October 24, 2008

Inside the Locker Room

Q: (jgrin87) - Given that Oklahoma State has only given up five sacks this season, what do guys like Brian Orakpo, Sergio Kindle, and Roy Miller have to do differently than everyone else to get to Zac Robinson? What do they see in tape that makes Robinson so difficult to bring down behind the line of scrimmage? We have the best blitzing defense in the nation, so isn't is plausible to assume that we should at least get to Robinson three times or more?

A: First, let's not get too caught up in sacks, although it's obviously a great stat to tout when they are coming fast and furious like they did in weeks three through five of the regular season, but some of these offenses in the Big 12 protect their quarterbacks with deep drop-backs and quick-timing releases. For instance, Chase Daniel was protected from pressure to a certain extent with the deep drops on his throws which sometimes take him nine or ten yards deep in the pocket.

Oklahoma State's Robinson won't take that deep of a drop, but he brings a different set of problems to the table for opposing defenses. He's a gifted runner that will remind a lot of people of Colt McCoy with his ability to avoid the pass rush and buy his receivers extra time to get open.

Last week the Longhorns were able to get pressure on Daniel with a four- and sometimes three-man rush, with there being a linebacker serving as a spy in the event that he decided to pull the ball down and move forward in the pocket. There will be a lot of pressure this week for the defensive line to rush this week with a little more control because Robinson has the ability to escape the pressure and make yards as a runner. How Will Muschamp uses his defensive ends in this game is one of the more interesting subplots in this game because they've been turned loose in recent weeks, but if they are too aggressive off the edge this week, Robinson can make them pay.

Q: (jwpriest) - Much is made of our youth, however, we have 11 seniors and several significant juniors that are starting. Shouldn't we be considered a veteran team?

A: I suppose it's all relative. If you look at the two-deep, 32 of the 44 players are scheduled to return in 2009 and 19 of those 44 players have two or more seasons of eligibility remaining. That does not include players like Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll, Curtis Brown, Aaron Williams and other young players that are already making impacts in the program. That means that there are a lot of young players playing right now, at least there's more of them than there are seniors at this point. That being said, the upper-classmen that are in the two-deep are all making very real impacts this season.

Q: (bchorn) - What's the scoop on Lache Seastrunk? I have heard all kinds on things on him, do we have a good shot at getting him? I heard he had a great visit when he came in for the Missouri game.

A: I don't know that there is a whole lot of scoop right now with Seastrunk. He's a young man that is still going through the early stages of recruiting and I'm sure there will be some twists and turns throughout. There will be more unofficial visits to schools all over the nation before he makes a commitment, so I would suggest that everyone sit back and enjoy the ride, so to speak. The Longhorns did make a very good impression on him last weekend and the depth chart certainly plays to their advantage, but there will be other factors involved in his decision. When it's all said and done, the Longhorns will be one of the schools that he probably has in his final group of favorites. Between now and the time he makes a decision, the Longhorns need to get their recruiting game faces on. Calling Major Applewhite

Q: (leonidas05) - Who do you think will get first crack at goal line fullback next year? I would like us to play a defensive tackle that doesn't start, or see a lot of playing time next year (I love it, but it scares me when Roy Miller is blocking)
Which freshmen next year have the best chance of starting or getting early playing time.

A: I think Lamarr Houston will have a crack at the fullback position when Miller departs, unless someone steps up and secures that role in front of him, but I don't know who else would be that guy at the moment. As far as true freshmen are concerned in 2009, I'm not sure that there will be anyone that's in a position to start next season because a lot of players off of the two-deep are scheduled to return. Of the guys that I think have a chance to make an immediate impact, I'd go with the two tight end prospects - Houston North Shore's Barrett Matthews and Waco Midway's Trey Graham, along with defensive tackles Calvin Howell and Derek Johnson, and defensive end Alex Okafor.

Q: (MCB0703) - 1. I'm confused about official visits…with the game against Missouri, it seems like this would have been the best time to have as many high profile recruits in town for a national TV game in front of about 95K fans @ night. I understand that some players have scheduling conflicts, but I believe there were not any official visits for this game…however, several stories have Texas wanting to bring in recruits for the banquet in Dec. Can you provide any insight why the banquet would be a better opportunity than a national TV game to bring in recruits?

2. Regarding the 2009 recruiting class…the more I look @ this class, the more I believe the majority of the players could be red-shirted. The red-shirt status has been discussed about Garrett Gilbert…however, 4 OL, 1 WR, & 3 DB (at least) coming into positions that have depth for the next couple of years, along w/ other players that may need time to grow & develop into DT or DE. Other than Trey Graham or Tariq Allen, I don't see many 2009 FR playing much next season…do you see most of this class taking a red-shirt for their FR year?

3. Let's assume the players below all commit AND sign along w/ the current commitments...does UT have enough scholarships for each player? Do the coaches offer the players they want & then work out the scholarships later? With the 85 scholarship limit, what happens if Mack & Co have more than 85 signed players? I do understand UT will probably not land all of these players (maybe 2 or 3 at the most)...but they have been offered. Just trying to understand the numbers game...

Dre Kirkpatrick
Kendall Kelly
Jamakus McFarland
Derrick Kennard
Jarvis Jones

A: First, when it comes to in-state prospects and bringing them in for official visits, the staff is almost always going to want to bring them in on the banquet weekend in December because it allows them to be around the entire recruiting class (minus those that can't make it) and the staff has the time for a lot more hands-on attention. When it comes to out of state recruits, a lot of them have not been to Austin for a game, so the importance of them seeing the atmosphere at the stadium takes on a new importance. The staff has done their best to get a few guys like Kirkpatrick in for an official visit this month during this fantastic slate of home games, but scheduling issues have gotten in the way and it looks more likely that we'll see a few post-season official visits set up with out of state prospects. It's not something that the staff minds because they can focus on coaching the team and not a hard courtship on a very important weekend.

Second, see the previous question. I think it's possible that we're going to see more redshirts next season than normal (certainly more than this season) because of the quality and quantity of players returning next season. I wouldn't expect to see any of the offensive linemen play right away and I think it's reasonable to suggest that a lot of the skill players on offense and the back seven prospects on defense are likely to redshirt.

Finally, the answer you're looking for is pretty simply - no. The Longhorns would not take all of those players, even if they did all want to commit. I'd go ahead and wipe Kelly off the wish list because Texas isn't going to offer. Of the remaining group, the Longhorns are likely underdogs in the recruitment of Kirkpatrick, Kennard and Jones. I'm not sure that the problem you described is a realistic one, but it push came to shove the Longhorns would have to tell one or two of these guys that they wouldn't be able to wait for them until signing day. They would likely give them a 24-hour window to commit and then the offer would be gone.

Q: (bman25) - I know it's early, but could you go through different scenarios for the Horns and what that would probably mean for our BCS chances? Obviously if we win out we go to Miami, but what if we lose one game to OSU, Texas Tech or Kansas? What if we win out and lose the Big 12 championship? If we lose 2?

Also, with some saying Lache Seastrunk might not happen, is there any indication that our staff is considering going out of state for our next running back? Are they going to settle for what is in state or will they do whatever it takes to get our next Doak Walker caliber back?

A: The Longhorns are in a very favorable position. As long as there aren't two major undefeated teams remaining, even a one-loss Texas squad that wins the Big 12 title will be tough to leave out of the BCS title game because of UT's strengths in the computer polls. If they were to win the Big 12 title and somehow got left out of the BCS title mix, the Longhorns would finally make their long-awaited return to the Fiesta Bowl. If they went undefeated through the first 12 games, but lost in the Big 12 Championship (to Missouri in all likelihood), they'd have to wait for the BCS shuffle to work itself out, but they'd almost certainly receive an at-large bid to a BCS game and you'd have to think that the Sugar Bowl could be a likely possibility. In your final scenario (Texas loses two games) the Longhorns would likely need some help to get into a BCS game and there's a good chance that the Cotton Bowl would become their new bowl destination.

As for your second set of questions, I'm going to prescribe a little patience with Seastrunk. Just because the kid doesn't want to commit on an early timeline doesn't mean that the Longhorns aren't in a very favorable position. If the Longhorns don't land Seastrunk, I would expect for them to go after the next top in-state guy. They've obviously recruiting Traylon Shead from Cayuga very hard, so they are clearly not taking a boom or bust mentality with Seastrunk.

Q: (Austin7) - Would you agree that one of the best things that happened for the 2008 Horns was Jamaal Charles turning pro early? What would that have done to team chemistry? Colt's development?

A: No. Charles was not the problem on last year's team. The team was the problem with last year's team. I'm not sure what argument could be made that would make me think that Charles' return would have been a bad thing. Having a Heisman-caliber running back in the backfield with McCoy wouldn't be a bad thing, not even close. Also, I'm not sure how McCoy's personal development would have been impacted, unless you think that the lack of a proven running game in the first month of the season accelerated McCoy's development this season, but he's been tremendous all season - from day one. This is one instance when I think the chicken did arrive before the egg.

Q: (bchorn) - How good is Oklahoma State's offensive line? Also, how do they stack up to Oklahoma's offensive line in terms of quality and depth?

A: It's pretty good, actually. Junior left tackle Russell Okung is an All-Big 12 candidate and he'll give Orakpo one of his bigger tests of the year. The rest of the line is solid and they've performed well this season, but the difference maker for that group might be starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Although he's missed the last few games with an injury, Pettigrew is expected back this week and at 6-6, 265 pounds, he's a tremendous help in the running game as a blocker. In talking to Jeff Johnson from the Oklahoma State Rivals affiliate this week, he believes that Pettigrew is the X-factor on that team and he actually felt like the battle between the Texas defensive line and the OSU offensive line was a push coming into the game. I wouldn't go quite that far.

Q: (ut_alh) - At the beginning of the season, I remember Mack saying that he wanted 2 players at every position and he did not think those players existed. What do you think the answer to this is now?

A: Mack has to feel much better about the state of the depth chart right now than he was at the beginning of the season. The depth isn't so good that Mack could shuffle in an entire second-team into the line-up without a drop-off, but he's much closer than he was in September.

Q: (Brunt-on-the-bay) - The Horns are better than anyone expected, a friend, who is also an Orangebloods member, asked me at the Missouri game "How much better would they be with Jamaal Charles and Jermichael Findley still on the team? ". I know you are not supposed to what if , but that's an interesting premise

A: Obviously, the dynamics of the team would be different, but it's pretty scary to think about how good this offense might be with those two difference makers in the line-up. That being said, there would be no four-wide receiver offense, which is currently tearing up opposing defenses, if Finley had returned. In my opinion, Charles' presence on the field would have made a much bigger impact on the outcome of the season because he's a true 1,800-yard runner that can change the game on a dime.

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