September 3, 2008

Inside the Locker Room

Q: (Utsaappt802) � Long time reader, first time writer. My question going into week two is regarding the comments Mack Brown made about our issues on kickoff returns and kickoff coverage. Do you foresee the coaching staff trying out new personnel on kickoff returns other than the typical appearance of Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley? If so who could we possibly see back there in week two and if so are we better served saving Quan and Ship for playing WR only and letting someone new take over the kickoff duties? Also, regarding kickoff coverage, what seems to be our issue here? Is it personnel related or did we just do a poor job covering/ tackling/ executing on kickoff coverage in week one? Thanks

A: Let's start with the kickoff coverage from Saturday. I think it's important to understand that the hardest thing to simulate in practice is the speed and tempo that you find on special teams on game days. You can talk as much as you want about what it's going to be like, but with so many young kids out there on those coverage units, it's not surprising that things were a little shaky in week one. I would expect a lot of improvement in this area from week one to week two, and I thought there was definite improvement in the areas of kick coverage as the game went on.

As for who could potentially handle kickoff duties down the line, I think there will eventually be an urge to get someone a little more dynamic back there returning kicks, but for now I expect the coaches to stick with Shipley and Cosby back there because with all of the things they currently have to worry about, young players mishandling balls in the return game isn't one of them. Is it safe? Yes. Is it understandable? Yeah, a little. Let's see how things develop over the course of the next three weeks because the schedule should allow for some low-pressure moments in the return game and that should give a player like Malcolm Williams or Chykie Brown opportunities to prove they can be trusted when the game is doubt. Ultimately, Shipley has been injury-prone and keeping him on special teams only enhances the odds that something could happen to a player that couldn't be replaced right now if he were to get hurt.

Q: (lsampson) � After the first week of college football, how have the rule changes (40 second clock and facemask penalty) seemed to affect both the offense and defense in college football as a whole? Does it make it more difficult for either the offense or the defense in the long run throughout the season?

A: I think teams have probably worried a little too much about the new rules to be honest with you and I'm not sure that a lot of people didn't overreact to the rule by thinking that they would need to go into the no-huddle offense to combat the constant running of the clock. In reading comments across the country this week, the early verdict on the rule change is positive. It seems to have given the game a good pace and the players on both sides of the ball seem to have made a seamless transition and I'm not sure that either really has an advantage. It looks like the college football governing body got this one right.

Q: (Shull) � With all the talk this year about the new clock rules (for the third year in a row) the question that occurs to me is why they don't simply keep the clock running after an incomplete pass? I've never understood what is so different about that play than a running play (where the clock continues to run.) Is this simply a legacy of the days when the forward pass was an exotic play or is there a sound reason for this rule? It would also help keep games between two passing teams under 5 hours.

A: It's important to realize that the coaches might want quicker games, but they don't want to lose offensive snaps in the process and I think the new rule change has finally gotten it right and we're not going to see drastic changes moving forward. I don't think you need to be in a hurry to end the game, which simply having a full running clock would do considerably, but there's no question that running the clock after all plays would have a very negative impact on the quality of the game.

I've always been in favor of the rules that the NFL uses, which runs the clock after all runs and completed passes, whether they finish inbounds or out, up until the final five minute marks of both the first and second half. Once you hit the final five minutes, the clock stops when you go out of bounds or when there's an incomplete pass. The NFL might not have everything right, but they've got the clock stuff pretty much perfect and you don't see them looking to tweak their game much each season. The colleges just need to suck it up, admit that the pro system is better and make the changes, which is something they did do this year to a certain degree by implementing the 40-second clock.

Q: (Gumbywan) � Do you think the suspension of Lamarr Houston for 1 game [assuming it remains one game] will cause a disruption in team chemistry? Do you think Sergio Kindle and Henry Melton may perceive this as unequal treatment?

A: Probably not. There are a couple of things to consider with this situation. First, it was a different time and place last year when Melton and Kindle were hit with their individual situations. At the time the Longhorns were smack dab in the middle of a series of crime-related problems that had really began to make the program look very poor. Those two were punished very hard, especially when compared against the sentences handed down to peers across the country in similar situations.

When you look at Mitchell, he's been a model student and citizen during his time at Texas, so the staff could decide that one game is enough punishment depending on what happens in the legal process. Mack Brown could also decide to give him another game or two down the road, but the severity of those previous suspensions had more to do with timing than anything else because Brown had to make a statement and those two players caught his wrath for an entire off-season that had gone poorly. Those kids paid for their mistakes, but also for the ones made by Andre Jones, James Henry and Robert Joseph. Brown needed to get his program back and he made a statement last year.

I'm not so sure that he feels like a statement is needed right now with this team. Of course, if someone else gets busted within the next month for another similar situation, all bets are off because Brown might be forced to rule with more of an iron fist in regards to this matter. For now I think he feels like he's handling exactly right and it's almost 100% consistent with how the rest of the nation handled similar situations.

Q: (tntwilleford) � I attended the Florida Atlantic game and was it just me or did Chykie Brown seem to get burned a lot. Why was he starting in front of Deon Beasley?

A: I'm with you that Beasley probably needs to be the starter over Brown at this point, but I think the staff was rewarding Brown for having a strong training camp and Beasley had been a little dinged, which caused him to miss a few workouts in August. I think you're missing the bigger point here, which is the excitement over the apparent development of Brown. That the staff has reached a strong comfort zone with him is a huge story because he has as much raw ability as anyone in the program. I'm not sure that he got "burned a lot", but he gave up a few completions against FAU and he'll get better. With both corners healthy, this spot will be determined on the field after there's some separation, but at this point there's good competition over at that second cornerback spot and that's healthy.

Q: (MisterYetzer) � Geoff, after using Cody Johnson inside the ten yard line early in the game, the coaches used Vondrell McGee on the next several goal-to-go situations. Why?

A: This staff has a lot of confidence in McGee and for good reason in my opinion. Keep in mind that this was the first game of the season and this is a team that's going to need McGee to convert some of these short-yardage situations. In a 52-10 blowout, the staff was looking to get a lot of different looks and they wanted to see the players tested in as many ways as possible. Bottom line- the staff probably feels good about all of their backs in those situations � Chris Ogbonnaya and Foswhitt Whittaker included. That's a good thing.

Q: (Horns a Plenty) � Let me preface my question with a comment. Mike Tolleson has done a super job since he came to Texas. He has put many of Texas' defensive tackles into the pros. We as Horns fans should all be proud of his accomplishments at UT and his career in coaching. Now with that said, since Coach Tolleson is getting up in age:

(1) Do you think there may be a plan already in place for his retirement and replacement after this season?

(2) Do you think he relates well with the young people of today when he goes out to recruit.

(3) Could you name some of the young big time College DT coaches out there on the rise these days that would fit with the UT Staff?

A: Well, let's just hit each question, one-by-one.

First, there have been rumors for a while that Tolleson might soon look to retire, but those rumors have existed for a couple of years and he hasn't gone anywhere. I doubt there's a plan in place at this point. Rather, Brown is completely content with Tolleson's presence in the program and I think he'll likely stay until he no longer wants to. After putting in 11 years in Austin, Brown probably feels that he's deservedly earned that right.

Second, I don't think relating with today's athlete has ever been much of a problem for Tolleson because he's always been a successful and popular coach/recruiter.

Finally, if we're putting together a wish list for the future, keep an eye on the following names: Alabama's Bo Davis (who had a five-year stint with Galena Park North Shore earlier in his career), Florida's Dan McCarney (who Mack Brown has a lot of respect for), Georgia Rodney Garner (tough to land, but a dynamic recruiter) and UCLA's Todd Howard (graduate of A&M and a native of Texas) are a few names that I would keep an eye on.

Q: (Texaspride0929) � Well with the loss of Lamarr Houston for the UTEP game how do you think that will impact our D-Line?

A: I don't think it's going to have much of an impact at all, at least not for one game. UTEP didn't figure to run the ball much on the Longhorns to begin with, so I would expect Aaron Lewis and the rest of the defensive tackles that get bumped up will step up nicely for one week. Keep in mind that this is UTEP, not Oklahoma that we're talking about. Also, this could mean more playing time for a guy like Kheeston Randall and that might not be a bad byproduct of the situation.

By the way, it was nice to meet you this weekend at Scholz's. Glad you came by.

Q: (DougNTexas) � 1. Ketch, can you comment a little about the street agent deal and if you were Mack Brown and DeLoss Dodds would you turn them in to the NCAA? Do you think they turned in anything to the NCAA in the Scott deal last winter?

2. Is it too early to take a look at who might be real leans in the next Class for UT? Who is likely to be a Texas verbal by March 1st?

A: I think everyone is probably making too big of a deal out of the street agent talk. Is it an issue? Yes. Is it something that they are going to have to deal with in the future? Yes. Could they conceivably turn in people that they feel are not playing it by the books? Yes. Those things being said, this is still somewhat of a limited problem and I could also see Texas simply choosing to stay away from kids that have been tainted with their associations of these piranhas. Mack's history at Texas has shown that he's much more worried about the guys that he feels that he can get and he isn't losing sleep over the ones that he can't. If you mix yourself up with that kind of shadiness, you're probably not going to be recruited by Texas when it's all said and done.

As for your second question, I think there are a lot of early Texas leans that could emerge as early commitments. Of the players currently listed on the Lone Star Recruiting Top 100 for 2009, I think the following players would/will be very interested in offers from the Longhorns: Haltom defensive end Reggie Wilson (No.3), Dallas Skyline linebacker Corey Nelson (No.4), Huntsville athlete Justin Gilbert (No.7). Waco Midway safety Ahmad Dixon (No.9) and Humble Atascocita wide receiver Quentin Parks (No.10). Heck, those are just the players out of the top ten and it doesn't include others like Cedar Park offensive lineman Dominic Espinosa, Austin Bowie wide receiver DeAndre Perry, Cedar Park Vista Ridge running back Calvin Thompson, Cedar Park defensive end Holmes Onwuskaife, The Woodlands offensive lineman Chad Lindsay or Cayuga running back Traylon Shead, who will think strong about a commitment if the Longhorns offer. I think it's fair to say that the Longhorns are in great early shape for 2010.

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