December 19, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room



Q: (JetFlo19) - As a fanbase we have been terribly spoiled with the great QB play in the last decade, I believe it was touched on the moment he committed to us but do you think Garrett Gilbert can live up to all the hype and expectations to continue the winning tradition at Texas? And hopefully it's not too early but how do you think his first full season behind center will turn out record and bowl wise?

A: I've said this in the past, but I think Gilbert is the quarterback that Greg Davis has been waiting his entire career to coach. From an arrival standpoint, he's more advanced than either Vince Young or Colt McCoy were at the same stage. I expect him to be the next All-America quarterback for this program and it might start as soon as next season. I have no reservations in predicting that he'll have a statistically strong season, but the question about the team's record is tough to project, although I believe the Longhorns will be the Big 12's best on paper entering the season.

Q: (RRDoughnuts) - After reading the Locker Room today I'm with you that there's a talent issue with the offensive line, but I'm convinced that it can't be just a talent issue. Can you compare the Texas offensive line rankings with of Alabama. Apples to Apples, what are we looking at when it comes to the two teams playing for the national championship. I have to believe that we've recruited as well as they have and they have one of the best lines in college football.

A: Interesting question and I was surprised by the results. I went back and charted every offensive line recruit that the Longhorns and Crimson Tide have signed from 2005-09 (Note: I also included Adam Ulatoski from the 2004 class for the Longhorns) and found some very interesting data when using the Rivals.com Rankings.

Before we get started, let me give everyone a refresher on the best way to think of the numbers being used for this discussion. Here's a quick ball-park tool for everyone to use while we sort through the data:

6.1 - A nationally elite player of the highest order. Top 25-30 in the country
6.0 - The next tier of elite prospects. Top 30-60 in the nation.
5.9 - National Top 100 type prospect… probably extends into the top 150 or so nationally.
5.8 - National Top 250-type prospect.
5.7 - National Top 500-type prospect
5.6 - National Top 1,000-type prospect

With all of that out of the way, here we go…

Texas (19 signed)

2004 - Adam Ulatoski (5.7)

2005 - Chris Hall (5.6) and Charlie Tanner (5.6)

2006 - Buck Burnette (5.8), Steve Moore (5.6), Roy Watts (5.5), Britt Mitchell (5.7) and J'Marcus Webb (6.0)

2007 - Tray Allen (6.1), Kyle Hix (5.8), Michael Huey (6.0) and Aundre McGaskey (5.9)

2008 - Mark Buchanan (5.9), Luke Poehlmann (5.7) and David Snow (5.8)

2009 - Thomas Ashcraft (5.8), Paden Kelly (5.7), Garrett Porter (6.0) and Mason Walters (6.1)

Alabama (23 signed)

2005 - Evan Cardwell (5.4), Marlon Davis (5.5), Scott Deaton (5.4), Cole Harvey (5.5), Michael Johnson (5.8), Byron Walton (5.5)

2006 - Brian Motley (5.5), Taylor Pharr (5.8), David Ross (5.8), Andre Smith (6.1) and Alex Stadler (5.8)

2007 - Patrick Crump (5.7) and William Vlachos (5.6),

2008 - John Michael Boswell (5.8), Barrett Jones (6.0) and Tyler Love (6.1)

2009 - James Carpenter (5.8), D.J. Fluker (6.1), Darius McKeller (5.6), Brandon Moore (5.8), Anthony Steen (5.7), Chance Warmack (5.7) and Kellen Williams (5.7)

Here's the breakdown:

Texas

Average star ranking of all linemen recruited: 5.805
Average star ranking for upper-classmen recruited: 5.775
Average star ranking for players listed in two-deep: 5.777

Alabama

Average star ranking of all linemen recruited: 5.726
Average star ranking for upper-classmen recruited: 5.645
Average star ranking for players listed in two-deep:

+/- Differential

Average star ranking of all linemen recruited: Texas + 0.079
Average star ranking for upper-classmen recruited: Texas + 0.130
Average star ranking for players listed in two-deep: Alabama + 0.003

Overall, the recruiting rankings of the players that will actually take the field in the national championship game will be a wash, as the Tide hold the slightest possible numerical advantage. On the other hand, the Longhorns have an edge in the projected talent among upperclassmen, as they hold an advantage that equates to 1 ranking tiers, while their edge among all linemen recruited amounts to almost a full tier. Still, the differences in each category aren't dramatic in any way and there's nothing in either team's recruiting during a five-year window that would suggest there shouldn't be much of a difference in the talent base between both schools heading into the game.

BTW, I feel like a pretty big nerd after going through all of that. Thanks.

Q: (Hotsy) - The national media has already begun to blow up Alabama and crown them national champions. One of the main reasons the national "talking heads" are calling Bama the favorite is because of Nick Saban, and his ability to "game plan" and get his teams mentally ready to play. Why is it that Mack Brown never gets the credit he deserves for his game preparation? What is it about Mack that causes the national media to not FULLY RESPECT him as head coach? Is it Mack's "nice guy" personality that causes the media to not respect him? It makes no sense to me. I would hate to have to coach against Mack because his track record speaks for itself. Over the past 10 years, he has not only won more games than any other BCS conference coach, but he has beaten some pretty good coaches, as well. Think about it, he has beat the following national championship coaches, Les Miles, Nick Saban (2001 cotton bowl), Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, Jim Tressel, and Lloyd Carr. I'm sure I am leaving someone off the list, but leading up to big games the media always gives the coaching advantage to the opposite side line. WHY?

A: Old reputations die slowly and often never die. The best compliment that you can give Mack is that he has continued to improve and evolve at his craft each year he's been at Texas. If you compare the Mack Brown that arrived in December of 1997 with the guy that's currently running the team, it's like night and day. If you compare the 2003 version of Mack with the 2009 version, it's still night and day. He's not an excuse-maker or worrier like he might have been at times in the first half of his tenure, and his teams aren't nearly as self-engulfed as they used to be. Perhaps more than anything else, Brown is the best at learning from failure and tweaking his approach to handling each team, each yar.

The biggest secret in college football is that Mack has been peaking as a coach in the last half-decade and in the process he's been able to build a program that stands up eye-to-eye with the biggest giants in college football, while showing no signs of slowing down. You can say what you want about guys like Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll and just about anyone else not named Urban Meyer, but they haven't been better than Mack Brown in the last five-to-six years, unless little things like facts don't matter to you.

The truth of the matter is that there's a lot of jealousy around the country, especially in the coaching community aimed towards Brown. First, they hate the fact that he's one of the best recruiters in the country and has been taking players from them for two decades, whether he's had the best facilities or not. Now that he's at Texas and has the highest-revenue producing giant in the game protecting his back, which has some coaches disliking him even more. All of that jealousy and envy stems from the fact that they believe that they are better at their jobs than he is, but through some stroke of dumb luck, he keeps winning 10 games at a minimum each year, while the haters wonder about job security. On top of it all, there's a section of coaches that are turned off by his nice guy persona.

Brown gets virtually zero credit for building the Longhorns into a giant on the field and in the bank. This program was a mess when he arrived and he changed every detail, but there's a lot of belief that Texas is an "add water, instant dominant program" kind of place, so some will try to marginalize his accomplishments. Well, he can laugh all the way to the national championship game (again), the bank or the College Football Hall of Fame if he wants.

The Longhorns will never again have anyone at head coach that's as good. Because of him, they might not ever need it.

Q: (Hookem99) - 1) Nick Saban mentioned that Alabama won't practice for two weeks. What do you think our practice schedule is going to look like?

2) Could you relate the Big Three running backs of 2011 to current or former players?

For example: RB1 reminds me of Emmitt Smith because of the way he....

3) When do you think the word on Christian Scott's bowl game eligibility will come out, and if reinstated, how will he figure into the defense/special teams?


A: 1. The Longhorns are back to 6AM workouts this weekend and they'll work for the next few days before taking time off for the holidays. They'll report back on the 29th and then head to Pasadena on the 31st. From that moment on, they'll be in their normal pre-week practice schedule, although they'll obviously mix in a ton of bowl events.

2. I've said for a long time that Herschel Sims reminds me of a high school version of Brian Westbrook. He runs, he catches and he returns kicks at a very elite level, which makes his versatility off the charts good. The fact that he's turned into a big-time, big-play leader on a team on the doorsteps of a state championship makes him a special guy in my mind.

If you look at Malcolm Brown, you'll see a guy that reminds me of a young Rashard Mendenhall. He's got a unique size/speed/skill package that makes him capable of grinding a defense down, while possessing the big-play ability to score from anywhere on the field.

Finally, when I watch Aaron Green I can't help but think that he's what Lache Seastrunk would look like if he were a little more complete as a player. It pains me to think that the guy whose film just wowed me last season had such an ordinary year because he didn't play at the same dominant level that he displayed as a junior. I know that he has special talent because he's done it on the field in the past and when he was at the UT one-day camp, he wowed everyone on hand, including his peers.

3. I think there's a good chance we'll know something on Scott by Monday afternoon. The Longhorns will have a media event that day and I wouldn't be shocked if we get some sort of word then. As for the impact he might make, I'm expecting Will Muschamp to get him heavily involved in the defense with 15 practices to get him ready. That's the equivalent of a full set of spring workouts and he was tailor-made for a game like this. His presence on the field would upgrade the Texas defense in this game. Therefore, I don't care if the coaches downplay it or not, I would be surprised if they didn't try to get him as ready as possible. Perhaps he'd could only help on special teams or perhaps he wouldn't make any impact at all, but I have a hard time they'll leave any bullets in the chamber. Even if it's in obvious run situations only, he can make a winning difference in my opinion.

Q: (Brianf) - I have been wondering, and there have been several threads about the offensive line numbers. For the 2011 season, I see us with 9 upper classmen plus the number that are in the 2011 class as true freshmen. That's a situation that the coaches almost seem to be driving toward on purpose based on their limit of 2 OL in this class. Are there some players on the team now who are in the process of transitioning to OL or do you see any of the 2010 class as potential offensive linemen? I guess I just don't understand where the coaches are going with this.

A: Me either. This discussion has been had a couple of times in the last nine months and I will continue to contend that the Longhorns should have swallowed the one-year glut that taking four or five linemen in the 2010 class would have caused from a scholarship number standpoint in the 2010 calendar year. There's no way to get around the fact that they are potentially leaving themselves into a precarious situation heading into the 2011 season if any of the current that are scheduled to be on scholarship that year (Mark Buchanan, Luke Poehlmann, David Snow, Thomas Ashcraft, Paden Kelly, Garrett Porter, Mason Walters, Dom Espinosa and Trey Hopkins) get injured or are forced to leave the program for any reason. Those numbers just don't much margin or error in terms of development and it's likely going to mean that at least one of your true freshmen will have to play right away, whether they are truly ready or not (see the Class of 2007).

Q: (Bill Boy Bryant) - Do you feel the program put too much emphasis on the Heisman in their thinking on and off the field? I also felt like it was in the back of Colt's mind the entire season and he put too much pressure on himself and affected his performance at times. From a PR perspective, they did everything possible to help Colt's campaign. He was front and center the entire season.

What were your thoughts on the presentation and game feel at the new Cowboys Stadium? I know you had been to a Cowboys game but would be interested in hearing your opinions from Saturday night.


A: First, I think the Heisman stuff is what it is - it's kind of a monster that can swallow kids up because of the constant driving pressure. I don't blame the efforts that Texas made for McCoy, even if it might have impacted his play at times early in the season, because Mack Brown wanted McCoy to have it. He thought the 2008 award should have been McCoy's and because he cares so deeply for him, it was probably a bigger deal for the coach than it was for the player.

Second, it depends on whether we're talking about the experience at the Big 12 Championship or at a normal Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon production. When the Cowboys are playing in their home stadium, the experience for the consumer is unlike anything I've ever seen, especially with the pre-game and in-game scoreboard production. My favorite part of the stadium is the scoreboard's ability to show replays by splitting the screens into quarters and showing four separate angles of each play. Those of us that were there for the Texas/Nebraska game got the watered down version of the Death Star's capabilities. Also, that stadium was very loud when I was there for the Cowboys/Giants game, but the quiet created in that game two weeks ago had more to do with the nervous Texas fans that were watching in quiet horror all night, as much as it did the spacious settings.

Q: (LongAus) - What have been the most surprising recruitments/out of the blue commits you've seen in your time covering the Horns, especially in light of the Mike Davis left field action?

A: I think the recruitments of Davis and DeMarco Cobbs have to rank up there because they really did kind of appear out of nowhere after both players took an aggressive approach by calling the Texas coaches and telling them that they had interest when communications had previously been dead. That kind of stuff doesn't happen often with national top 100 type talent. The Longhorns have stolen some kids in recruiting late in the process in the past, but the circumstances were totally different. Perhaps the only recruitment that I can think of right now that is similar was the switching of commitments from Tennessee to Texas by Chris Simms. He had announced his pledge on the MSG Network in December of 1998 and when he made the switch over to Texas in January of 1999, it caught a ton of people by surprise because it was done so under the radar.

Q: (LongAus) - (Dropshot_7) Hey Ketch, in thinking about Drew Brees and his college career, I wonder who should get more credit, the Purdue coaching staff at the time, or Brees himself. Would he have been as good had he gone to Texas, or anywhere else for that matter? How much did the stars align for him to take off the way he did? So with that question in mind, I started wondering if you have any "what might have been" questions in your years of covering recruiting? Who comes to mind when you think about a perfect situation for a kid to walk into, but for one reason or another, chose a school (system) that didn't fit their abilities (ie: Terrelle Pryor choosing Ohio State over Michigan)?

A: Brees is one of the three best high school quarterbacks I've seen in this state in my 15+ years of covering college football recruiting. I had him ranked as a state top 10, despite the fact that he only had two offers. Others might feel differently, but I thought he was going to be a star wherever he went. Had he attended Texas, I'm not sure what would have happened because it's possible that there never would have been a Major Applewhite and who knows how the Chris Simms dynamic might have changed things, but we're talking about a two-time Heisman finalist from Purdue… something tells that he would have been a superstar at Texas.

As for guys that went to one school and probably should have went to another, I'll give you a few that stand out to me over the years. Former John Tyler defensive end David Warren might have been a star had he decided to attend Texas instead of Florida State. He was a really talented player than couldn't beat out guys that were future NFL stars. His path to playing time was blocked for years when he might have started as a freshman for the Longhorns in 1997. Former Jacksonville offensive lineman Jami Hightower is another guy that I think would have been better off if he had ended up at Texas back in 2001. In retrospect, Bobby Reid is another guy that should have stayed in state and he could have made for a seamless transition from 2005 to 2006 after the departure of Vince Young, and you'd have to think he might have started for several years after that.

One out of state prospect that would have been much better off at Texas was former Colorado prep star Marcus Houston. The Buffs wasted his talent and his profile was perfect for Mack Brown. Deep down I always felt like his heart was at Texas and his long-term planning in life (possibly running for public office) kept him at home in a horrible environment.

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