From the Stands – CWS End
By Trey McLean
Random thoughts going into mid-July:
- It’s hot
- The Astros are bad
- Derek Jeter is about to get 3,000 hits
- Nancy Grace is obnoxious
- Please stop saying “Tot Mom”
- There isn’t a single movie coming out this summer that is must see
- NCAA 2012 comes out in one month. Anyone else as exited about that as I am? The answer is no.
- Oregon seems next on the chopping block…
- … Because Will Lyles needs attention
- Even the “one shining moment” for Texas last year, the Nebraska win, is a little hard to watch
- That still has to keep the yahoos like me in Big Red land up at night
- I think “Sons of Anarchy” will be next on my list of TV shows to watch
- It’s hot- did I already say that?
In case you didn’t noticed, there isn’t anything to talk about. It’s the dead of summer, meaning there isn’t anything going on in the sports world. Women’s World Cup soccer? Another college in trouble for something? Some baseball? That’s it. And while I like baseball as much or more than anyone, it isn’t exactly blood-pumping excitement right now with three months to go in the regular season. So let’s talk some college football, shall we?
We are about a month away from the Horns reporting to camp, which means we are roughly half way through the summer workouts. I’ll restate my thoughts on the off-season very quickly: every success in the season comes from the off-season. Short and to the point, yes? This is nothing fun about it, nothing sexy about it and nothing glamorous about it. It’s 90 guys sweating, heaving and many other adjectives in weight rooms, mat rooms, sand pits, practice fields, cages, shoots, on blocking sleds, pulling parachutes, pulling each other and any possible exotic torture drill strength and conditioning coaches can come up with to push them, and it’s happening all across the land. There are no TV cameras, no fans watching, no touchdowns scored, no sacks, no big plays or anything else you might call “football-exciting.” There is a lot of soreness, a lot of early nights (the Texas guys go at dawn) and a lot of tired bodies who still have homework, papers and tests waiting for them at the end of the day. The college roadies for Mardi Gras, Spring Break, etc… don’t usually happen because of the workouts/meetings or coaches telling players they are not allowed to go and, specifically at places like Texas, there are new playbooks that need to be learned and memorized. I’m not trying to turn these guys into Cinderella and at the end of the day there are worse things than being a high-profile college football player for sure, but there isn’t anything pleasant about the off-season. But it is of paramount importance. And the thing is, all the hard work and progress made in the off-season can completely unravel in the summer if everyone isn’t on the same page.
Technically the summer is voluntary, meaning the players don’t have to attend if they don’t want to, and even the feared Bennie Wylies of the college football world cannot make them attend the 7-on-7 (no linemen) and 11-on-11 evening practices that the players run themselves. So it’s up to them to want to be there and want to not only maintain what they did in the off-season, but hone it to a fine point for the start of the season. Last summer at Texas, participation was probably at its lowest in the Mack Brown era and you all saw how that went. All of the problems from 2010 were certainly not entirely the product of the off-season, but it sure didn’t help and it definitely was an indicator that something was wrong. You have to put in the work to get the results, and the summer of 2010 showed Texas didn’t put in the work. No work means bad things, man. Bad things.
In 2011, so far, so good. The Texas Longhorns, along with a new and more vicious strength and conditioning program, have been reborn. The participation is off the charts this summer and the only ones missing are the guys that probably aren’t going to be on the team when fall camp starts. Halfway through, Texas is putting in the work. I have some things I want to see happen in the home stretch of summer and into the start of fall camp that will go along way towards curing ails of 2010. Here they are:
Summer Wish List
- First and foremost, I want it all to be true. I want all the stories of Bennie Wylie transforming these guys into the meanest, leanest, nastiest kids on the block to be 100% true. I want to see everyone transformed, both mentally and physically, for game one. I know that it is a process and that to completely transform this team it will take some time. The fat must be trimmed, in every possible way both literally and figuratively, and that isn’t a process that will be done in one off-season. But I wish it would. I know that is unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope for it. I expect Texas to be well on their way to accomplishing that when we see the 2011 team take the field, but we won’t truly know until the show starts.
- I want Garret Gilbert to come back this fall with a massive ego and chip on his shoulder. There is tee shirt at the Co-op that says “Texas Swagger.” I want to see that Texas Swagger in GG. The guy was the best quarterback in the nation in high school and has the rings and success to show he was no one-hit wonder at Lake Travis. He came in ice cold off the bench in the National Title game in 2009 and not only shook off that understandably terrible first half but had Texas on the verge of one of the greatest comebacks ever. And then last year it all fell apart. The staff trusted no one else to play quarterback and when everything started going wrong, Gilbert was the face of the decline. He dug his own holes plenty of times, but it surely was not all his fault. Remember that scene at the end of Top Gun, when Maverick is staring in the mirror after his accident and Tom Skerritt comes in and tells him, in effect, “…Goose is dead. You fly jets long enough, something like this happens.… You had an accident and you have a confidence problem… You have to let him go.” This is me as Viper telling you, GG, to move on and let it go. You had some bad games and some terrible luck last fall, which is a hazard of the quarterback trade and something that happens even to the best of them, but the talent and moxie that got you to Texas is still there and it’s time to go back and find it and unleash it on the haters, the big mouths and cynics who think you are not The Man. Throw the metaphorical dog tags in the ocean and let’s get back in the fight. I want to see Gilbert screaming some receivers down and talking trash, owning the room, relishing the spotlight and ready to ruin some opponent’s day. I want Gilbert to only know he’s good, I want him to tell the opponent how good he is as he lights them up. I want him to own this team. That’s swagger, Texas Swagger, and I want to see GG by the face of it. If another quarterback takes the reigns by these same means, so be it. I’ll be behind them 100%, but I think Gilbert offers Texas the best chance to win right now.
- I want to see offensive linemen to do the same and take a page from Lyle Sendlein and Andre Gurode. As you remember Gurode was the super Colorado Buffalo o-lineman (now a Dallas Cowboy) who was ferocious in the Big 12 Title Game in 2001. On one play he took the Texas defender to the wall behind the end zone on a 15-yard touchdown run by Chris Brown. That’s a solid 15 yards behind the goal post, which would be 30 + yards from the line of scrimmage. That isn’t a guy who wants to win that play. That’s a guy who wants your soul. And you probably know the Sendlien story. The now Arizona Cardinal center was just done with the yappy Missouri Tiger defense in Columbia in 2005. Even with a comfortable lead, the Missouri defense was unimpressed and said as much. On a play from the Mizzou four yard line or so, Sendlein stood up at the line of scrimmage and basically told the entire defense “Enough. You’ve been running your mouths all day. We are going to run the ball on this play and it’s coming on the first sound and it’s coming right here (pointing the gap between himself and the guard) and when we score you will stop talking.” I cleaned that up a little. So what happened? Texas ran the ball, Texas scored and the entire Missouri defense walked to the sideline and I don’t remember any more talk from that side of the ball. Channel your inner devil, fellas, and show us how different things are now and show me some of the above. I’ve heard Stacy Searels is changing their mindset and Bennie Wylie is changing their bodies, now I want to see that it has truly taken. Bring the nasty, boys, and let’s make some folks eat the “soft” label they are so fond of. Time to regulate.
- I want the freshmen playmakers to be as good as advertised. I’ve heard that Jaxon Shipley is in beast mode this summer; catching everything thrown his way and making the quarterbacks look very good. I’ve heard the team is impressed with his work ethic, hands, route-running ability, et al. and that he reminds everyone of his brother, even down to the No.8 he wears. I hear good things about Malcolm Brown as well, that he has a terrific work ethic and is man-sized already. I want to see these two guys in particular on the field, because they possess a game-changing ability that Texas frankly didn’t have in many spots last year. If Shipley is like his brother, his ability to work the slot and get open over the middle will open the door for the other receivers to get down field, opening up opportunities for big plays. Brown has the (purported) ability to hammer a defense and wear them down between the tackles, using his size and strength to run over defenders and his speed to outrun them when they tire. His presence inside could keep defenses honest, meaning more one-on-one matchups outside for the quarterbacks to exploit and making the likelihood of play-action absolutely devastating. There are athletes that can make a dent immediately, but these two are the most college-ready on the offense and the ones Texas needs to be as good as we all hope they will be.
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From the Stands