July 4, 2011

The Ticket City Locker Room



Q: (memhorn) - Can you tell us more about the summer practices, that is, the 7 on 7s called by the players? How often do they work out, how long, exactly what do they do, etc. Are the linemen coming; and if so, what do they do? Is the attendance better this year than last year? Who are the leaders? And when you report that such-and-such is standing out (like Ash), how many sources are you relying on for that information? Thanks.

A: I counted nine questions (not counting the "ect" in 78 words. Impressive.

Let's start with the basics, which depending on the week the players usually get together two or three times in a seven day-window and work out for anywhere from 1 to 3 hours in each session. Most of the time is centered on the development of the passing game on offense and the defense of it on the other side of the ball, which stands to reason considering what 7-on-7 is. That means that you're getting a lot of work with the back seven on defense and the skill players on offense. Although there is often some 11-on-11 scrimmaging that takes place at the end or beginning of each practice, most of the work with the linemen takes place at the other end of a practice field away from the skill guys.

Overall, it's very similar to what the team would work on within a 7-on-7 structure with the coaches present. If you've been to an open UT practice in the fall, reps are usually decided in the order of a perceived depth chart or experience, depending on the position and dynamics involved. More times than not, the tempo of the workouts remain very high, which makes it harder for true freshmen to get involved because they can't process the tasks being asked of them quickly enough. However, if they can jump into the deep in and swim, they'll certainly get quality reps.

Yes, the attendance this year is reportedly much better than it was last year, which is a good thing to say the least. When you're talking about off-season participation issues before the season ever starts, you can probably get an idea of whether expectations will be reached in advance of the season, and that certainly transpired some last year, even if the ramifications of those transgressions went ignored by most until real collateral damage occurred. These sessions are always controlled and organized by the upper-classmen among the quarterbacks, thus Garrett Gilbert is the warden of sorts right now for the workouts. Overall, the upper-classmen usually rank as the ringleaders and whatever tempo is created is ultimately what they demand. Guys like Vince Young and Colt McCoy detested sloppiness.

As for your last question, there's never a definite answer to give as it relates to sourcing. If you have multiple sources for information, some will always rank better than others. It also depends on what exactly I've heard that I'm passing along. More times than not, I prefer to have sources corroborate the info when I'm talking about third-hand information before I report too much of it, especially as it relates to summer workouts.

Q: (rogonzalez3) - This is the most excited I have been about UT linebackers in a while. How would you compare the current group of linebackers to the previous linebacker groups in Mack's tenure? While everyone seems concerned about the defensive tackles, it also seems to me we should be concerned about the defensive ends. A lot of potential without much previous production. What do you think?

A: While I don't think there's any question that the Longhorns have as much young and overall talent in the program at the linebacker position as its ever enjoyed in the Mack Brown era, it doesn't mean that the position doesn't have its share of question marks. The biggest deals with the group's ability to stand up to a power running game, especially without a true proven at middle linebacker. The trio of Kennan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho and Jordan Hicks can all create game-changing plays with their speed and athleticism, but all are better-suited to play outside, especially with the question marks facing the team's talent/depth at defensive tackle. All three of those players have Sunday upside in the way of talent, but the team will likely need to mask some stretched comfort zones with the top guys.

The wildcards are three true freshmen - Steve Edmond, Kendall Thompson and Chet Moss - but it's too soon to project if any of those three are ready for a year-one impact.

As for the defensive ends, sometimes you just have to trust your talent, especially with so many other concerns. The trio of Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor and Reggie Wilson is raw, but extremely talented and ready to break out. None of us are sure you can say that about some of the other question marks throughout the line-up.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - With the Texas TV network a real deal, realistically how many football games will be available on the network? With all of the contracts with the major TV networks, that doesn't leave a lot of the games open for the Texas network. Also how many of the incoming freshmen do you see playing a major role this y

A: You're probably not going to ever see more than one or two games per year on the network, although the network seems to ensure that even in a terrible season, the games will be televised. As long as Texas is Texas and continues to draw big TV numbers, they are always going to be first in demand within the other TV deal requests, which means more coaching shows than live games on the Longhorn Network during the season. On the other hand, rebroadcasts of each game shouldn't be a huge issue moving forward.

As for the freshman question, I'll go with anywhere from 6-10, with Malcolm Brown, Jaxon Shipley, Quandre Diggs, Joe Bergeron, Desmond Jackson, a couple of the other defensive backs and maybe an offensive lineman or two among the most likely to be counted on for live action in 2011.

Q: austin_eagle) - What are your sources saying changed for Stacy Searels when he took the job at Texas? From all accounts he has been one of Mack's most impactful hires this past offseason; yet his lines the last two years at Georgia were mediocre and their fan base was comfortable with him leaving.

A: It's not unlike anything else in life that we experience in life. There are times when a fresh start is exactly that, a chance to find some rekindled magic that might have been lost, and in the case of Searels and even the coaches that Texas retained from last season, the 2011 year represents a chance to take back control of his coaching soul. There are times when you can be so close to a situation that you are blinded by the obvious and that probably happened with UGA faithful. Most followers of college football understood that while it might have been a positive for both sides of the UGA/Searels relationship that he moved along to Texas, he ranks as one of the best at his position in the country. The end of his tenure there was wrecked by unfortunate injuries and circumstances, which can create a tough environment to get your head back above water in. None of that matters in Austin, which had encountered a similar problem with its own offensive line coach.

Q: (weenhorn) - We've heard that UT has told Tyrone Swoops that he has and/ or will receive an offer. Are there any other 2013 recruits that you believe have been told the same? If so, please give us your best guess.

Who are the top recruits who missed the UT camps and need most to make it to campus? I'm betting guys like Ben Hughes, Justin Manning and Kent Perkins?


A: I think we should all slow down on the perceived reports of offers, including the one reported by Swoopes last week, because everything I'm hearing suggests that a lot of decisions haven't been made for the 2013 class and that the coaches are intent on letting the players decide the internal debates on the field. That includes the quarterback position, which has several intriguing options, the least of which is not Bryan's Chris Johnson or Swoopes. If I had to bet the mortgage, I'd gamble on guys like Jake Raulerson and A'Shawn Robinson getting offers, but I wouldn't take much else for granted just yet.

As for those that skipped June visits to Austin that Texas "needs" to make it to campus, I'd lean towards Manning with the obvious reason being that he's not as familiar with Texas as Oklahoma and a few other schools yet. The first guy on my list would probably be top-five talent Derrick Griffin from Rosenberg Terry. Bastrop linebacker would also be on the list, along with Perkins and Elysian Fields athlete [db]Isaiah Golden.

Q: (dropshot_7) - How realistic is it for us to expect our o-line to be at a reliable level this season? What are your expectations for that unit?

A: I have zero expectations for the offensive line. After years of having expectations for young players to improve from one year to the next, only to feel like one of the townspeople who ran down to help the sheep every time the little boy cried wolf, I simply can't allow myself that option any longer. It's been half a decade since the Longhorns had a truly reliable line, so until these young guys start to prove their reliability, I would suggest tempering your optimism slightly. It's a very young group without a proven standout and a few injuries in the wrong spots could spell real trouble. Ask yourself this - what happens if Trey Hopkins turns an ankle and is out for a month. How reliable would that line look in your eyes right now?

Q: (blitzforce) - Who do you see returning punts and kickoffs next year? Do you expect any of the young guys like Shipley or Diggs to win the job outright by seasons end? What kind of increase in production is realistic to expect for this season after last season's abysmal return numbers and turnovers?

A: The smart money suggests that we won't see young guys on the return units early in the season. I'd be stunned if we don't see D.J. Monroe back in a huge role on kickoff returns, in a way that will make everyone forget about his lost season of 2010. Also, look for Darius White to get touches in that capacity as well. The punt return job appears wide open heading into the fall.

Q: (Sydney15) - -Hey Ketch, is it me or am I the only one not worried about the Defensive Tackle position? Just from numbers alone I believe we will be ok there. I believe at some point someone will emerge as a starter or even a star there however I know fear of the unknown is what grips most of Longhorn nation. Looking back on it over the years the last first round pick we've had there was Tubbs nearly ten years ago. We have gotten by just fine without first found talent at that position so why would I think otherwise now. What do you think?

However I am concerned about the corner position. We have a surplus of Safeties however none of the corner backs on the roster seem to have as much appeal and potential as before. This is almost like the 07 groups with Foster and Palmer. Plus to me it doesn't seem like Mack and Company are all that happy with who they have as well due to all the out of state prospect and offers made. So Ketch which position scares you the most, the DT or Corner spots?

A: Yes, you are the only one on the planet with orange blood running through his veins that isn't worried about the defensive tackle position. Yes, the best Texas defenses of the last few years didn't feature first-round talent on defense, but it did feature absolute NFL players in Roy Miller and Lamarr Houston. Never before has their contributions been more apparent than last year when they were both gone.

On the other hand, I'm far less worried about the cornerback position. The combination of a stacked depth chart full of young, but incredibly capable players to go along with Duane Akina doesn't give me much fright at all if I'm being honest. You can coach up raw talent at cornerback pretty quickly in my opinion. This group reminds me quite a bit of the young kids Akina played with in 2008, which didn't keep the Longhorns from fielding a terrific overall defense, even if it was green in the secondary. They'll take some lumps, but the players are there in my opinion.

Q: (Hatt) - What should we expect from the young kids as far as playing time early in the season? In prior years, they see little time early, see Ced Benson. Will Mack really allow the staff to play kids early and often ... assuming they deserve it?

A: In the spots where the most help is needed, I think you're absolutely going to see Mack extend the young kids more than we've seen in the past because Mack has never been coming off of a losing season. There's a much greater sense of desperation to get things going forward again than I can remember seeing in the past, which means loyalty to players from a losing 2010 team doesn't really exist. If anything, those that played last year have more to prove than those that didn't, and not vice versa.

Q: (losthorn) - Could there be too much emphasis given to a recruit's camp performance, particularly to positions that primarily block and tackle. You can get a fair assessment of passing, catching, route running and coverage from non-contact drills. Can you really gauge the fire needed to block and tackle like a beast in a non-contact drill? Along the same line of thought, do you see certain a fixed number of components that make up a proper recruit evaluation? For components, I mean things like - film, high school coach opinion, camp… Thanks, I'll hang up and listen.

A: You answered your own questions. Every recruit is a snowflake and has to be evaluated separately, with extra attention given in the areas where it is needed. No proper evaluation leans on one area of focus entirely and I lean much, much more towards play on the field than play at a camp.


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