November 15, 2010

Exclusive information about who's staying or going

1. Had a long conversation with someone inside the program who wanted to set the record straight on where the coaches are in terms of being on the same page.

Some have suggested Mack Brown, Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite are not on the same page. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, if you're looking for staff changes at the end of the year, don't look for Muschamp or Applewhite to be changing addresses from the 40 Acres.

I was told Mack is working diligently with Muschamp to try and get the confidence rebuilt on this team.

Based on the conversation, I took it to mean Mack will make any staff changes with Muschamp's input.

Mack repeated Monday during his gathering with reporters that he will evaluate all three of his coordinators - Muschamp, OC Greg Davis and STC Mike Tolleson - at the end of the year. But with the news that Muschamp is not only safe but working with Mack on how to address the team's problems, that leaves question marks around Davis and Tolleson.

We have received word Tolleson might retire at the end of the year. But what about Davis? This would be the ultimate decision for Mack Brown, who looks at Davis like a brother but probably can't deny the disaster year Davis is having as the OC.

Davis is a great teacher of quarterbacks. But when it comes to play-calling, his performance this season has been nothing short of panic-driven. There have been more change in directions with this offense than were turns by the airplane banner from the Baylor game that read, "Greg Davis Is Not Our Standard."

Personally, I find Davis to be genuine, engaging, smart and funny. But this is easily the worst job he's done in his 13 years at Texas and maybe ever in his career.

Davis is a guy who has to get into a rhythm early as a play-caller. When he gets into a rhythm, he's one of the best. When he gets off script, he just seems lost. And that's been a problem from the beginning of his time at Texas.

But this season, with five games without an offensive touchdown in the first half (UCLA, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State - all losses), it has been an unmitigated disaster.

I get the sense Brown is close to making the toughest call of his coaching career: blowing out Davis as his offensive coordinator. Could Mack keep him as an assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach and bring someone else in to call plays? Yes. Would Davis stick around for that? Probably.

But that would be a sad day for Mack Brown, who pleaded with Davis as the play caller at Georgia under Ray Goff to join Brown at North Carolina in 1996. The two have been as close as brothers ever since. Greg Davis even reads books for Mack Brown and provides Brown with the highlights (Davis is a speed reader).

Considering all the success the two have had in the six and a half years prior to this season with Davis' offense, it would have to kill Mack Brown to have to tell Davis he wants to make a change.

Davis survived all kinds of reports of his demise back in 2003, only to go to two straight BCS bowl games, including a national title in 2005. There have been four BCS games in six years, including last year's national championship game.


2. Tre' Newton, a great kid, who was dealt a tough hand when it comes to football, announced Monday he's done with football after a series of head injuries.

Newton said he had a few concussions at Southlake Carroll and at least three more at Texas. He said he struggled with recurring headaches brought on by certain lighting or loud noise. He can't remember the specific hit that brought on the latest round of concerns.

"After meeting with the doctors, they presented all the facts to me about concussions and how they may affect you in the future," Newton said. "With each concussion they give you a specific test to see how your brain is recovering.

"After going through that and getting all the facts and them explaining everything to me, they advised me it might be best to stop playing football. After praying about it, I respected their decision and went with it."

Newton, UT's leading rusher in 2009 (116 carries for 552 yards, 4.8 ypc, 6 TDs) finishes his career with 781 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns.

"With as much as I love football, this is one of the hardest decisions of my life," Newton said. "But I don't want to have problems remembering things later in life. When you're playing, you never think about getting hurt. But I'm going to have to deal with this.

"I'm set to graduate next December (in corporate communications), so I'll still be around the program for the next year and help the young backs, whatever I can do."

Newton has a 3.6 grade point average.

"You hate that this has happened to a guy like Tre'," said senior receiver James Kirkendoll. "He's the ultimate teammate. Gave everything he had on the field and is great in the classroom. He's someone everyone looks up to."


3. It's important to realize that the team you're watching no longer plays with the confidence they are used to playing with. It's called losing psychology. That psychology dilutes talent and leads to the hot mess you're watching this season.

Sometimes, I hear people saying there is way more talent on the defensive side of the ball than on the offensive side.

Unless the talent is all on the same page and feeling confident about all three facets of the game (offense, defense and special teams), then we start to see doubt creep in. Then, the players look to the coaches to make sure that all three phases of the game are in order.

None of that has happened this season, and the losing psychology has only gotten more invasive.

Anyone who watched the Dallas Cowboys before Sunday's victory over the New York Giants on the road knows what "losing psychology" looks like. Or anyone who watched Texas A&M play Missouri last month knows what losing psychology looks like. Those teams turned it around.

Texas hasn't. But don't simply think that players can block out losing psychology without a reason. The Cowboys (coaching change) and Aggies (quarterback change) had a seismic change to help them turn around their losing psychology. Mack Brown and Co. have yet to come up with their seismic change.


4. Hey, here's a positive note? Kenny Vaccaro is playing some good football.

He looks really comfortable in the nickel. He clearly likes being up close to the line of scrimmage because of the physical play up there. And yet he plays well in coverage and had a nice interception against Oklahoma State.

Vaccaro, who had 9 tackles (including a tackle for loss), an interception and two pass breakups against Oklahoma State, has a chance to be a big-time talent. He is still going all-out and deserves to be singled out.


5. The offense has not had a first-half touchdown in four games, all losses.

If you want to know why I keep singling out the offense as the primary reason for this year's team circling the drain, it's stats like this one.
No first-half touchdowns in the last four games. And no first-half touchdown against UCLA.

So in five of Texas' six losses this season, there was very little hope being given to the defense by the offense.

In fact, that was Mack Brown's very quote after the UCLA game. "The offense just didn't give the defense enough hope," Mack said.


6. Everyone wants Garrett Gilbert benched because he has seven TD passes and 15 interceptions. And people need to stop making a big deal about him wearing contacts because he has a stigmatism. Plenty of quarterbacks wear contacts.

But after Saturday night's 55-yard rushing performance against Oklahoma State, he's the second-leading rusher on the team for the season.

The most sobering fact today is that he's actually the leading rusher on the team with 74 carries for 433 yards, but because sack totals in college come off a player's rushing stats instead of passing stats (like the NFL), Gilbert is credited with 74 carries for 324 yards (4.4 ypc), just behind Cody Johnson's 92 carries for 361 yards (3.9 ypc).

Fozzy Whittaker, who went down in the Oklahoma State game with his recurring stinger, has the best yards-per-carry average on the team (4.5 ypc) of the players who get to play. We all know D.J. Monroe has the best yards-per-carry average on the team (9.4 ypc), but he doesn't get to play.

With Tre' Newton (concussions) now out and Whittaker likely to miss this week's game against Florida Atlantic while he tries to recover from a stinger that has plagued him since the beginning of the season, look for Cody Johnson to get more of the work with Chris Whaley backing him up at tailback.

The coaches said they will not burn a redshirt of a player like Jeremy Hills or Traylon Shead at this point.

The plan at the beginning of the year was to have the running game help take some of the pressure off Gilbert's arm as a first-year starter at quarterback.

The coaches didn't want everything resting on Gilbert's arm, especially after watching a shot at a national title fade away in 2009 because the entire game plan was built around Colt McCoy throwing it against Alabama's suspect secondary. Only to see Colt go down in the first five plays of the national title game.

Now, Gilbert is the biggest part of the team's running game and has become someone the defense has to account for on the ground.


7. Colt McCoy threw an interception in each of the first seven games last season, including two against Texas Tech in Austin in Week 3.

Garrett Gilbert didn't throw an interception in the first two games of the season and didn't throw one against Nebraska in Week 6.

Eleven of his 15 INTs have come in three games - three at Texas Tech (all of them were tipped, two by Tech DE Scott Smith and one off the hands of Malcolm Williams); three against Iowa State in the first game this season that he really pressed and made bad decisions; and five against Kansas State in the second game this season that he really pressed and made bad decisions.

We can talk all day about how Gilbert's numbers are so bad that he's the worst rated passer in the Big 12. But can anyone defend the offensive game plans against Iowa State and Kansas State? Those were two of the worst rush defenses in the country (Kansas State was the worst), and Texas ends up throwing it 57 times against the Cyclones and 59 times against the Wildcats.

The exact opposite game plan from what the coaches said at the beginning of the season (run the ball and play action to take pressure off Gilbert) was in full effect against Iowa State and Kansas State.

Gilbert also had another interception go off a receiver's hands - John Chiles - Saturday against Oklahoma State, giving him six picks this season off his own receivers' hands. One INT was also a Hail Mary at the end of the half vs. Oklahoma.

So before the fan base tears down Gilbert, keep some of this in mind.
Should Case McCoy have played against Kansas State? Sure. But now it seems there's a segment of the fan base that has just written off Gilbert, and I think that's foolish. First of all, my sources inside the team say Case, as a true freshman, still needs seasoning and that the spring, summer and fall of 2011 is when he'll make his case (pun intended), along with Connor Wood to unseat Gilbert.

This kid has great pocket presence. He feels the rush, steps up and slides when needed to keep a play alive. Has he locked onto his receivers too much? Yes. Has he missed open receivers? Yes. But those are things a first-year starter grows through.

We certainly saw this with Chris Simms, who ended up being a third-round draft pick and has seven years of NFL experience. Garrett Gilbert is going to be an NFL-caliber quarterback.

I talk to Gilbert every week. If he didn't have the right attitude, I'd tell you. Heck, I told you Colt McCoy was pressing last year early in the season, and no one wanted to hear it. I told you McCoy was starting to play the blame game, whether it was sickness (against OU) or players not getting it done (his offensive line), and people almost ran me out of town.

Gilbert has done none of that. Ask him about interceptions because of dropped passes by his receivers (and there were six drops against Baylor, including 2 would-be touchdowns), and he has only said, "That's going to happen. That's football."

This kid is a self-evaluator. He's honest with himself. Would I like him to be more of a leader and take over this team? Yeah. He's one of the only playmakers on this offense.

I hated when the coaches forced Chris Simms into the starting rotation in 2000. Nothing about it felt right to me, and I said so at the time. It should have been Major Applewhite's offense until he played himself out of the job. (Mack weakly used a knee injury as the reason to push Applewhite into the background.)

But I agree with the coaches sticking with Gilbert on this one. Flame away.


8. What Colt McCoy is doing in Cleveland this year deserves special attention.

He led the Browns back in the final minutes to force overtime against the New York Jets' defense. The kid is doing what he did at Texas, coming from behind and being a playmaker. And he's doing it for a coach who wanted to haze him this season to see where McCoy was mentally.

I've said Eric Mangini is a Bill Belichick wannabe with none of the skins on the wall. Mangini was dismissive of Colt all through the preseason, not even giving him reps in many training camp practices and once sending him to the line with a made-up play, so Colt would look foolish in front of the team when he asked what the play was. (Mangini lambasted him in front of the team for not knowing his playbook, when the play didn't even exist.)

It was all mental warfare that some would argue was unnecessary. Colt not only survived it, but he's flourishing because he's a winner. Victories against New Orleans and New England and a near victory against the New York Jets. He's 2-2 as a starter for the Browns, and the team is responding to him.

Good stuff.


9. Big 12 Power Rankings

1. Nebraska

Cornhuskers eased by Kansas over the weekend and could have real problems this week in College Station.

2. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys pulverized Texas and have settled into a groove that should ensure they win the Big 12 South title and play in the final conference championship game at Jerryworld.

3. Texas A&M

The Sherminator is making all the right moves. The Aggies have taken down OU and Baylor the last two weeks and can now really make Missouri regret not holding a 17-3 lead against Texas Tech two weeks ago.

4. Missouri

Mizzou beat A&M, but I'm not sure if the Aggies aren't the better team right now. If the Ags pull the upset this week at home against Nebraska.

5. Oklahoma

I was never sold on OU.

6. Baylor

The Bears grabbed a 30-14 lead on A&M last week. Then. Poof. ( and now faces OU in Norman.

7. Kansas State

After toppling Texas, KSU didn't have the energy to take down Dan At-Home Reno battle.

8. Colorado

Colorado wins big for Dan Hawkins. But Iowa State's looking for last week just one month after I started in an issue Texas would not be responding with all.. Who does that?

9. Iowa State

Paul Rhoads is a big-time coach? He tried to roast marshmallows while freezing.

10. Texas

An out-of-conference game with Florida Atlantic. Just what the Longhorns need? … "Right …?"

11. Texas Tech

Tommy Tuberville got a signature win over Missouri then got flattened by OU in Norman. Up this week? Weber State. (Who? …)

12. Kansas

Colorado comeback or no. The Jayhawks have found a home in their mom's basement.


10. Early week prediction

Texas is a three touchdown favorite in this one.

How does Texas score enough points for a three touchdown lead? Just sayin.
Florida Atlantic wants to be balanced between a 2-back, downhill running attack and a play-action passing attack. There are veterans in the secondary for FAU.

So Texas (cue broken record) needs something good to happen early!! (Not breaking any news there.)

Texas 27, Florida Atlantic 12



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