December 20, 2007

Inside the Locker Room

Q: (Longhorn 2014■) - With all the noise going on about coaching do you think our receivers coach could be a good offensive coordinator and if so what would happen to our recruiting? He seems to be the lead (I know he is the coordinator) on just about every high profile young man. Do you know if Kennedy would be aggressive enough to avoid the vitriol spewed forth at Davis?

On the defensive side of the ball do you have a feel for what Mack would prefer knowing Akina isn't it? Would he like an older guy who will stay around? Would he prefer a young firebrand that is likely to move on? Do you think he will finally look for a real linebacker coach?

Inquiring minds want to know. I'll hang up and listen.

A: Obviously, you are asking about wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy and I think you bring up an interesting question. In the decade that Mack Brown has been at Texas, he has never made one real coaching promotion on the offensive side of the ball. There have been rumblings behind the scenes that Brown might be ready to go to a co-coordinator on the offensive side of the ball with Kennedy and Greg Davis, but I think most would believe that a move of that nature would be in title and pay only. Just like Larry MacDuff is the co-defensive coordinator in name only, I think the same would be true on the offensive side of the ball. If the Longhorns do make the move, I think it's all about rewarding Kennedy's hard work on the recruiting trails with some cold, hard cash.

As far as his abilities as an offensive coach are concerned, I don't know that anyone has a clue as to what he brings to the table in that area. He's not been a play-caller at any point in his 17-year career and since he's been in Austin, he's been a great solider for Davis. Therefore, I don't know if anyone, including Mack Brown, can say for sure whether a move like that would improve anything. Is the offense suddenly going to morph into another life-form if he has more say in the offensive game-plans? There's no question that Kennedy probably deserves a shot at some point to show his stuff as a play-caller, but it's hard to imagine Brown giving Kennedy a role with any teeth because the Texas is not a school where first-time coordinators go to learn their trade. Well, it usually isn't.

On the defensive side of the ball, I think you're jumping to conclusions if you think Brown is going to run Akina out of town. Although the decision to make Akina was not a good one as it relates to the 2007 season, I don't know if Brown is going to make a big change after only one season. In fairness to Akina, there are those that believe that he's not yet had a chance to really run his defense in the way that he wants because of Brown's own preferences for the defense. In the end, only Brown truly knows what changes are going to be made and he's not yet ready to talk about them. It's going to come down to what his vision of the program is and whether he believes that the group in place can get it done.

Q: (cgarcia89■) - Just wondering your opinion on what is going on North of the Red River. In the past 2 or 3 weeks:

Jeff Fuller, 4* WR, decommits to aggy
Markelle Martin, 4* S, decommits to Okie State
Taylor Hill, 4* LB, decommits to no one in particular.
D.J. Grant to UT and not ou.

Do you have any knowledge of what is going on here? Have you heard anything

A: Honestly, I wouldn't make too much of it. I've seen Oklahoma go through some tough spells in recruiting and they seem to come out ok each time. I doubt that's some sort of indictment of the program as much as the Sooners just ran into some bad luck in a couple of situations, which makes the combination of those four recruitments seem worse than it really is. If you have any doubt about that, just remind yourself where Stephen Good, R.J. Washington and Jermie Calhoun are playing their college ball.

Q: (kebonics) - How do you think the football team's personality and result would have been different in Mack Brown's tenure had he been more like Rick Barnes in his expectations. Specifically I'm referring to Rick's comments about how bad his team played and how he is disappointed in them (at least their effort last game) and they have a lot to improve upon. It seems as though he is being extra-hard on the team and demanding perfection whereas Mack is the opposite, at least to the media. This all while having an undefeated, #4 team in the nation that has proved more this year than any other team in the country so far.

After our football team routinely under-performs and squeaks out narrow come-from-behind victories versus inferior teams (talent-wise), all you hear from Mack is how everybody else is just as good, only one person messed up, we are doing the right things, etc. He doesn't seem to be the perfectionist that Barnes is, but seems to be happy with just getting by.

What affect do you think a Barnes-style approach would have changed results and our reputation (most notably being so "soft") during Mack's era?

A: There's no question that Brown could use a little bit of the Rick Barnes attitude on his staff. It doesn't even have to come from Brown for it to have an impact, but the one thing that Barnes really does well that you have to question about the current staff is his ability to get his players to respond to him when he's trying to send a message. For the last two seasons, Brown seems to have lost the pulse of this team at times and it's anyone's guess as to whether the tough love tactics (which Barnes would love) that have been implemented this month will have an impact. Perhaps we should revisit this question in one week.

Q: (Sundance7) - I know that Lake Travis quarterback Garrett Gilbert has said very little regarding his recruitment but have you heard anything about his preference as to where he may go to college? I have heard it will be either UT or Cal but is that accurate? I know he has been seen wearing UT clothing but when pressed about being seen at UT games, he has said you should not read anything into that because Texas is close and it is easy to make a couple of games. I understand he has been to most of the UT games during the 2007 season.

A: I think the Longhorns are in a very good position with Gilbert. Although he won't say it publicly, there are quite a few people connected to the Lake Travis program that believe that the Longhorns are emerging as a front-runner for him. Obviously, there's a connection to the Cal program with his father and Jeff Tedford has a strong reputation with quarterbacks, but the Longhorns have a lot going for them as well, starting with proximity. Everyone talks about the father's connections to Cal, but there's only one school that he can attend where his mom can whip up a home-cooked meal on a dime if he's having a bad day. If the Longhorns can convince him that the offense will be tweaked in ways that best fit his skill set if he attends Texas, then I think they've got a great chance to land him. Gilbert seems to be a quiet kid by nature and he certainly has the non-answer to questions about recruiting down to a science, but all of those trips to the 40 Acres in the last year do add up and they do have a value, even if it can't be measured tangibly.

Q: (bullardhorn■) - Other than Darrell Scott do you see UT maybe making a late push for another in state or OOS player for this class or will they close up shop and wait on next year? Have you heard any rumblings that they may be looking at or close to offering anyone else.

A: I wouldn't be surprised if the Longhorns make a run at a couple of kids in January, especially if they lose to Arizona State next week. Unless they want to make a run at a big-time out of state star, they should probably just start working on 2009 full-time because it would be a mistake to offer a less-talented prospect for the sake of trying to stay busy. The Longhorns have a good class, but it needs difference makers and not solid prospects at this point.

Q: (Micah1j) - About a year ago I asked you if it was possible for Texas to get both Russell Shepard and Garrett Gilbert in the 2009 class. You made fun of the question since it was so early and said you didn't think so. What do you think now? Can Texas land both of these guys?

A: I still don't have an answer to the question, but I do think there's a chance that it could happen, but it's going to take some very crafty work from the Texas staff to pull it off. At some point, I'm just going to have to ask these 2009 quarterback prospects how it would decision-making process if they are looking at a school that wants to take more than one quarterback prospect, which it would appear that Texas will want to do in 2009. Everyone knows that Shepard is a "Texas-guy", but how open to competition is going to be? How confident is he that he can beat anyone, including Gilbert, out for the position? The same questions apply to Gilbert as well. Until the Longhorn staff actually shows its hand in how they plan to handle recruiting both, it really is a question that sparks even more questions than answers at this stage.

Q: (Saturday) - Thank you for the time you commit to analyzing Longhorn football. I have a question about the quarterback position. It is my belief (certainly debatable) that Colt McCoy's troubles this season are more a reflection of poor line play and the necessity that he make quicker, riskier decision than it was truly a decline in his overall abilities to effectively lead the team. Do you think that the coaches agree with me or do you see a time in the short term where he is legitimately challenged for the starting position (by Chiles or Kinne). Do you think that learning to preserver behind this year's O-line will only help his development and perhaps help him grow into a legitimate pro prospect? How do you think the current quarterback depth chart will effect the recruitment of Russell Shepard or Gale Gilbert's kid? Should Colt be toppled by either John Chiles or G.J. Kinne, will this ultimately hurt the recruitment of either of those two youngsters?

A: I don't think there's any doubt that McCoy is going to be starter, barring injury, for the next two seasons. McCoy had a tough yet in 2007, but he also didn't have much help at times Among the issues he was forced to deal with this season were poor offensive line play, an inconsistent running game, losing his best wide receiver and a coaching staff that seemed confused on how exactly the offense should best be run. Yes, the jury is still out on McCoy because there are questions about his upside as a player, but it's probably not fair to judge him entirely on this season. As far as the current depth chart, I doubt it will have any impact on recruiting because I can't see an elite quarterback prospect wasting five minutes worrying about the players behind McCoy. They just haven't done anything at this point to make a player like Gilbert or Shepard think twice.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - What is your take on all of the rhetoric with the staff? Do you really think there are going to be major changes in the staff or is this just another hot air session to appease the wolves?

A: Pure wait-and-see. I don't think there's any question that Brown was ready to make moves three weeks ago, but could I see him convincing himself that all if right in the program if they play well against Arizona State? Yes.

Q: (chargee) - There's a quote in the latest Horns Illustrated attributed to Jamaal Charles where he intimates that Texas A&M players knew our offensive plays and were calling them out at the line. This is not the first time our opponents have done this. Do Mack and Greg Davis just not care that they're so predictable? I know they believe that with the right players and the right play-calling that they should be able to line up and run over everyone in their way with just a handful of plays, but there's bravado and then there's just plain stupid.

Finally, In your WR review write-up you mention that none of the wide-outs really have that ability to take a defense and stretch it out. I remember that Quan was touted as a guy that, but does it really matter if they can or not? I get the idea that if Percy Harvin and Desean Jackson suddenly showed up on campus that we'd just be throwing them little hitches and screens. Am I crazy in thinking that we're just not willing to consistently stretch the field vertically unless we have a 6-5 speedster running the route?

A: There's nothing tricky about anything that Texas does on either side of the ball. This has never been a staff that's been highly-regarded as master game-planners or experts at X's and O's. The Longhorns have been able to get away with often predictable schemes because their talent level could just overwhelm teams at times, but when the talent is gone or it performs at an inconsistent level, then the schemes can much more easily be called into question. I don't know if it's arrogance or not, but every time Brown mentioned that his staff had been hoodwinked this season (and it seemed like he said it each week), I nearly fell out of my chair. It's just strange that Brown would publicly confirm that they weren't prepared as a staff for opposing teams to throw a curve ball at them. That the staff had the rug pulled out from under them on several occasions, but never seems to tweak their game plans in the same manner is confusing to say the least.

As for your final question, I don't think the coaches are opposed to putting smaller players in their vertical passing game, but they didn't have the parts among their top guys in the rotation once Limas Sweed decided to have season-ending surgery on his wrist. The Longhorns might very well have a few legitimate deep threats in the program right now (James Kirkendoll comes mind), but they were younger guys and this staff was obviously committed to playing the older players this year. If your pool of receivers only includes Quan Cosby, Nate Jones, Jordan Shipley and Billy Pittman, you're not going to have much of a true vertical passing game.

Q: (mkkl) - ESPN (Scouts, Inc.) has D.J. Grant rated as the #16 prospect in the nation and therefore the top prospect in UT's class for the year so far, one spot ahead of Dan Buckner. In your opinion, is this a reasonable rating? Is he really the top prospect in the 2008 UT class? If not, who do you have rated higher, DJ or Buckner?

A: I think the top three committed prospects in the Texas recruiting class are Round Rock McNeil cornerback Aaron Williams, Klein Oak wide receiver DeSean Hales and Grant. There are a bunch of outstanding prospects in the class, but those three really stand out for me.

Q: (Andrew Sauer) - Here is an easy question to ask, but it might not be so easy to answer. Who is your pick to win Texas or Arizona St?

A: Right now, I'm leaning heavily towards the Sun Devils.

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