September 29, 2011

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Alan) - Why doesn't Texas want to join the SEC when it's right next door? Does not make sense.

A: I think it probably comes down to several factors.

From a competitive standpoint, it makes zero sense on the football side of things. The Big 12 has been a regular participant in the national championship game and for the better part of the last decade, the winner of the Texas/OU game has been in a prime position to make big waves in the national title hunt. A move to the SEC would only make the road to the national championship game more difficult for everyone, current SEC teams included. That's not being scared of competition as much as it's having a brain and using it.

More important than the competitive issues, the Longhorn administration and decision-makers don't really respect the culture of the conference and its core ethos. It's not just the poor academic standards that are often the norm throughout the conference that bothers the UT brass, as much as it's the tradition of treating rules as a placemat that absolutely makes skin crawl on the 40 Acres.

Mack Brown and his staff were once approached by Lynn Lang about Albert Means. They lived the Ryan Perrilloux saga. They've witnessed the schools that were involved in the Lache Seastrunk recruitment and how those recruitments operated. Call it being a snob if you want, but Texas administrators have a limit to the amount of sin they can live with and it runs right up to the Louisiana border.

They just don't want any part of the SEC and I can't ever see that changing because contrary to most of the schools in that league, the appearance of elite academics and running a clean program are vital to the mission statement.

Q: (COME AND TAKE IT) -If you presided over college football, how would you arrange the conferences, set up the season and determine a national champion?

My design would be relatively simple (see attached document). There would be 8 conferences, which would include all the current FBS teams. The conferences would be organized based on geography, history and culture. Every team would have a shot at the national title. The divisional record, rather than the conference record, would be used to determine which teams play for the conference championships. Each conference would have the same tie-breaker rules.

The BCS standings would still have a place in seeding the conference champions. Only the top 6 out of 8 conference champions would be seeded to avoid diluting the post-season tournament. The Rose/Cotton/Fiesta/Orange/Sugar Bowls would rotate in hosting each of the five tournament games to determine the national champion. There would still be traditional bowl games from Christmas to New Year's Day for teams that win at least 7 games. The Rose/Cotton/Fiesta/Orange/Sugar Bowls would also host their traditional bowl games excluding the 6 teams contending for the national championship.

Thanks for taking my question and critiquing my design.

A: First of all, I didn't read the attachment. No offense. If I'm presiding over college football, I'm not going to give a damn about the bowls and the graft that keeps them together. Frankly, the men in ugly blazers have stolen enough money over the decades for me to include them in any future plan I would support.

I think I've got a pretty simple solution to the discussion. We're headed to four super conferences of 16 schools in the next ten years, which makes the math on this easy. It's a 12-team tournament with the conference champions of the four super powers receiving the top four bids and a first round bye. The runner-ups in each conference and the next four highest-rated teams in a BCS-style formatted rankings would make up the field and the month long tournament would have all games being hosted in two locations on the first two weekends and the final two weekends would be hosted by cities that bid on them, much like the current NCAA men's basketball tournament.

There would be no other bowl games because I view them as financial monstrosities geared to put money in the pockets of otherwise very wealthy people (bowl reps) and not anyone else.

Q: (Saturday) - Based upon what you've seen how does a RS Freshman Colt McCoy compared to a True Soph Case McCoy? Not to put pressure on Case to be his brother just curious about the obvious, I suppose.

Can you do anything about that #$%^ing Pit-bull- real good time, Dr. Pepper commercial? If I have to hear that song one more time, I'm going to lose it...

Enjoy your stuff.

A: It is way too early to talk compare Case with his brother in my mind because the sample size to draw conclusions from for Case is simply too small. There's so much about the two in terms of mental make-up, leadership and moxie that are similar, but Colt was a guy that could put a team on his shoulders and carry them, even as a redshirt freshman, and all we know of Case at this point was that he has put together six winning quarters of football against pretty average (at best teams). By the time Colt was six quarters into his career, he had already participated in the first half of a No. vs. No.2 match-up, which only occurred after he actually won a heated pre-season battle for the starting job. All of that being said, let's revisit this question in two weeks.

As far as the Dr. Pepper pit-bull commercial, I'm not sure what I can do for you other than give you a link to this spot with hopes it will replace it in your mind.

Q: (CallawayItIs) - Jenn Brown walks into the locker room while I'm changing butt naked. What is the first thing she notices?

A: "Is it cold in here or is it just you?"

Q: (DMC7215) - Reading about the youth and competitiveness of this year's team I think has given all OBs a little sense of relief/confidence. We're young in just about every position group, so that's where my question is focused.

1) Based on what you've seen and/or who you've talked to, which position group has met your expectations thus far or even over-achieved?

2) Which group has the highest ceiling/greatest potential that we just haven't seen yet, or that is simply scratching the surface? (Answer for 1& 2 can potentially be same group, if that's what you think.)

A: If we're talking about position groups that have met or exceeded my expectations coming into the year, I'll focus on the running backs, offensive line and secondary through three games. When you consider where the running back production has been the last few seasons and that Malcolm Brown missed half of August, it seems unlikely that this group would have been so dynamic, productive and diverse this early in the season, but they most certainly have been all of those three things. Meanwhile, Stacy Searels is making chicken salad out of chicken salad, and that's progress for this group. You don't get the sense that there's any poop on the field. Also, the job that Duane Akina has done so far this season is nothing short of tremendous.

As for your second question, I think the wide receivers on offense and the defensive ends on the other side of the ball are the two groups that have the highest ceilings that haven't been completely met. If the light switch came flip on for a few guys in each unit, this team's upside can be met this season.

Q: (Weenhorn) - The Junior Days are not that distant. Who do you believe will be among the top LB, DE and DB in-state targets for the 2013 recruiting class? Guys like Paul Whitmill and William Udeh don't seem to be that interested in Texas, and other than Deon Hollins Jr. and Antwan Davis we've not heard about a lot of other options.

Who would you select as the top in-state WR for 2013?

A: I think a lot of the decisions surrounding the class of 2013 are being determined right now during the fall and when you talk about defensive prospects, they are often the last positions to either develop or pop up on the scene for a variety of reasons. Let's look at the positions you mentioned.

The defensive end position within the state of Texas is still developing and I'm not sure that a true standout prospect on the Texas level has truly emerged. It's a deep position in a lot of areas in 2013 (including defensive tackle), but the rush players off the edge are a weak bunch based on early returns. That might be a position that the Longhorns need to go out of state on. Udeh and Tyrus Bowser are the two best in-state candidates at this stage, although Lionel Phillips of Garland Naaman Forest is a kid that is generating some buzz early in the season and at 6-3, 265 pounds, he's got the physical goods.

When you look at the linebacker position, I would suggest not writing off Whitmill, who has been to a Texas game this fall and appears to be coming around to the idea of possibly wearing burnt orange. Meanwhile, Hollins Jr., Brett Wade, Sammy Douglas, Akeem Harrison and Isaiah Williams are names at the linebacker position that have been creating early buzz in the first part of the season.

The defensive backfield question is always hard to determine because Akina always finds a player or two off the grid that a lot of people don't initially know a lot about when they pop up on the Junior Day circuit, so I'm always leery about guessing his steps in recruiting this early, but Davis is an obvious target at this point and ranks as the top cornerback prospect in the state. I think the rest of the target list is still being determined over the course of the next few months.

Finally, I'm not sure that I have a sure-fire No.1 receiver in Texas right now, but I do really like A&M commitment Jamar Gibson of Baytown Lee. Between Gibson, Jake Oliver, Ra'shaad Samples and Marcell Ateman, there are a lot of quality names to choose from.

Q: (wes2388) - Have we moved up or down with any of the recruits based on our first two games and the LHN?

A: No. The residuals that will arrive from the Longhorn Network probably wouldn't emerge at this stage of the project's development. It'll be fascinating to see the impact of the LHN once it's clicking on all levels, but I don't think most kids have seen it (have you?) and the Longhorns don't typically go to the wall this early in recruiting with the junior class, so the real sales pitch hasn't been offered to a lot of the top targets. On the other hand, as recruiting picks up for the 2012 class in future months, it's possible that the impact of the network could be seen in the recruitment of the out of state prospects on the board, but again, it's not a vehicle that can yet be seen by 99% of the country.

Q: (jhookem15) - With the influx of talent that UT has, we have a good shot at making a run for a MNC in the very near future, possibly more than one. If that happens within the next 2-3 years, do you see/sense Mack Brown finally calling it quits?

If so, do you see someone on this current staff getting a shot at Head Coach, or do we go outside the program? I ask this because with conference realignment evolving, it would seem that DeLoss Dodds may grow tired of dealing with it all and step down (just a thought), and that would leave the door open for Mack to take over.

Depending on how the season shapes up, if we string together some more wins, and David Ash's package of plays continues to grow, do you see the team allowing him to begin to take over, or will we most likely see the McAsh combo steady throughout the year?

Last, wins matter, but momentum matters more, in terms of going into the playoffs. With the Phillies somewhat slowing down here towards the end of the season, and Detroit picking up steam, with both teams dominant pitching staffs who do you think is more likely to wind up in the World Series? If not both…and if so, who has the edge?

A: Yes, if Mack Brown wins a national title in the next few seasons, I think he'll move on to the next chapter in his life post-football. I'm still a guy that believes the next chapter might have already begun had Colt McCoy never been hurt against Alabama and the Longhorns had been able to win that game. Given the way the last few seasons have unfolded, I will remain the camp that treats Mack's career in Austin on a year-by-year basis until he does step down. Who knows? That might be 10 years from now.

As far as a replacement is concerned, I think we're going to need to see how this thing unfolds organically. I could absolutely see a guy like Bryan Harsin being the guy if the offenses are dynamic and he's not a head coach elsewhere when the news of Brown's departure eventually drops. I'm sure Major Applewhite will be a guy that creates a lot of buzz, but let's be honest - he hasn't built a deep enough resume yet to be on a short list of coaches for the position. The same can be said for Harsin. Again, let's wait to see how this thing unfolds in its natural state before reaching for the jump to conclusions mat. That being said, I've got $50 on Urban Meyer.

I've got $100 that says Mack never works as an AD. When he's done at Texas, I expect him to ride off into the sunset with Sally and not into some 100-hour per week job.

For now, the McAsh tandem is going to rule the position, but if one of those guys begins to separate, well natural order will take over. That hasn't quite happened yet.

Finally, give me the Phils.

Q: (drg310) - With the need of another QB is there any chance we can get in the running for Neal Burcham? His offer list still looks rather meek with Cinci and SMU as his only big time offers. I see Alabama is starting to recruit him. I saw him on Elite 11 in Malibu like a lot of people and he looks like a gamer. Maybe you can contact him to find out his thoughts on UT if the coaches were to put out feelers.

A: My guess is that the Longhorns would probably look beyond a three-star prospect from Arkansas if they decide to go after a second quarterback. That's not to say the kid isn't a solid player/prospect, it's just me saying I think they'll look elsewhere. I don't need to contact him to guess his thoughts on what he would think if the Longhorns had an interest. His offers are from Arkansas State, Central Arkansas, SMU and Cincinnati. I'm guessing he'd donate a kidney for an offer from a school like Texas.

Q: (J-Von11) - I'm loving me some Malcolm Brown, all the way back to the first highlights i ever saw, How is he doing so far compared to your preseason predictions/expectations? What do you see for him going forward now that he is the "co-starter"?

Should I lower my expectations or keep telling everyone I can he's going to be the next great back at UT?

A: Originally, I had Brown pegged as a 1,000-yard rusher this season, but then I did some homework and learned just how difficult it has been for five-star backs to make true impacts in their first season on campus. At that point I felt like I was being a homer for calling for a 1,000-yard season and I backed off of the prediction. Well, I should have stayed with my gut instinct, which had Fozzy Whittaker losing the starting job by week three. Oh well. No need to lower expectations at this point. He's averaging 88 yards per game right now, which would put him over 1,000 yards in a 12-game season. I don't see any reason to think (barring injuries) that he won't get better from here on out.

Q: (BEVO SCOTT) - Who is the best QB choice for Texas in 2013? (Tyrone Swoopes or Chris Johnson). Can you please elaborate on their game a little and talk about their strengths and areas of improvements? If one of these players decides to commit to Texas, where do you predict the other to sign?

Can you explain what all goes into an official visit? Do recruits only get a certain number of official visits? Can schools only give out a certain number of official visits? Does the school pay 100% for recruit and family?

A: You're going to have a hard time getting a lot of people to concede Swoopes in a debate, but keep an eye on Wichita Falls Rider star J.T. Barrett. Those appear to be the top two targets at this point and there's a lot of buzz that Barrett is taking a back seat to nobody. Both players are guys that are terrific athletes that can make plays on the move, but Barrett is clearly ahead of him in his development of the passing game. Both players simply need more reps and time because the tools are there to become college stars for both. Swoopes is clearly a Texas/TCU battle, while Barrett is looking at Oklahoma and a host of other schools.

As far as official visits are concerned, each prospect can take up to five official visits before signing a letter of intent, with the school picking up expenses for a window of time that shall not exceed 48 hours. This would include travel costs, lodging, entertainment and meals, but it doesn't include new cars, bags full of money or even a $100 gift certificate to the local college bookstore. If I'm not mistaken, the school pays for the prospect and one other person, which means that if more than one guest makes the trip, the extra guests have to pay for themselves throughout the trip. Also, I'm not 100% sure on this, but I believe football programs are limited to no more than 55 official visits per year.

Q: (troon74) - What is the deal over the last few years with our special teams - particularly punt returns? We use to block punts once every three games. These days it doesn't seem like we even try to block kicks. And both our kickoff teams are average at best. Returning kicks it seems like seldom are their opportunities to break a long on and the kickoff defense doesn't even need to be referenced.

A: There really wasn't anything wrong with the return games in 2008 and 2009. There was a lot wrong with that unit in 2010. I don't think it's an accident that the return game was a train wreck in a year when every other element of the team was in train-wreck status. Let's give this year's team a little more time and sample size before we judge what this unit is 2011. It's a young team with young players playing all over the special teams units. That's the biggest issue through three games.

Q: (Sydney15) - Hey Ketch I know fans will be fans but what is your confidence level with McAsh going forward the rest of the season? I'm not a real big fan of it, maybe because I feel like neither one is fully ready to take the team to where it needs to go and at some point this whole thing will get exposed. I feel like Harsin is using smoke and mirror just to manufacture points for this offense and until we get " THE GUY" we won't really take off like we should against the elite football teams.

As far as Garret Gilbert , I'm probably one of the few fans out there that's still a supporter. I feel like a combination of things lead to him not being successful.

1. Three different offenses in three years.
2. Not having a redshirt year.
3. Not really having any establish receivers to throw to.

With the exception of Jaxon Shipley, none of the receivers have been consistent. Gilbert likes to push the ball down field and to his detriment he is never going to be one of those dink and dunk quarterbacks, who like to spread it around, which is what this offense thrives off of. If he stays, I hope he can adjust. I think the blame rests solely upon Mack who really hasn't had great success with so-called pro-style quarterbacks. Feedback, please.

A: My McAsh confidence meter sits at about a seven right now. Sample size, sample size and more sample size. I just can't make a sure call after six quarters against two average-at-best teams. Hell yes, Harsin is using a lot of smoke and mirrors this season, especially at the quarterback position, but the players believe in the concept and they believe in Harsin. I'm lean towards trusting Harsin.

As for Gilbert, I agree that there are so many factors that aren't completely fair to him, but I can't sit in the enabler camp that can't acknowledge that it's on him to man up and fight through the mess he's had to deal with. He's not the first big-time quarterback to go through three different offenses in three years (five in five years if you count high school) or poor coaching (2010), but this is a man's world and only the strongest survive. Personally, I love the kid's heart and character. But, this thing is no more Mack's fault than it would all fall on Gilbert. Life sucks sometimes. Reality sucks sometimes. There's no fair in the real world, so you deal with what you are forced to deal with. I hoping the kid takes advantage of his opportunity with the shoulder surgery and gets a fresh start. There's a hell of a player somewhere in there and he needs to go somewhere else and try to find it.

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