June 26, 2011

Bennie Wylie working to help Texas win up front

1. Good news from the summer workouts.

There are names that are starting to emerge. We hit on some of this in the War Room, but I wanted to follow up. Malcolm Brown, Jaxon Shipley and Quandre Diggs are three names that are emerging as potential impact players.

They are earning the respect of their older teammates, which is essential for any young player. But easier said than done in most instances.

There is no doubt the absence of Marquise Goodwin from summer workouts because of track (Goodwin just won the USA outdoor long jump title with a wind-aided leap of 27-4 … more on him in a minute). So there are reps to be had in 7-on-7, and Shipley is making the most of them.

Don't confuse it. Mike Davis is still the leader of this group by a good margin and should be ready for a big season. But Shipley is a guy who will be in the mix.

Malcolm Brown is just solid. The comparisons to Cedric Benson from an on-the-field talent perspective seem to be the most appropriate at this point. And that may not even be fair to Brown in terms of expectation, considering Benson finished as Texas' No. 2 all-time rusher.

But Brown is not going to be distracted by anything off the field, and he wants to be special. He wants to be great, remembered, leave a legacy … all the things you want your running back to want.

Quandre Diggs just makes plays.

There are obviously other freshmen making plays. But these three keep having their names come up in my discussions. We will keep you posted.

2. Marquise Goodwin is going to be interesting to watch.

Goodwin was a dark horse candidate for MVP of the offense in 2009. Seriously. He made two of the biggest plays of the season with his touchdown catch against Oklahoma (UT's only TD in a 16-13 win), and his kick return for a TD late in the fourth quarter against A&M.

Last season, he just looked tired.

I honestly thought Goodwin was in a position for a breakout year in 2010.
Instead, he caught only one more pass in 2010 (31) than he did in 2009 (30) and caught the same number of TD passes (1). And in 2010, Jordan Shipley and his 116 catches were no longer on campus, so there were more receptions available.

There's no doubt Goodwin wants to go for gold in the long jump in London next summer. How does that goal impact his football? The closer he gets to 2012, does he think more like an elite track athlete or more like an elite football athlete?

That is a lot of training, thought and discipline to stack on top of a full-time college student. Goodwin is blessed with exceptional athletic talent and should be praised for all of his hard work and results. He's a great kid as well.

He's just got a lot on his plate right now. Let's hope he can be honest with himself. And if he is overwhelmed, someone needs to be ready to step in and help. That's where DeSean Hales, Chris Jones or Jaxon Shipley could come in.

3. OK, now for the bad news from summer workouts.

The defensive tackle position on this year's team is a real concern. I included this in the War Room, but an NFL scout I trust said Kheeston Randall has a long way to go to become anything more than a late draft pick.

And this might explain the panic move we saw from Will Muschamp last season (moving Alex Okafor inside to DT). Or Manny Diaz saying this spring that, "Right now, we don't have anyone on the defensive line an opposing team would be afraid to block."

That comment seemed to call out Kheeston Randall more than anyone, considering he has the most experience of anyone coming back.

And let's be honest, Randall had an OK season last year with 13 tackles for loss and 39 tackles. But when you compare that to what Lamarr Houston did from the same spot the year before (22 tackles for loss and 68 tackles), you see a huge difference.

Ben Alexander in 2009 posted 39 tackles and 7 tackles for loss. You get the picture.

The scout I talked to said Texas is very average at defensive tackle and that it could pose huge problems for the Longhorns in 2011 considering the talent of some of the offenses it will face in the Big 12.

The scout said Randall has good lower hip flexibility, which is a key for big guys up front because it means they can leverage a lot of weight and still move. This scout wondered if Randall has the fire it's going to take to be a difference maker inside, where you get double-teamed constantly.

I wish I could say some of the young defensive tackles are making a huge move this summer, but we are not hearing that yet. Stay tuned.

4. This is going to be obvious, but let me reiterate a point that needs to be repeated. Bennie Wylie is the most important person in the football program right now.

And Mack Brown probably had a picture of his interior linemen in his head every time he picked up the phone or met with Wylie during the interview process.

Everyone thinks Will Muschamp had a problem with Greg Davis on the football staff. That's not true. But Muschamp did have a BIG problem with Jeff Madden. The biggest problem was the team's young, interior linemen showing up to fall camp out of shape and in the wrong mindset last season.

So knowing that, Wylie is earning most of his $200,000 salary right now.

He's not only trying to get the big guys in shape. But he's trying to find the buttons to push to get every last bit of their fire and intensity on the field come football season.

By the way, I've asked some of my NFL sources about Wylie because he was the assistant strength coach with the Dallas Cowboys before going to Texas Tech and Tennessee. Wylie is very highly thought of, and most think Mack Brown made a very important addition.

Now it all needs to translate to the field. Wylie has his hands full trying to get this offensive line and group of defensive tackles ready for battle in 2011. There's no doubt that help is on the way in terms of talent on both lines. But how much progress can be made in 2011?

That question will help define this season, and Bennie Wylie will have a chance to make a big impression IMO.

5. Goose Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News, one of the best NFL writers in the country, thinks the lockout will be over in less than a month.

He said the owners are working overtime to reach some resolution because they pocket all the money from exhibition games. (The players are not on salary yet at that time. The players are only paid during the 16-game regular season. The players are making only about $1,500 per week as a training camp salary.)

Goose thinks two of the preseason games may be cut back to allow for more training camp time and also for the owners to collect all the money they get from ticket, parking and concession sales for the preseason. Owners even negotiate their own TV deals for the preseason and can sell their own ads. The preseason is incredibly lucrative for owners.

So I'm hoping Goose is right, because I'm ready to start talking NFL free agency and where players like Vince Young are going to end up. And I'm sure players like Aaron Williams, Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown and Sam Acho are ready to get to know their coaching staffs and team employees.

6. Went to go see Bad Teacher Saturday night.

Highly recommend it if you are into dark comedies. Cameron Diaz is hilarious. I mean hilarious. The scene with her fiance on his birthday at the beginning of the movie is one for the ages ? from the opening line to the end.

Last two movies I've seen are Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher. At $10 per ticket, I feel like I got my money's worth on both.

But can I just say that when I went to the concession counter and ordered a medium popcorn and the clerk said, "That will be $7," I decided never again.

I'm the guy who didn't feel like the movie experience was complete unless I had a hot, buttered popcorn and a soda to go along with it.

But those days are gone.

There may be some Hot Tamales smuggled in the side pockets of my cargo shorts or something, but I'm not bowing to the movie concession cartel any longer. For some reason, I had $4.50 in my head for a medium popcorn. Not quite sure when it jumped to $7. But wow.

Considering it costs the theater probably 25 cents for the popcorn and 1 or 2 cents for the bag, I can no longer play along with the romantic notion of "movie popcorn."

My parents always used to pop their own popcorn and smuggle it into the theater in one of my mom's big ole book bag/purses. It's harder for a guy to pull this off. We don't really take gym bags into the theater. So it will probably have to be candy in the cargo shorts.

I'll adjust and move on and spend that $7 somewhere else, like on a slice of airport pizza.

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