would struggle against Tulsa and Miami was a sure loss. Last time I'll say this, don't ride your hopes on the ACC, especially Miami. OU will truck their aces as well, but we'll have to wait and see me proved right. With this said, what is your NEW (you know I had too), honest opinion on OU's final record?

2nd Topic - OU's O-Line: Again, after 1 week of watching OU, all the song birds came out chirping that OU's line was "horrible", "miserable", "total wreck", etc... Now, I'm not stating this is a top-notch OU line, like last years team, but I'm willing to put some money on the table and say they've played much better than Texas' O-Line since week 1. I'm pretty sure we all agree that Tulsa is a better program and team than ULM or Wyoming. Our O-Line didn't dominate ULM, Wyoming, or Tech so far this season giving up 1 sack each contest and the ground game sputtered. While OU obviously dominated ITT Tech (sarcasm) big deal, and they dominated Tulsa. So, as of today, which starting 5 (reserves/depth is not taking into effect) O-Line would you prefer to roll out against UTEP this weekend...Texas' or OU's?

Bonus Round: My friend loves to send out this email he pays for called, "True Orange Instant Updates". I immediately delete it, because everything on there is like 2 days old. Who is this Jerry Scarbrough and does he steal information from your site and redistribute it for a profit? Does really consider this dude a competitor/threat? He gives updates on UT soccer for crying out loud...I'm out.

A: It's probably too early to know who Oklahoma is as a football squad right now, although I will confess to being impressed with the way they throttled Tulsa at home. I thought G.J. Kinne and Co. would have a little more fight in them than they showed, but give credit to the Sooners defense for flat out dominating Tulsa.

In my mind, OU's schedule is their biggest problem. In addition to playing on the road at Miami, at a neutral site with Texas and at home with Oklahoma State, the Sooners also have road games in Lawrence, Lubbock and Lincoln this year. They still have games against Jacory Harris, Colt McCoy, Todd Reesing, Taylor Potts and Zach Robinson in front of them.

That's a brutal slate.

On top of that, we don't know if the offensive line is making the kind of progress that will allow them to be competitive against quality competition, which the Sooners have only faced once this season. As inconsistent as they've been through three games, I'd still take a Texas offensive line that had quite a bit of success against Oklahoma last year over this Sooners bunch that is being held together with duct tape right now and has zero depth (even less than Texas). I give them just a little credit for performing well the last two weeks.

The Hurricanes represent a true spotlight game and will provide a glimpse of what they'll likely be the rest of the season. Frankly, I have no ideas what to expect, but I'm not buying Landry Jones just yet and I'm not buying that Sam Bradford is back by the Texas game.

We'll just have to see.

Finally, I'm a big fan of Jerry Scarbrough and he's one of the pioneers of the Texas Longhorns recruiting/team coverage industry. We've always viewed Jerry as a friend of the site and friend of the family, and we've worked well together on various stories over the years. He's not a big Internet guy, but there's no question that he has sources on the Texas staff and I believe him to be one of the good guys in our industry.

Q: (MCB0703) - 1. A few weeks ago, I started a thread on OB about having a "shake-up" on the coaching staff because I've seen a trend of recruiting losses that have come back to hurt Texas. Now, I admit I should've added my reasoning for this the time, my thinking was about recruits like Malcolm Kelly, Tommie Harris, or JaMarkus McFarland...these were all Texas leans that ended up @ OU and either hurt Texas on the field during their time or (in the case of JM) could have been playing this year @ a need position for Texas. I understand recruits choosing Florida, USC, etc over Texas...those recruits will not hurt Texas on the field...but Malcolm Kelly caught the game-winning TD against Texas a few years ago, Tommie Harris was consistently the best OU defensive player against Texas, & if we want to add Adrian Peterson to the conversation, he was a big player in the 2004 game that gave Texas their only loss, including a 50-yard run on his first carry. My concern is the current staff may not have a recruiting closer like Tim Brewster was during his time @ Texas. If we're being completely honest, if Mack & Co do not receive commitments by April, they typically will not win these high-profile recruiting wars.

Again, I'M NOT STATING ANYBODY SHOULD BE FIRED (for those on the board who didn't read my full posting the first time)...but is it time to bring in an asst coach as a LB Coach or Special Teams Coach that can recruit with the best recruiters in the country? I believe coaches like Bobby Kennedy or Bruce Chambers don't get the credit they deserve as recruiters...but programs like USC or Florida have the most aggressive recruiting STAFF'S in the country & I'm not sure we can say that about the current Texas staff. Also, we know that Mack & Co recruit Texas HS players first because of the immense talent in this state...USC could say the same thing about Cali HS players or UF could say the same thing about Florida HS players; yet, both of those programs always get elite players from all over the country. Finally, another thought I had about this was the de-commitments that have occurred over the last few years; & this is another reason why I believe adding another asst coach would help.

2. Can you explain the NCAA rule(s) regarding red-shirt players? Is this a grey area that's reviewed on a player-by-player basis? Just seems as though there's been some confusion about a few players that have been injured or have academic issues & if they can qualify for a RS. EX: Mason Walters...if his injury is more serious than previously thought, is eligible for a RS for this season?

A: There are several layers to this discussion, but the Texas recruiting strategy is what it is, and it's netting the Longhorns a top 5-10 class on pretty much a yearly basis. Does it have flaws? Yes. Is it hugely successful. Yes. Could the Longhorns use a Tim Brewster-type in recruiting? Yes. Would he make a huge difference in the overall recruiting production of the school? I'm not so sure.

Guys like Major Applewhite and Bobby Kennedy are aggressive recruiters that would work the nation as hard as they possibly could, if that was a true option because it absolutely would help build up their coaching reputations and make them more attractive for possible future jobs down the road. The current recruiting strategy doesn't really allow for an aggressive, comb-the-nation type approach to things.

Texas has its philosophy and it's not only working, but it's putting them in a position to dominate the state and compete for national championships on an annual basis. I don't expect to see mass changes as long as Mack Brown is the head coach.

As for the redshirt question, understand this - every player has five years to play four seasons. That's first and foremost the rule you need to remember. When talking about a guy like Collins, you have to keep in mind that he never had a redshirt season, which means that he can use this year as such. Meanwhile, Christian Scott did take a redshirt year, which means he doesn't have that option.

Remember - five years to play four.

The grey area comes into play when we're talking about injuries, but the NCAA has given out extra years of eligibility much more freely these days, which means that a guy like Mason Walters would probably get a medical waiver for this season and still have four years of eligibility remaining if his season ended. Usually, players that play less than 20-25% of the season are eligible for that kind of petition and have a good chance of being rewarded if their injury did in fact wipe out the rest of the season.

Q: (SouthPaugh) - Since academics and grades seem to be relevant right now, here is a question I have had for a while. Do athletes utilize the standard grading system at each institution or is there a standard set by the NCAA? For instance, I know at Ole Miss a general student can replace two grades by retaking the course. When I was at UT, there was no grade replacement and the new grade in the same course was calculated into the GPA with the old grade. Obviously this would not impact a player who just doesn't have enough credits. It could severely impact a young player's GPA.

Are there any other academic disadvantages for UT athletes compared to athletes at some other schools of which you are aware (other than offering entire curriculum's and majors that we all know are a joke)?

A: I might be mistaken on this and if I am, I'm sure it won't take long before I'm corrected, but I'm pretty sure that there's not a lot of consistency from school-to-school when it comes to a standard grading system.

Each NCAA athlete is responsible for being on pace to graduate from a declared major through each year of his eligibility, but the means for getting there are going to be different at Stanford than you'll probably find at Houston. The Texas athletic department deals with countless professors in a variety of majors and all of them have different systems for determining final grades and there are very few lay-ups when you're talking about the 40 Acres. You have to do your home work and you have to pass the tests. If you don't, you're on shaky ground when it comes to replacing grades or making an appeal because if the professors don't sign off, you aren't going to win.

The academic disadvantage for some Texas athletes that struggle academically is that there are schools across the country that will baby their athletes through the academic side and put them in courses where they can float by to stay eligible. It's easier to do that at some institutions than others. For instance, I'm guessing that Rice and Stanford don't have a lot of "jock classes".

Q: (Dropshot_7) - Hey Ketch, let's pretend that when Will Muschamp takes over, he changes the offense to a more pro-style attack, like, Alabama, let's say. Will that work in the Big 12? Can Texas keep up? My fear is that no matter how good the defense is, we're still going to find ourselves 14-21 points in the 2nd half (Ok State a few times), and not be able to claw our way out. It's my opinion that we need to be running a spread, quick-strike offense to be able to keep up in a situation where we're on the road, and our opposition is on fire. Your thoughts?

A: As all my Baylor friends remind me, there's more than one way to skin a cat. The Longhorns didn't need a wide-open spread offense on Saturday to be effective against Texas Tech because of their defensive play. If you've got a great defense that comes to play each week, you'll likely win a lot of games, even in the Big 12.

The problem in the Big 12 is that you never really see any great defenses. It's like asking if there's a sound made when a tree falls in an empty forest. How would you ever know?

Q: (Bandhorn71)- Ketch, maybe it has already been discussed, but if memory serves me correctly, another big difference was the lack of any serious injuries or unexpected academic casualties in 2005 compared to 2009. And then again, maybe I am just getting senile or both.

A: The 2009 team has already lost more players to academics/injuries through three games than the 2005 team lost all season.

Q: (SmokeyDaHorn) - I'm worried that the Longhorns are so consumed with perfection this season and that the guys on the team won't take time to smell the roses of a possible early season. Can someone remind the team that college football is supposed to be fun and if you do go undefeated, it should happen with a smile?

A: Going through a full college football season is a near-impossible task when you look at the math. My radio show co-host Chad Hastings did a breakdown of 15 different elite programs over the course of the last 50 years and out of 750 years of football, a true undefeated season among the nation's elite occurred 33 times… or four percent.

That means that the odds of going undefeated in any given year for a Texas, Florida, Ohio State, USC are about one in 20.

If you go all the way back to 1959, you'll see that Penn State leads the way with five undefeated seasons, but some schools like LSU and Florida have never pulled it off. Think about that for a second because both schools have won multiple national championships in this decade, but neither has ever gone undefeated.


In my mind, the endless pursuit of perfection is akin to chasing the Fountain of Youth. You might eventually find water, but it's likely never going to be exactly what you anticipated. With all of the talk about undefeated teams and how many there will be in December, understand that the math suggest that there might be one undefeated national power at the end of the season.

Everyone has to start respecting college football and the task of going undefeated more than they are because it's one of the toughest things to do in college athletics.

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