September 3, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room



Q: (Chris Arnold) - I'm glad to see Tevin Jackson finally get the respect he deserves. I can't name an linebacker that I'd rather have in this class. Barry Every says "He is almost big enough to be considered a defensive end at the next level." At 6-3, 230 pounds with film like he has, what are the chances he makes it into the top 15 by year's end? Oh yeah and … ummm… I'm gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday.

A: He's obviously not far from that kind of territory in the rankings now that he's cracked the top 50. If he has the kind of season at Garland this year that a lot of people think he's capable of, I wouldn't rule anything out. Yes, I think he's a definite five-star candidate from here on out.

Also, Gary Cole mastered one of the best roles in the last 20 years of movie comedies, but his character on Entourage is making me want to give up on the show. He's ruining Ari Gold. This whole season needs to be washed away, like when Bobby Ewing woke up from a dream in Dallas.

Q: (Bringin DaFunk) - Can you explain what separates an elite DE at the college level from an above average end. From all accounts, Tim Crowder and Brian Robison were athletic freaks with a weight room ethic to go along with it. They were both strong, quick, fast, and had the size. Was there an ingredient missing that prevented them from reaching that elite level that Brian Orakpo obtained? Or is it a scheme issue and they could have posted monster sack numbers under Will Muschamp as well?

How do the current DEs (Sam Acho/Alex Okafor/Eddie Jones/Russell Carter/Tevin Mims) compare to the likes of Crowder/Robison? Is Sergio Kindle the only current DE that has the same dynamic package that Orakpo brought to the table?


A: I think the first important thing that truly separates the elite ends at this level from the really good is elite burst and quickness off the ball. When you look at pure athletic skill, Crowder isn't in the same league as Orakpo, but he was solid to slightly above-average across the board at everything, especially defending the run at the point of attack. But he was never a guy that opposing teams had to game-plan around because he might have been a very good rusher but he wasn't impossible for an offensive lineman to get his hands on. Robinson definitely had the athletic skill to be a great player, but injuries have always been his Achilles' Heel and he's probably a better athlete than he is a complete football player. As much upside as he's always had as a pass rusher, he has some limitations in the other aspects of the position. The truly great ones are great players and great athletes. The two guys you mentioned really possessed one of the two traits and not both, whereas Orakpo put it all together in his final season in a way that few college players ever will.

I do think that both players might have developed a little more had they been able to play under Muschamp, who almost certainly would not have had them playing run-first on obvious passing downs like we've seen from former defensive coordinators. That's not so much of a knock on the other coaches that supervised their development on the 40 Acres, but Muschamp is the best defensive coach Mack Brown has ever employed at any of his head coaching locations.

Of the players you listed from the current Texas program, only Okafor and possibly Acho look like players that could eventually cross over into the land of greatness. I think the other guys all have something keeping them back, whether it's health related or a skill set that includes an elite-level first-step or outright quickness/speed/explosiveness.

Q: (Beagleme) - Why do we risk injuring Jordan Shipley in the return game this early in the season? Against a team like La-Monroe, what do we have to lose if we give punt or kick return opportunities to Marquise Goodwin, D.J. Monroe and DeSean Hales?

Also, will Brock Fitzhenry see the field see the field in 2009?


A: I think the coaching staff really is on the same page with you when it comes to Shipley handling returns against the La-Monroe's off the world, especially when you consider that he's been nursing a groin ailment the last couple of weeks, although it's not considered to be serious. I really believe that the staff has not made an official change in this part of the depth chart because it doesn't want to make it look like it is concerned and trying to protect Shipley.

As the season continues, look for the staff to pick its spots with Shipley. The coaches totally understand his value to the team and they understand the risk/reward that comes with him handling returns against teams that they can beat by 50 with the second-team on the field. I would imagine that when it's all said and done, two things will occur:

1. The Longhorns will use Shipley like the Washington Redskins used to use Darrell Green. When the occasion calls for it, he'll return kicks. When it doesn't, he won't.

2. As the coaching staff gets more and more comfortable with some of the young players that you listed, they'll start to assume more of the overall return responsibilities, but at this point none of those guys have ever played in a game… not even a single snap. Mack Brown is going to need a little more time before he's comfortable turning the steering wheel over to a 16-year old that just got his driver's license.

As for Fitzhenry, I'm sure he'll get a little bit of late-game playing time, but his role on the team this year is not expected to be significant.

Q: (Prosperity) - 1. When Vince Young left early for the NFL in 2006, did you anticipate his game/skill eventually translating over well or did you think he would struggle perpetually? What did your inside sources tell you about his decision at the time? Selfish reasons aside, did Mack/Greg Davis think Vince truly needed another year of seasoning or did they think he was as ready as he could possibly be to make the transition?

2. Scheduling - OU has stepped up its future, scheduling home-and-home series' with the likes of Tennessee, LSU and Ohio State. No longer being able to use the Big 12 South schedule as an excuse, do you see Texas scheduling similar type games, maybe against an Auburn, Michigan and Georgia in future years?

3. There has been some suggestion that Will Muschamp was given the title of head-coach-in-waiting primarily to prevent him from leaving and for continuity at the defensive coordinator position. If you were to place odds, how confident are you that Muschamp will be the next head coach when Mack hangs it up? Related to the scheduling question, do you think as a head coach Will Muschamp adds a stiffer opponent or two to get the team ready for the conference schedule.


A: I have to admit that I thought Vince Young would be a superstar at the NFL level and I'm shocked that he took the league by storm only to have it all slip away from him in such a sudden manner. This is a guy that was on the cover of Madden two years ago!

I did believe that he could have used another year at the collegiate level because his passing game reps were so much more limited than a guy like Matt Leinart. Even though he had mastered the college game to a certain extent, he needed reps, reps and more reps and, I think that's abundantly clear now. However, from the moment that Young stepped on campus he had confided in those closest to him that he always envisioned himself as a three-year guy in college and that he stayed through his fourth season was a little off his original self-created personal plan. As soon as he went into Superman mode in 2005, I never thought for a second that he would return in 2006, even if Mack Brown apparently did - hook, line and sinker. I've always wondered if Brown truly felt that way because if he did, I'm not sure he really had a good feel for the situation.

As for your question about scheduling, I'm not sure that Brown is going to be looking for a match-up against a true non-conference powerhouse while he's still at Texas. Don't get me wrong, I don't think he's afraid of playing anyone, but I don't think he believes the risks are worth the reward. I think what you see on the non-conference schedule right now for the foreseeable future is what you're going to get.

Finally, that's one of the best questions I've seen in months and I'm shocked that it's not been asked before in a Locker Room setting. Yes, there's no question that one of the big reasons for the move was that Mack Brown was able to secure an elite defensive coordinator for at least one or two national championship runs. With Muschamp controlling the defense, Brown feels like he's got a chance to exit on top. It's a win-win from his perspective because it also helps the program in recruiting by being able to stomp out the effort by other schools to paint Mack Brown's possible departure as a negative recruiting tactic, while potentially allowing him to have a huge say in who carries on the torch that is his legacy.

All of that being said, I don't have a ton of confidence that Muschamp will be the next coach - it's probably 70-30 in my head at best that it actually happens. If the Longhorns have a special season in 2009, Muschamp is going to be a white-hot commodity with major head coaching job offers. His agent is Jimmy Sexton, who is one of the super agents in college football. Most insiders believe Sexton will push for him to leave to take a big-time job and not leave money on the table while waiting for Mack Brown to step down. It's going to come down to a timing issue when it's all said and done, unless Brown has already indicated to Muschamp of the specific moment that he'll step down and all of the parties involved are totally comfortable with the timetable. Publicly, they have never hinted that a meeting like that has occurred.

Q: (Jackal14) - Geoff, I am a long time member, but this is my first crack at sending a question for the locker room, let's see if I can pull it off. So the coaches have talked a lot about putting Colt under center to improve the running game and to give the running backs a head of steam before they get to the line. My question is why haven't they played around with the idea of the pistol formation that Nevada uses? You would think that this formation would be ideal for Colt to have his eyes scanning the field, while at the same time the running back is behind the quarterback, which gives him a head of steam going down him. What is your take on this formation? Would it work for Texas? Why? Why not? Thanks

A: I think the pistol formation is a hell of a lot more effective when you can have a viable threat at tight end to help in both phases of the offense. I am surprised that the Longhorns haven't toyed around with the idea a little more in the last season or two because it would seem to be a wrinkle that could have helped the running game, but I'm not sure we're going to see a lot of McCoy under center this season. For all of the talk in the pre-season about wanting to get under center more to help the running game, Mack Brown has already started to hedge his bets a little on the topic and it has everything to do with the inconsistency/injury depleted state of the tight end position. Of course, the Longhorns could go with an extra lineman type (which pretty much represents Greg Smith's role), but you are sacrificing a lot in the way of explosive ability with that switch. Do you want to take Malcolm Williams, John Chiles, Brandon Collins or James Kirkendoll off the field in order to get Smith on it? Neither do the coaches.

Q: (BriConMaz) - What do you think about the "jumbo package" this year? I always liked it when we had Henry Melton and Derek Lokey on offense together. Something similar this year? Obviously, I think we'll see Cody Johnson. Any chance we see Sergio on offense? Thanks.

A: I'll hold off on casting judgments on this year's jumbo package until we see it in action, but I think it certainly has some promise when you examine the line-up. With Cody Johnson at tailback, Lamarr Houston at fullback, Antwan Cobb as the moving H-back and the combination of Smith/Britt Mitchell as the tight ends, I think you've got a potentially potent group, especially if Smith and Mitchell come on. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting on Kindle getting many offensive snaps.

Q: (ut_alh) - What things are you looking for on offense and defense that will make you feel that this team is on the right track? I am sure that something like a shutout would be one of those, but I'd take giving up some points to get more people "live" action. What about you?

A: If we're talking about the season-opener on Saturday, I think you'd love to see obvious improvement from the offensive line. This should be the kind of team that five returning players (four starters) should be able to dominate and if they can't, there's an issue in my mind.

Over on the defensive side of the ball, I expect flat out domination. This is a team that went 4-8 last season and now it is coming in with a new quarterback that's making his first career start. Nothing could happen that would make me think it's time to panic, but I'd be less than honest if I told you anything less than a bloodbath would represent a disappointment. After dominating Colt McCoy and Co. at times throughout camp, this challenge should be child's play for this unit.

Q: (treefitty) - Coach Boom has to rotate a lot of guys in and out at DB against the spread to keep everybody fresh. When facing an OU or a Tech, what number of plays do you think he can count on a CB or safety to be really effective late into a game?

A: Great question. When you play Tech, you're talking about an extra 20-25 snaps, which means that depth becomes an issue across the board and not just in the secondary. I think Muschamp is probably comfortable with his best guys playing 60-65 snaps if needed, but you'd probably like to whittle that number down by a dozen or so, if possible, to maximize their quality of play.



 

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