October 8, 2008

Inside the Locker Room

Q: (JTM Horn) - There has been a lot of talk about the confidence of the team going into this game. Will Muschamp obviously has the defense believing they can shut down OU, but what is your feel for how confident the offense is in their ability to put points on the board? Are they cautiously optimistic, or do they expect to move the ball consistently and put enough points on the board to win a shootout if necessary?

A: I think it's important to understand that Colt McCoy probably enters this game with a lot of confidence because of the success he enjoyed in this game the last two seasons. After winning in 2006, McCoy had his team in a position to win the game last year and the two turnovers proved to be backbreakers. Contrary to the era of Chris Simms, this isn't a Texas offense that lacks confidence in their ability to succeed against this team. Since that 2004 game the Longhorns have scored 20+ points in each of the last three years. In today's age of college football, your offense more times than not will succeed if the quarterback plays well. If McCoy plays well in this game, the offense will be fine, even without the glut of true difference makers at the rest of the skill positions.

Q: (DimiHorn) - Will Foswhitt Whittaker play against OU?

A: It's probably hard to say, but I question how much the staff would want to push the envelope here, especially in light of Chris Ogbonnaya's performance last week against Colorado. Even if he's 100% physically, how willing will Mack Brown be to use a player that has played in one game this season as a central figure in the offense, in what is clearly the most important contest of the season? So, yes, I think there's a chance that he plays, but I'm not sure that anyone could project how much or what kind of effectiveness he'll bring to the table for this specific game.

Q: (bchorn) - Why are Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley not considered deep threats like Limas Sweed was? Are they slower? Did Sweed have better moves that let him get deep?

A: It's important to understand that every player has a different set of strengths and when you're talking about Cosby and Shipley, you're talking about two players who are at their best when they are working the short and intermediate routes, which is why you've seen virtually no vertical routes from either this season. On the other hand, Sweed's combination of size, speed and ability to create separation on those types of routes made him an ideal downfield target. This is where the team badly needs Malcolm Williams to step up and be the guy that can stretch the field because his physical tools make him a natural as a potential downfield threat.

Q: (MCB0703) - 1. Each week, the OB posters & MODS discuss the various areas of improvement that are needed on this team and (to me) the greatest area that should be addressed is the back-up QB situation. We've seen reports of John Chiles having internal issues, possible transfer before this season, or not attending 7-on-7 drills w/ the other skill players over the summer…that, coupled with the lack of development as a passing QB could cause significant problems in case of injury to Colt McCoy. It could be argued that G.J. Kinne leaving was just as big a loss as Jamal Charles or JerMichael Finley…Kinne may not have been as talented or experienced as McCoy, but he was years ahead of Chiles as a passing QB.

My questions…why did the staff or Chiles decide not to redshirt last season? In the past, VY, McCoy and soon-to-be UT quarterback Garrett Gilbert have all taken a RS their freshman year to adjust, learn the play book, and improve, and the results have been extraordinary. To your knowledge, was this decision to not redshirt Chiles from the coaches or Chiles…or both? Also, I'm not trying to throw anybody under the bus, but his leadership abilities have not improved…have you heard anything from the team about his relationship w/ the players? Does the team consider Chiles to be a leader in the same way McCoy & Harris are viewed as leaders? Over the summer, I believe there were various reports about S Harris & how the team really likes his personality and believes in his abilities…if this is the case, it still baffles me how Harris could remain as the #3 QB…I understand he may not have the same athletic abilities as Chiles, but leadership is a major factor as QB & from all accounts, it appears Harris has developed better leadership qualities than Chiles.

2. Over the last few years & including the 2009 class, the Austin area has developed some tremendous talent for Mack Brown. From Blake Gideon, Aaron Williams, Jordan Shipley and Peter Ullman to name a few on the current team. In your opinion, are the high school coaches just more talented & intelligent in the Austin area than in previous years? Are there different programs and schemes preparing these players better than in previous years? Just seems as though there are just as many impact players from Austin & Central Texas as UT would normally receive from the Houston or Dallas regions.

A: Wow, talk about a loaded set of questions. Let me start at the top and we'll see if I can work my way through everything. I think the biggest thing about last season's decision to play Chiles during his true freshman season is this:

a) Chiles wanted to play and never wanted to redshirt.
b) The staff viewed Chiles as a potential impact player because of his physical tools.

When we talk about the decisions made last year about his playing time, that's it. If we start moving forward from 2007 to this season, I think there a couple of things that are holding Chiles back. First, he did miss a lot of the seven-on-seven stuff from this week and I think every practice that he missed slowed his development in the passing game. I cannot stress enough how important these off-season workouts have become to every college program and Chiles just wasn't front and center when he probably needed to be. As far as leadership qualities are concerned, this is Colt's team. Period. He is the leader in every shape and fashion, so I don't think there's the inner-team strife that you'd probably worry about it both players were playing really well and a true decision needed to be made. Overall, I think the leadership talk as it relates to the back-up quarterbacks is a little overrated. At some point you have to earn respect and leadership trust on the field and that's why McCoy is where he is right now. Showing up first for the off-season workouts will only get you so far.

To your second set of questions, let's start with the fact that the area around Austin has exploded in recent years in terms of growth, which has led to an explosion in talent that we haven't seen before. As areas like Round Rock, Pflugerville, Cedar Park and Leander (to name a few) have emerged, it's created an athletic talent base that didn't exist when I was attending Austin McCallum in the mid-to-early 1990's. Back in the day (about a decade ago), the pool of players seemed to extend to Austin Westlake, Austin Reagan and Austin LBJ, and once you got beyond those three schools, there wasn't much to talk about. That has changed greatly over the years, to the point where the three schools that used to dominate the attention of college coaches are not the first stops for scouts in our current era.

Q: (rafa) - It sure seems that Manuel Johnson has been very explosive for OU this year. It appears that he will make significant contributions for OU for the duration of his career. It also appears as if Curtis Brown will struggle to see the field at Texas. I know he is only a sophomore, but Deon Beasley is a junior, Chykie Brown is a sophomore, and Aaron Williams is a freshman. Each of those corners appears to be in front of Curtis Brown. At best, I see Curtis Brown as a third corner (nickel back) his senior year.

My question is - was Johnson that much better than Brown while at Gilmer?

A: Well, let me first start by not answering your questions and instead answering some of the assertions that you've made. First, at this time last season there were those that would have made the same comments about Chykie Brown. He was sitting behind Brandon Foster, Ryan Palmer, Deon Beasley and even Curtis Brown was getting reps ahead of him. So, what's happened between year two and year three? Chykie Brown's light switch came on. When you look at Curtis Brown, you need to keep in minds that we're talking about a young kid from a small East Texas school that is making a rather large leap in competition and the development doesn't always accelerate simply because our own personal timetables aren't being met. The thing to keep in mind with Curtis is that talent isn't an issue. In fact, Duane Akina raves about his physical tools. Therefore, I would suggest holding off on discounting Curtis in a way that others were discounting Chykie a year ago.

Finally, to answer your question, both players were dominant high school athletes/players at Gilmer.

Q: (fear_the_cow) - 1) Why has Sherrod Harris not received an opportunity to play? In your opinion is Chiles a better option as a back up than Sherrod? ( I think the coaches are worried they may lose Chiles if they don't play him and think they can eventually talk him into a position switch). How has Sherrod looked in practice?

2) Is our lack of vertical attempts due to playing to our players' skills or is it more of a scheme/philosophy? I am of the opinion that Colt's strong suit is intermediate and short accuracy while Cosby and Shipley are great route runners with great hands. Colt not having a big arm and Cosby/Shipley not having great straight line speed.

3) Is there any word on Ian Harris' injury? Even if we do get him back soon, is he somebody who might give us a serious pass catching threat or is he a JAG for this year? Any more word on Josh Marshall?

4) Who would you have at KO return if redshirting players were available? Who has the most potential in this department?

A: I don't know if Chiles is a better option at quarterback than Harris, but the decisions by the staff this year would seem to indicate that they don't have a lot of confidence in either of their back-ups. I wouldn't be surprised if Harris starts getting some reps as the No.2 quarterback in light of Chiles' ball-security issues in recent weeks. As far as how Harris has looked in practice, it's hard to really make a qualified remark because the third-string quarterback gets virtually no reps in practice outside of the passing drills and scout team work.

Second, I'd probably say both. The two best receivers on the roster right now are better suited to work the short and intermediate passing game, and I'm not so sure that that's something that bothers Greg Davis or Mack Brown.

Third, I don't want to call anyone a JAG, but I don't think the Longhorns are going to get a lot out of any of their tight ends for the rest of the season. I believe that Blaine Irby has the potential to be a difference maker and I don't see that in the other healthy players that remain. Frankly, if those guys can block better, you'd probably have to consider that a win at this point.

Finally, I think the team has an endless supply of players that could thrive in the return game. The first names that pop into my head are Curtis Brown, DeSean Hales, Chykie Brown and Brock Fitzhenry.

Q: (tylerrose20) - Ketch- I'm certain you've been asked this, but why didn't we recruit the Robert Griffin kid? Obviously, he is a hell of an athlete, and the classroom doesn't look like it will ever be a problem with him.

A: First, I think the Longhorns probably felt like he wasn't going to be a quarterback at the next level and given that they viewed him as an athlete, there were several factors that made him an unlikely possibility. Keep in mind that the Longhorns took a huge freshman class of receivers/athletes and that most of those numbers were secured very early in the process. As Griffin emerged as a legit national prospect during his senior season, the Longhorns didn't have a lot of flexibility with their numbers (although they did take D.J. Grant late) and they weren't offering him a shot to start out at quarterback.

Q: (a_hornsfan) - If you were going to have to put a 4-wide set out on the field to throw out something different this week, who would be the four that YOU would choose? Do you think there is a chance we might see us going to more of a 4-wide set in this game?

With high school season getting into district play, are there any recruits out there that are really jumping off the page as "must takes" whether we have them or not? Are there any uncommitted players or committed players to lesser schools that you could possibly see Texas making a jump on towards the end of the season sort of like Grant last year and Ian Harris the year before?

A: Yes, I think there's a good chance that you'll see less two-tight end sets this week and more three- and possibly four-receiver sets. If the team goes four-wides, I'd have Shipley, Cosby, Brandon Collins and James Kirkendoll on the field at this point. Based on what we've seen this far, those guys seem more consistent than Malcolm Williams and a few others.

At this point I haven't seen a D.J. Grant or a William Cole emerge this season, but that doesn't mean that that still won't happen. That being said, the numbers are really tight right now and the Longhorns have a few lines out in the water that they are hoping land big fishes. I wouldn't expect the plan for the 2009 class to deviate much from what the staff has established.

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