December 30, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (RRDoughnuts) - Walk me off the ledge, please. My fear is that we're really in a bad spot as a program and Mack Brown made a bunch of wholesale changes without a real plan in place. My fear is that Mack isn't going to get one of the offensive coordinators that everyone is talking about and instead we're going to go with a guy in Major Applewhite that might have had the least productive position on the team outside of Bruce Chambers for the last three years. My fear is that this is Bobby Jack Wright all over again. My fear is that Mack is guessing on the defensive coordinator side. Teryl Austin? Justin Wilcox? Do you know what my real fear is? My real fear is that these coaching searches are going to end up like Jerry Jones' coaching search in 2007. Translation: a while lot of unimpressive names and an unimpressive ending.

A: Slow down. Take a deep breath. Relax. In my mind, trust is a big word these days. You are going to have to trust that Mack is going to get it right. I've said this before, but the clutter of the last month doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things - only getting the right coaches does. In the past, Mack has usually hit replacement hires out of the park, so I think he deserves credit and some benefit of the doubt for being able to assemble a powerful coaching staff. I'm also of the opinion that this past season, along with the surprise defection of Will Muschamp, will have him incredibly motivated to right the ship. To me, you either trust Mack or you don't, and I think the majority of Longhorn fans do trust him. There's certainly no reason for the panic button to be pushed because we don't know of a single person that has told Mack no at this point. If you're looking for a good sign and a reason for patience, that's a big one.

Q: (RickNelson) - I've read a lot of negatives about our S and C coach on the boards -- but none of it is substantive as it pertains to his performance. As you know, the comments range all the way from A to B: he's fat and the players are not as strong as they should be. You're close to the program: what's the truth about Madden's actual performance. Does he employ state of the art techniques? Is he hands on? Does he work hard? Are the players truly undersized (as it appeared from the stands anyway) or are they undeveloped? Has Madden's work ethic diminished since Brown brought him from North Carolina calling him one of the most important coaching hires he'd make?

A: I've long thought that the strength and conditioning program had a few kinks. There's no question that Madden has the qualifications and knowledge to be one of the top guys in the country, and he's certainly respected by his peers, but I think after a decade-run in one location it feels like there's a disconnect in the are. That's not to say that the program isn't working for a lot of the players, but you'd have to be a blind man to not see that the development of the big men in the program has been a problem for years, especially among offensive lineman. In the four years they were on campus, I can't say that I ever saw a lot of physical development in high-profile prospects like Kyle Hix, Tray Allen and Michael Huey. While there's been some strength addition, it's not where it needs to be.

Overall, I can't help but wonder if both sides don't need a fresh start. Relationships grow stake all the time and that might be the case here because there was a time when every recruit that came to Texas mentioned Madden and now he couldn't have a lower profile among recruits. The Jeff Madden of 2010 isn't the same guy as he was in 2000. Hell, most of us aren't. However, he's in a position where keeping an edge and remaining sharp is crucial, and he's delegated a lot of the day-in and day-out workload to those that work for him in the S&C area, which is why the area needs as much of a complete overhaul in my mind as either side of the ball.

Q: (CubsBevo17) - Does Brock Fitzhenry have a chance to make an impact next year. The kid is a phenomenal athlete and has been since grade school when he destroyed some Pop Warner teams I coached.

A: Let's see who the new coordinator is, but I have my doubts after three years of not having seen him on the field in any role whatsoever. Don't you have to take the wrapping paper off the kid at some point? His problem is that he's not the only guy with his kind of skill set to be underutilized and he might be lower on the totem pole than guys like D.J. Monroe, DeSean Hales or Chris Jones if a new guy that knows how to use these types of talents comes in.

Q: (mnlonghorn) - There are 2 attributes that make up a Quarterback. Mental and physical.

We would agree that Applewhite had more mental abilities and less physical. Simms, IMHO, had all the physical ability in the world but may have had a bit of a problem with the mental aspects of the game. VY had great physical abilities and later the game became much mentally easier for him. And lastly, Colt started with more knowledge of the game and his physical abilities came along later as he "grew up" got stronger.

Garrett Gilbert seems to physically ready for college football and to have great arm speed but doesn't seem to have the "touch" to get the ball the right place at the right speed. All his tosses seem to be thrown too hard, off his back foot, and thus many tipped and intercepted balls. It seems that he depend too much on his arm strength to get the job done.

How would you rate GG's mental and physical abilities as a quarterback now and do you think his game will change in the near future to where he is in more control of what is going on?

A: Million dollar questions, huh? Of all the players in the program, Gilbert was probably the guy that was caught up in the perfect storm of circumstances that led to a complete meltdown of the program the most. When the staff tried to force a round peg into a square whole with the offense, only to scrap nine months of preparations in about three minutes in September, Gilbert was the guy most impacted. I'm of the opinion that Gilbert was a better player with more confidence at the beginning of the season than he was at the end of the season. Even his mechanics seemed to decline over time. Where he should have improved over time, he regressed in places. Some of that falls on him and a lot of it falls on the coaches, who failed him last year. Point blank. That staff never found answers last year, not even close to it.

So, where is he at mentally? Who the hell knows? Could he be broken? Maybe. A lot of lesser guys would be. Personally, I think the kid will come out of this a better player for it and the fresh start with a new direction will do him wonders. Like a hot shower can help you feel fresh after a week of being sick, I think a change is going to do wonders for a lot of players on the offensive side of the ball, potentially.

Physically, the kid has the tools, even if they need to be refined. The mental growth is always the toughest and none of us can accurately project how he'll hold up to the pressures and responsibilities of his position.

Q: (Horndog33) - Ok so this is something that I've always wondered about but have never gotten a clear answer on. We all remember the troubles that we had with our punt unit last year and with Curtis Brown in particular. If I remember correctly he was replaced by a freshman on punt duty. My question really boils down to this:

What makes a player suitable for punt duty as opposed to kickoff coverage? Is there a difference in skill sets? Why are some players fit for kickoff duty but not fit for fielding punts? Doesn't seem to me that there is much difference other than the amount of time the receiver has to catch the ball. Is that all there is?

P.S. List the top three best punt returners AND kick off returners in the last 15 years for the Horns.

A: There's quite a difference between punt and kickoff returns. It's the difference between running through moving traffic with your head looking forward at all times and standing in moving traffic with your eye focused only on catching the ball, while all hell possibly breaks loose around you. The simple act of catching the ball is different from the way that it comes down with its trajectory to the types of decisions that have to made on the fly (an area Texas players really struggled with in 2010). Also, from a skill stand point, you can be a big, fast straight-away type runner and have success on kickoffs, but you need to be able to start/stop quickly to succeed on punts and it helps if you're the type of guy that can make a guy miss in a phone booth.

Top three punt returners: Jordan Shipley, Nathan Vasher and Quan Cosby

Kickoff returners: D. J. Monroe, Jordan Shipley and Selvin Young.

Q: (Mighty Texas) - Two questions that have been asked before but now that the air has cleared somewhat, perhaps deserve another try.

1. What is the real reason D.J. Monroe did not play more?

2. Why did Muschamp dramatically tone down his sideline antics and enthusiasm?

A: Monroe entered last season with academic issues and an embarrassing arrest in the off-season. That's enough to get anyone in the dog house, especially Mack Brown's. From a skill standpoint, I simply don't think they trust him - not with the mental side of the game and not in ball security.

Second, I think a season of losing and extremely sloppy play took the fun out of football for everyone, Muschamp included. Let's never pretend he had any answers in 2010. In a lot of ways, he failed just everyone else.

Q: (Smokey Da Horn) - If Will Muschamp had taken the Florida job before Mack Brown fired Greg Davis, do you think he would have still fired him?

A: Complicated question and I think the answer is still yes. That's how bad the offense was in 2010.

Q: (Sugartart) - Do you still feel like the 2011 recruiting class is till going to hold? I worry about Christian Westerman, Quincy Russell and Cedric Reed the most at this time.

A: You certainly picked the three names that most are concerned about. My feeling is that if any of the Texas commitments truly wanted to peel off and look around, the events of the last month have given them that. Westerman has certainly covered his bases, as he should, but I expect him to end up at Texas. The Longhorns would be trouble if they were still actively recruiting a bunch of uncommitted players, but that's not the case. The guys they have want to be Longhorns and I think they'll keep them, with the exception of a guy or two. Just know that the last disclaimer has more to do with the fact that there's usually a de-commitment (or the threat of one) at least once a year and it often doesn't have anything to do with coaching shake-ups.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Do you think Mack will set the stage for one of his new hires to become the next Head Coach at Texas (without the actual designation) or do you think Mack will hang around for another 4 or 5 years? Also, after the consultation from outside sources, do you think Mack will actually let the new guys run their own ship, or do you think he will continue to have controlling input on recruiting decisions and on the offensive side of the ball?

A: I can't see either happening, Mack staying for another four years or him establishing anything close to a HCIW situation.

Finally, I think it's always hard for a new dog to learn new tricks. The pressure will be on Mack to learn a few new tricks in the wake of this sea of change. He simply must understand what his role in this mess has been.

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