- So someone on the Miami Heat was crying after the loss. So what. I’ve seen plenty of guys cry in the locker room. I’ve seen them yell, throw tantrums, throw up, sleep, eat, giggle, not pay attention, ignore everyone and just about everything you can think of. It’s emotional and everyone handles it differently. I have no problem with that. I do, however, have a big problem with the coach broadcasting that to the public. The locker room is the locker room and fights, fits and everything else should stay there.
- Dogus Balbay won the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Good for you, Dogus, and congrats. It is well deserved. Now let’s show the rest of the country why you won it.
- Pretty sneaky of the owners to try and borrow money against the revenue earned from the NFL TV deal to keep the cash flow going in the event of a lockout. The players, cut out of that deal, got a judge to deny that loan and now, coincidentally, everyone is back at the table trying to avoid the lockout.
- I fully expect in the event of an NFL lockout for college football to exploit that opening have some big games on Sunday and Monday. I’d watch Kentucky/Louisville on Sunday night, wouldn’t you?
- So Jim Tressel knew eight months before it came out that some of his players had violated NCAA rules with the whole gold pants/tattoos thing and then he said he didn’t know when it came public before the Sugar Bowl? The Buckeyes could be in trouble. Lose-your-job trouble? Probably not, but who knows?
- Now you see why Texas steered clear of Lache Seastrunk.
- The oklahoma sooners are off to a 14-0 start in baseball, their best start in school history. That’s one more win than their basketball team has in four months.
- With all of the schools in trouble for recruiting violations, how has Notre Dame emerged untouched after much more serious goings on?
- Pat Knight was fired from Tech after a 12-36 run in conference play in three years there replacing his dad. Too bad, he was a nice guy. Where do you go from here?
I’m changing this up a bit. Last week I said we’d talk special teams this week and I have decided to delay that a week or so for a few reasons. First, I think Texas is focusing right now on seeing who fits in where on the offense and the defense and they haven’t gotten fully involved in special teams yet. It makes sense. The kickers and snappers will continue to drill and do their thing, but right now the focus is on finding who fits where on the offense and the defense. With the duties of the special teams being spread out throughout the staff and no one person in charge (other than Mack Brown) you have to think it just hasn’t completely come together yet. Third, the majority of your special teams players (kickoff return, points teams, punt team) are made up of No.2’s and young players, and if you don’t know who your starters are you probably don’t know who the No.2’s are yet, right? And lastly I think we use this time to take a look at what has happened so far in spring and what questions await the second half. So we will hit the special teams later when we have more information on them. Let’s talk spring football, but first let’s do some hoops.
The Second Season
As expected, the Texas Longhorns are the No.2 seed heading into the Big 12 Basketball Tournament this week. They will play the winner of the No.7 Baylor vs. No.10 oklahoma game (6 pm, Wednesday) on Thursday at 6 pm in Kansas City. A win Thursday puts Texas into the quarterfinals on Friday against, most likely, the Aggies on Friday at 8:30 pm. So what do we expect to happen? What do we want to happen?
I’m all over the place on what I want to happen. I remember in 2003 when Texas came in to Dallas in 2003 for the Big 12 Basketball Tournament, they were No.3 and had a No.1 seed on the line. They lost the opening round game to Texas Tech, 92-81, and looked completely flat in the first half. Walking off the court afterwards, my dad caught TJ Ford’s eye and he just smiled at him walking into the tunnel. I remember hearing that story and thinking maybe Texas had something up their sleeve. I remember ou beating Missouri in a slugfest for the Big 12 Tournament Title on Sunday, a day after going to overtime to beat Tech. I remember two weeks later watching the sooners with no legs against Syracuse in the Round of 8, losing because they just couldn’t shoot. I was thinking about Texas running and gunning and cutting down the nets to go to New Orleans and the Final Four. Texas looked fresh, ou looked tired. Where I’m going with this is theoretically I wouldn’t be beyond mad if Texas bounced early from the Big 12 Tourney and sat and rested until the Dance started. If Texas is fresh I don’t see many teams right now that can hang with them and score enough points to win. Of course I said theoretically. I don’t like Texas losing in anything ever and it is a terrible precedent to set. But still, it worked for Texas then and it works for teams all over the country every March.
Who are you for in the Baylor/ou game? I don’t like picking because inevitably the choice ends up coming back to bite me. But what if Texas could end ou’s basketball season? That could happen. That means ou has to win, though, and I don’t see them doing that. Logic says Baylor wins and Texas and the Bears go to Round 3. Ironically, last year the same thing happened and Texas was housed by Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament. It would be nice to win that win and send them home as well.
In the end I want the best of both worlds- rest and wins- and something Texas has never had in the Big 12- A Big 12 Tournament Title. But do I want that Title at the expense of greater success in the Big One a week later? No I don’t.
I am very conflicted and confused and I don’t like it. Not one bit! Give me your thoughts on this, please.
Let’s move on to football. We will get WAAAAAY into the Tournament next week.
The Horns are close to wrapping the first part of spring practice before taking the week off for spring break. They will resume in pads when they return with seven practices before the Spring Game. The practices are closed to the general public but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to talk about. I’ve cobbled together some notes on spring practice from people I’ve talked to and things I’ve read. Here they are in no real order:
- The buzzword on the street (the “street” being that alley between the coaches’ offices and the Rec Center) is “tempo.” While everything is being installed in every facet of the game, they sure aren’t doing it with any hesitation. The plays are run quickly, they turn it over quickly and they move on to the next one. That is particularly impressive considering how often the packages change and whole sale personnel changes happen from play to play.
- Remember the word “multiple.” Brian Harsin is an evil genius when devising an offense and if you can think of an offensive formation, the Texas Longhorns are running it.
- Manny Diaz doesn’t pull any punches. He isn’t going to allow a player to do something wrong. If that player does something wrong, they will be running. A lot. And while they are running he will be moving on to the next guy to see how he does it.
- That approach confirms the “all jobs are open” and the coaches are truly coming in with a clean slate for just about everyone.
As for the individual players, here are some notes making the rounds:
- The quarterback job is still up in the air and everyone is getting a shot, including incoming freshman David Ash. Returning starter Garrett Gilbert usually begins first, but don’t read too much into that right now. It’s more a matter of “oldest guy first” than any sort of hierarchy; however, I have heard that he is a little bit ahead of Case McCoy and Connor Wood. I think Harsin is still in his evaluation process of all four, but I’ve heard he and everyone else is very impressed with how quickly David Ash is grasping things and how smoothly things run when he is in there. After spring break I think we will see a pecking order develop and my gut still says it will be GG.
- At running back the two names that keep coming up are Chris Whaley and Traylon Shead. Whaley, rumored to be on the move from h-back to defensive end, has spent the first part of spring back at running back. Haven’t heard a whole lot more than that but I’m sure Brian Harsin wants to see what Whaley has to offer. The lack of info on him could be due to the lack of information in general, or it could mean he moves over to defensive end in the second half of spring. I think if he stays at rb it means Harsin has seen something he likes. If he moves to defensive end it means he has seen enough from others to let Whaley go for a quicker shot at playing time. One guy that could expedite that move is redshirt freshman Traylon Shead. The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder has all the talent in the world, but coming from such a small school (Cayuga) he needed some time to let the speed of the college game slow down for him. It appears to have done that. His size and speed offer a non-specialty back (Fozzy Whittaker for passing downs, Cody Johnson for short yardage, etc.) that can stay on the field in all scenarios, opening up all sorts of options for Harsin. The elephant in the room is the pending arrival of Malcolm Brown, who is going to take someone’s playing time. Shead seems to have decided it will not be his playing time. I’ve also seen the name Jeremy Hills come up and I expect to hear more from DJ Monroe in the second half of spring. He has been out running track, but should be back for in two weeks.
- Blaine Irby is looking good. The senior looks like he “hasn’t missed a beat” and more importantly hasn’t suffered any of the post-practice swelling that is a telltale sign that returning to practice came too soon. If Irby, and this is a BIG if, can go through the spring and summer healthy he has a chance to be a difference maker at the tight end spot that Texas hasn’t had since, well, Blaine Irby blew his knee out against Rice in 2008. I’ve also read that DJ Grant is progressing and is not suffering from the dreaded post-practice swelling. That is great news for the tight end position.
- Texas seems stacked at wide out with all the young guys in the fold and the class coming in. The two names at the top of the list are Mike Davis and John Harris. Davis was the best and most consistent wide out on the team last year, but an ankle injury limited him. He’s back, he’s healthy and so far he’s been very impressive. Harris, a redshirt last year, is showing explosive speed and great hands. At 6-foot-3, 206 pounds, he is a match up nightmare. He is showing consistency and playmaking ability that the Horns desperately need. With Malcolm Williams out for the spring, Harris has jumped into the starter’s role opposite Davis and looks very good.
- Regarding Malcolm Williams, he is out this spring dealing with some personal, off-the-field issues. Rumors are varied, but I have heard two different people connected to the program tell me that the coaching staff is “not worried” about his return and that “…he will be back.” There you go.
- As for the offensive line, moving on…
- On the defensive side of the ball the names I keep hearing at defensive end are Alex Okafor and Reggie Wilson. The move outside was Diaz’s idea and can only assume they feel very comfortable with the defensive tackles on the roster/coming in this summer. I think Okafor is a talent that will be successful wherever they put him, but obviously he’s ready-made for de right now. He and Wilson are tearing it up from what I hear. I read the lack of info on Jackson Jeffcoat is due to him being sick the first part of spring and he should be back at it after spring break.
- Inside at defensive tackle Texas is looking to find a steady player opposite Kheeston Randall and the guy whose name keeps popping up is Ashton Dorsey. The sophomore played nine games last year as a true freshman and is a beast. BEAST. He’s 6-foot-2, 295 pounds. Last year conditioning and strength limited his reps, but I’ve read this year he’s going to war in the weight room to get stronger and doing what he has to do in order to get in the best shape possible. With that attitude and work ethic, I expect Bo Davis and Bennie Wylie to have him at 70mph on the onramp when the season starts. Texas will need more than two defensive tackles this spring, so Taylor Bible, Calvin Howell , De’Aires Cotton and Greg Daniels will need to get after it to hold off Desmond Jackson and Quincy Russell (incoming freshmen) this summer.
- I said in my spring wish list for the defense that I hoped Texas would find a way to get EAcho, Keenan Robinson and Jordan Hicks on the field together and it looks like they have. I’ve read Acho has played inside at mike some to get everyone on the field. But Texas is experimenting. Just as Harsin will tinker and test on offense, Diaz will do the same on defense. The name that has come up multiple times is DeMarco Cobbs. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman came in as a defensive back but seems to have found a home at outside linebacker. He will be that Drew Kelson-type that can cover a back or tight end and use his speed to get to the quarterback. He is still learning but expect to see some big plays out of him. I am excited to see what sort of schemes Diaz will use to get athletes on the field.
- Expect to hear more of Tevin Jackson, Aaron Benson and Chet Moss in the second half of spring. Texas is absolutely loaded at linebacker, so don’t be surprised to see someone like Dravannti Johnson spin down to defensive end full time.
- While I like the idea of all three on the field together, the trio of EAcho, Robinson and Hicks doesn’t have a true mlb. I think Benson can be that guy and I expect to hear that soon.
- With Eyron Barnett out this spring, the starting corners right now are Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips. With other corners on the roster it was sort of a surprise to me that Phillips is running first team since he was a safety last year. Is that because Phillips is better or the others are not as good?
- Four names pop up at safety- Blake Gideon, Kenny Vaccaro, Christian Scott and Nolan Brewster. After redshirting in ’10, Brewster is healthy and back in the mix. Diaz will use the safeties like linebackers at times, so he needs physical guys that can run support, but he needs speed out there to recover and drop into coverage. That sounds like Kenny Vaccaro to me, but honestly none of the returners made many big plays last year, so the door is open for all comers.
- The name that I’ve heard to watch is Quandre Diggs. The true freshman is on campus going through spring and with the limited numbers in the secondary, I expect him to play this fall and play a lot. That isn’t a bad thing, because he’s the real deal.
The Second Half
There are three areas I want to see Texas improve on this spring as they look to the summer. These are non-negotiable and must happen for the Horns to get where the want to be. Texas is loaded at wide out, running back and linebacker and I like the way things look at defensive tackle and tight end. Still, they need to develop in three key areas to get back on top.
I am convinced Texas will be LIGHT YEARS better at qb next year with Harsin and this offense here. Still, I want to see it and not wait for it. I think Gilbert takes the steps necessary when spring picks back up to begin to separate from the pack. I want to see a quicker release in his throws and good decisions. I also want to see him own this team. I hear the guys like him and that’s great, but they also have to follow him and that isn’t necessarily the same thing. Step on some toes if you need to, GG.
Step it up. Own the field. There are enough upperclassmen that have been through the wars and done so successfully to lead this unit and there is enough talent behind them to provide depth. Stacy Searels will change their attitude and Brian Harsin will change their scheme. It is up to them to change the culture. I could go on, but that’s enough for now.
I want to see a top five or six. Texas needs three cornerbacks and three safeties to win jobs, not by attrition but with great play. The Horns, loaded with experience last year, were lousy. Now they must prove with young players that they can handle the high octane offenses in the Big 12. The new scheme is going to be attacking, blitzing and moving, meaning there will times the secondary is on an island and will need to make plays. The personnel are in place for that to happen; now they must do it. I want to see them start that after spring break, if not sooner.
From the Stands