November 18, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (mars512) - If Texas were to turn over on the coaching staff and you had a say-so, who would you pick for offensive staff?

A: If we were starting from scratch and I could put together a dream team of offensive coaches, I'd go:

Offensive coordinator: Dana Holgorsen (Oklahoma State offensive coordinator)
Quarterbacks: Major Applewhite (Texas running backs coach)
Running backs coach: Ron Gould (California running backs coach)
Wide receivers coach: Brent Pease (Boise State wide receivers)
Offensive line/tight ends (assistant head coach): Greg Roman (Stanford tight ends/running game coordinator)

Q: (Longhorns27) - Could you go into detail about what kind of offense Major Applewhite would use as an offensive coordinator? Maybe some of the personnel he would favor using and if we have that personnel currently on campus? Thanks.

A: I think it's a tough question to answer because he's such a young coach that still seems to be forging an identity. In his two years as a coordinator before coming to Texas (2006 with Rice and 2007 with Alabama) he achieved mixed success with mixed authority, but seemed to be a guy who was developing a rep as a spread guy, especially after working under Todd Graham with the Owls. When he moved over to Alabama the following year, he brought a lot of the spread game principles he had developed under Graham, but before he could unpack his belongings in Tuscaloosa, it appeared that Nick Saban's trust in the young coordinator wasn't strong and there were some real undermining taking place at that job that made determining what was and wasn't his influence impossible to tell.

After three seasons of further apprenticeship under Greg Davis, it's probably impossible to say what Applewhite, who is suddenly in his 30's, might look like as the chief director on offense in 2010. There's obviously a lot of spread-game influence in his background, but this is a guy that has spent time around the likes of Saban, Bill Belichick, Greg Robinson and a number of other pro influences that have no doubt impacted his offensive football ideology.

As far as I'm concerned, Applewhite as an OC with complete authority is a total wild-card.

Q: (hornrush) - I realize that among all of the questions that this staff and team must answer (or try to) between now and next August, this one is probably the lowest on the proverbial totem pole but for info junkies like me perhaps you can give it a whirl. If not, I understand.

When summer workouts, 7 on 7's, conditioning and weight workouts begin in the summer do you or the OB staff believe that some serious changes in the "requests" for voluntary participation will be made to get the entire team to take these seriously and participate fully? Further, there's been a lot of eating our own on this board and Jeff Madden has not avoided the ire of a lot of brothers and sisters here. Do you or the staff believe that this is an area of concern to not only address the previous question but to do a better overall job of strength and conditioning, especially with offensive and defensive lineman, before the 2011 season begins?

A: Let's answer the first question - yes. In retrospect, this team's off-season was not as strong as it needed to be and some of that definitely falls on the coaches, but the players need to own a massive piece of the responsibility as well. As was reported throughout the summer, the participation clip in 7-on-7 workouts was not near 100% and that includes a number of players who are "prominent" starters. For example, it was reported time and time again that Fozzy Whittaker was the only front-line running back that consistently attended the workouts, which is unacceptable. Whether there's summer school or jobs or whatever, this team needs better participation in the off-season program and it needs to be demanded from the ranks of the players.

It was too much to expect that Garrett Gilbert would make this team without having ever started a game and because this team has historically relied on its quarterback to tie the entire team's shoes in the summer. I blame that on the coaches and the upper-classmen for not shouldering a big enough load in that department and for simply expecting that Gilbert would do it alone because that's the way it's almost always been. That being said, Gilbert has to step up in 2011 because part of the duties of the quarterback in this program is to be the task-master in the summer/off-season. That's just part of the deal for the position here. He'll be the guy with the keys to the facility. He'll be the guy who organizes things. He'll be the guy who drives the next Brandon Collins to practice if that's what is required. There will be no passes in 2011 because Gilbert assumes an upper-class title next season. If this team doesn't truly become his, they can't win big.

As for the strength and conditioning program as a whole, it's clear that there's a lot of right when you look at the number of NFL players that have been produced and the number of games (up until this season) that the program has won. However, the development of the offensive line has been subpar for nearly a decade. If you take out the rare cycle of players that was mostly comprised of 2001-02 recruits, there's been a lot of failure in the development with the big fellas for most of the last decade. Period. Someone has to start owning the facts of what is taking place there. It's possible that the best offensive lineman recruited/produced by Texas from the 2003-09 recruiting classes is Adam Ulatoski and he didn't so much as get a hard sniff from the NFL. (Note: I didn't include Tony Hills is the discussion because he wasn't recruited as an offensive lineman, but even if you include him, it doesn't change the spirit of the discussion)

Q: (Baiken) - Mack Brown's teams have historically demonstrated deadly punt blocking and field goal blocking units. In hindsight, Mack's worst Longhorn teams are those that don't show the ability to get to the ball or don't even show a real effort by the coaches to get to the ball in special teams situations. Specifically, this year and 2007 come to mind (although, I'll admit that I don't have any statistics to back that up). Do you think this issue is caused by a lack of player talent or sporadic coach complacency in that the coaches don't quite show the attention to detail in some years as they do in others? If the coaches aren't showing the requisite attention to detail for success in special teams, it could indicate that they are not showing the requisite attention to detail in other areas affecting the team's overall performance. Just to clarify, I'm in no way trying to indicate that the coaches are lazy or not working hard, but even the best professionals have some ups and downs in focus.

A: I think it's just a perfect storm, which has caused a confidence issue from top to bottom that can especially show its ugly face in the special teams phase. A lot of mistakes on that side of the ball have occurred because this team's best players have made them. It's certainly not because the coaches don't spend enough time working on special teams - that is not the problem. I'm not sure the coaches can quite figure out why more good things aren't happening on that side of the ball, but it's possible that the special teams units are simply receiving the trickle down of slop that has permeated throughout the offense and defense for much of the year.

Bottom line - when a structure collapses, all of the walls come down, not just some of them,

Q: (The Texas Fan #1) - I keep hearing conflicting reports on how much of an influence Mack has on the offense. I am not sure if you can find the true answer to this, as I am sure it could change week to week, game plan to game plan, but I am just curious what you know. I am wondering if he is more the CEO that he said he is; he did want the offense to move to more of a downhill running game, but then stays away/has little to do with the day to day, game to game part of it (doubtful I would think). Or, he is more of a hands on, "I want a run here (let GD pick the play); I want a pass here (let GD pick the play). Maybe he is a little of both (have been around coaches who are all three). I just wonder how much control he has and how much he gives to GD; and, how much you think control will play in deciding (if GD for some reason leaves) who he wants as the next OC.

A: Mack Brown is an old offensive coach that has throughout the term of his UT tenure spent considerably more time with the offense than the defense. Nothing has happened on that side of the ball without his say so. His fingerprints are on everything.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Ketch, in your opinion how will this season's play of the team affect our prospective recruits that haven't committed? Also, if Mack does make changes to the coaching staff, will that impact any current recruits that have committed to us? And do you think Mack will finally open his eyes and make some necessary changes?

A: There are three intertwined questions here, so let's attack this in order and simply navigate our way through the conversation.

First, if we're talking about uncommitted 2011 prospects, the number is so few that I'm not sure it's worth having a discussion about it. I'm guessing this season isn't going to tilt the scale too much with Jermauria Rasco and outside of him, who else are we talking about? I think the bigger question is going to be the created impact on 2012 recruiting. A number of other in-state and regional programs have increased their own momentum and it will be interesting to see what the atmosphere looks like in February for the first junior day. My guess is that Texas still controls the recruiting in this state, but perhaps they won't have a 90% stranglehold as is usually the case.

As it currently stands, the current 2011 class is maintaining steady as a rock in these strong winds of discontent, but that could and probably most certainly would change with a shake-up in the assistant coaching ranks. Of course, that's part of the risk you run with staff shake-ups. It's impossible to guess who the primary candidates for a de-commitment, but the easy answer is to simply look at the class and identify the prospects that were the most difficult to land in the first place and circle their names if you're trying to be a boy scout and remain prepared.

Q: (Ptrain37) - From your sources and just your gut feel, what you think the draft stock is for some of these Sr. and Jr. Longhorns:

Aaron Williams
Sam Acho
Curtis Brown
Chykie Brown
Kheeston Randall
Keenan Robinson
Eddie Jones
Kyle Hix
Emmanuel Acho

A: Let's start with the seniors. Acho and both of the Browns figure to be top 100 picks - somewhere in the second and third rounds would be my guess. Jones is going to be an impossible guy to project because he might have to learn a new position at the next level and his medical report could scare everyone away from him. There were reports that Hix had a fourth or fifth round grade entering the season, but that is probably too ambitious at this point per a couple of scouts I spoke with this week. I would expect that Hix and Michael Huey get drafted, but it might be late for both.

Williams' stock was really high going into the season and he almost certainly possesses a first-round grade, but his stock has cooled some with a fairly quiet junior season and two people that I trust feel like he would be best-served by returning for a senior season. He'll have the toughest decision to make of any Longhorn on the roster.

The rest of the underclassmen need to stay in school. A month ago, I was told that Robinson was trending upwards, but the last month of the season has not helped his cause, as teams have bludgeoned the Longhorns with the running game and some of Robinson's weaknesses have been better exposed than they had been previously. Don't get it wrong - the kid could come out today and likely be a second round pick, but there's more for him to accomplish at Texas and more developing that needs to occur in the minds of scouts, who believe his eventual upside is very high. Bottom line - if he wants to be a sure-fire top 32 pick, he'll need to return to school.

Q: (JimsTexas) - How many coaches step down at the end of the season?

A: Whether it's retirement or repositioning or whatever it ends up being called, I do think there will be some tweaks in the off-season, but I'm still not convinced that there's going to be a sea of change. I'll say two non-coordinator changes at this point - one on each side of the ball.

Q: (treefitty) - I want the bottom line truth. With the number of nagging injuries and lack of explosiveness being demonstrated by the majority of our players this year, do we have a strength and conditioning issue? I don't care how Mad Dog looks - if he's the best, then he can look like Pee Wee Herman or Mark Mangino and I'd be fine with it either way. I'm wondering if there is too much of a focus on weight training and not on explosive agility and joint strengthening. We have more turned ankles, sore knees and shoulder tweaks than we can shake a stick at. We aren't standing up well to the wear and tear of the season very well. I want the truth. I can handle the truth.

A: I say yes. I don't think the entire program has issues, but there are some areas in the strength and conditioning program that need obvious improvement. I'd go so far as to say if the focus has been on weight training, where the hell is the evidence? When Mack Brown goes into the basement for a few weeks after the Texas A&M game, he needs to take a hard look at every area of this program and Jeff Madden's role in the failures of this season need to be examined. The idea of there being any sacred cows in his program needs to slip away.

Q: (harrylime) - I just read the thread asking about why the preseason and game predictions have been so far off. This hasn't been the case in previous seasons. I'm just wondering, what's changed? Are there different sources? Is Belmont tightening the access? Has the program's staff been self-deluded to the point that they really have thought that things are great, great, great?

I hope you know I'm not flaming. I'm just wondering if something structurally has changed enough to affect the product on the field as well as the information coming out about

A: I think the bottom line is that after nine consecutive 10-win seasons, winning was taken for granted by everyone and it made giving the program the benefit of the doubt a pretty easy thing to do. I think that explains a lot of the pre-season stuff.

That might be the weakest answer I can give you, but I think there's a lot of truth in it. There were a lot of assumptions made by everyone and we've all been reminded this year what happens when you assume.

The sources aren't any worse. Or dumber. There is continued tightening of access, but it hasn't been a huge deal. The biggest change to access occurred in 2006 when the school started strong-arming the media from attending unorganized, unsanctioned workouts, which is not consistent with the policies of a number of other major powers. In fact, there are a number of sites ( that actually record/post off-season workouts to the public.

Alas, that's not the score here in Austin.

It's also important to remember that this team simply has developed at all during the season and so much that was predicted of this team was predicated on them actually improving from week to week. I don't know if they are better today than they were in week one. That's the truth.

Q: (HornNdriftwood) - Why haven't the players stepped up and taken ownership of the team?

A: Like the seniors on the 2006-07 teams didn't know how to run a team after Vince Young departed following the 2005 season, I believe that the seniors on this year's team simply sat on the coattails of Colt McCoy and a few others on those 2008-09 teams (that have now since departed). The 2006 team had some big-time players throughout the line-up, including on the offensive line, but they didn't know how to lead and the off-season participation lacked that year as did this year.

It's up to the freshmen, sophomores and juniors on this team to ensure that someone starts to take over this team because this senior class wasn't ready for the challenge.

Q: (topgrpguy) - There have been so many newbies (not just Freshmen, but new players) playing this year, can you list the 3 who have most surprised you with their performance and 3 who have most disappointed you and 3 that are just who you thought they would be? You can include those that haven't played at all in the disappointment list, if you wish.

A: I think part of the problem with this team is that there really haven't been a lot of surprises, at least not good ones. The only one I can think of is Trey Hopkins up-front. Outside of that, there are a lot of bad surprises, but those names tend to fall into the disappointing category.

Three most disappointing: Garrett Gilbert (who I thought would be a star this season), the entire wide receiver unit and Blake Gideon (needed to be the same kind of playmaker he was in 2008 and he hasn't been).

Three who are just what I thought: Keenan Robinson, the entire offensive line and the Texas running backs.

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