September 19, 2007

This week's Locker Room Report

Q: (texas8891) - While everyone is pointing the finger at Mack Brown and the coaching staff for all of the off field problems over the past year, I genuinely feel that players are much more effective at policing their teammates. Which brings me to my question, who are the leaders of this squad and what are they doing to help hold their fellow teammates accountable? Under Vince, it was clear who was in charge and no one dared step out of line. It doesn't seem that anyone has stepped into that role since he left.

A: I think it's pretty clear that the leadership issue is a major one for the program right now. Players like Colt McCoy and Derek Lokey talked about the lack of leadership last season this summer and when you look at the increasing number of off-field issues, it does point towards a lack of genuine leadership among the player ranks. The Longhorns have a bevy of model student-athletes. Guys like Lokey, McCoy, Frank Okam, Drew Kelson and many others are all great young men that you'd love to hand over to your youngest daughter, but that doesn't make them automatic locker room leaders. This team was so locked into the Vince Young-vibe that they still haven't replaced that void.

Last season there were a few players that tried to be that singular force in the locker room, but it didn't work. Selvin Young wasn't Vince Young no matter how hard he tried. The reason why Vince is such a dynamic leader is his ability to transcend social and racial divisions. There's just not anyone like that in the program right now and I'm not sure a lot of the older guys that leaned on Young while he was here know how to turn around and be the same kind of dynamic leader. It's a lot easier to talk about the void than it is to replace it.

Q: (Hookah Horns) - I absolutely cannot wrap my head around the fact that Robert Killebrew and Rashad Bobino continue to get the start ahead of Jared Norton and Roddrick Muckelroy. How can these two linebackers be so obviously superior and hardly play at all against UCF? Is it a matter of simply wanting to have more experience on the field or are Norton and Muck, in the eyes of Akina and Mac Duff, not playing well enough to bench the incumbents? Do you think that a situation like this can hurt the morale of the team, when the obviously superior player (not just on upside, like with Sergio Kindle, but proven play on the field) can seemingly do nothing to "earn the right" to start?

A: There are a couple of issues at play. First, the entire group of current starters has helped win a lot of football games, including two who were starters on the national championship team. The staff simply feels comfortable with those guys based on their history and the fact that the younger players simply don't have enough skins on the wall to push them past the older players at this point. Of course, the biggest problem in continuing to play the older players is that none of them are playing at a high level and their overall upside as players is limited. Norton took a major step forward against Central Florida and if Bobino doesn't start playing at a higher level, he'll continue to lose reps to a younger, bigger and more physically dynamic player. The same is going to be true with Muckelroy and Kindle. If both can improve their consistency issues, they'll play more because the staff is not going to play anyone that they feel like they can't depend on. Muckelroy was outstanding against TCU, but he was hardly a factor against Central Florida. The up-and-down performances will have to stop before the staff considers benching players that they are extremely loyal to.

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