January 16, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (walk-on horn) - 1. The 2010 schedule is very interesting to me.

A. When is the last time Texas started the season on the road?
B. And will that game be at Reliant Stadium?
C. The most daunting part of the schedule is at Texas Tech, UCLA, OU in Dallas, and at Nebraska. Do we need to sweep those three conference games to play for the Big 12 title?
D. How much will the new QB (Garrett Gilbert) have to do for us to sweep those four games?
E. The last six games look very manageable. Do you see any traps in the last six games?

2. Bill Simmons coined "Halter Top Day" and it really resonated with America because everyone can relate to this great day in March/April every year. However, he forbade the southern states from celebrating Halter Top Day. When I was in college, girls used to require that a guy go shopping with them every March to buy their swimsuit for Spring Break. For guys, it is the best shopping day of the year. Should this day be named? If so, what should we title it?

A: Lots of questions, so let's not waste any time. The last time the Longhorns opened up away from home was in 1995 when the Ricky Williams Era began at Hawaii and the Longhorns ran away with a 38-17 win. Ironically, the Longhorns opened up with three of their first four games on the road that year, which really goes against the national trends in 2010 unless you're a directional school. Technically, the Longhorns will open up on the road in 2010 when they take on Rice at Reliant Stadium, but that stadium will be 80% full of Longhorns.

When I look at the 2010 schedule, there's no question that Texas will see get a couple of early tough tasks than they've seen over the course of many previous seasons from the last decade. Still, the Longhorns should be far superior to the Red Raiders and UCLA. In my mind the season will boil down to what the Longhorns will be able to do with the two-game stretch against the Sooners and Huskers. Frankly, I don't see Oklahoma making a lot of great strides from last season and you can make a strong case that their talent level will dip down in 2010. As long as the Longhorns beat the Sooners in Dallas, they'll be the odds-on-favorite to win the South, which means that they could end up playing the Huskers twice before it's all said and done. Five of the final six games are at home and against average-to-slightly above average programs, which would lead me to pick the game in Manhattan as the most dangerous of that final six-game stretch.

Finally, I thought long and hard about this potential holiday of yours and I'm not sure I like it. First of all, it's a trap. Unless you're 21 or younger and have a girl that's as fit as a gymnast, there's no way for you to win because nothing you pick out is likely going to cover as much of the planet as it likely needs to. Meanwhile, God help you if you pick something that's a size or two too big. I've tried purchasing bathing suits for girlfriends in the past and it just doesn't work. In their eyes, you're either trying to make them look like a slut or you are reminding them that your expectations for them are likely somewhat out of whack. Do yourself a favor - don't ever bring this idea up again. Just give your girl $100 bucks and call it a day. There's no reason to open yourself up to this kind of trouble.

Q: (longhornangel) - When do you think we will be back at the national championship game? Who would you put in the top 10 for 2010?

A: There's no way to know whether Garrett Gilbert is ready to lead the Longhorns on that kind of charge, but the schedule shapes up really nicely for another national championship run in 2010 and probably an even better run in 2011. With 13 starters returning and a number of other impact players returning, few teams should be in a better position, especially if the Big 12 takes another dip like I'm expecting.

If I was going to make a pre-season top 10 right now, it would probably look something like this:

1. Alabama
2. Texas
3. Ohio State
4. Oregon
5. Boise State
6. Virginia Tech
7. Wisconsin
8. Miami
9. Nebraska
10. TCU

Overall, I'm not sure there's much separating the top 10 from top to bottom, which should help create a wild season that doesn't feature any undefeated teams at the end.

Q: (GeoHorn) - Ketch, not to beat a dead horse, but with our d line being one of, if not, the best in the nation, how did our o line look during practices this year? Could they open up holes at all against Lamar and co.? Did we run our #1's on offense vs. our #2's on defense? Did they look good in practice, but not on Saturdays? Thanks,

A: Obviously, I wasn't allowed to watch practice every day, but I never got the sense from talking to those that were that the offensive line picked up a lot of wins when the No.1's squared off against the No.1's, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise. The Longhorns work a lot of No.1's vs. No.1's in practice, but there's not as much live scrimmage work during the season as there is in the pre-season. I thought one of the things that might have helped the offensive line better prepare for Alabama was a return to more live scrimmage work during bowl workouts, but it's probably unrealistic to think that you could survive a full season with that much live work each week.

Q: (Fear_The_Cow) - With Earl Thomas leaving, who is our Punt Returner next year? I like DeSean Hales with the ball in his hands, can he field punts well?

A: Good question. The Longhorns will actually enter the season with several options in the punt return game and I'm in complete agreement with you that Hales should and likely will be one of the first options they take a long look at, along with Marquise Goodwin and Brock Fitzhenry. The player that I think the staff should give a really long look at is senior cornerback Curtis Brown, who ranks as one of the most exciting return men I've seen at the high school level.

Q: (BurtHorn) - Have the recent events changed the minds of Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat? Better or worse ? What happens when Georgia comes knocking ? Will this affect next year's class? Does Mack Brown give Will Muschamp more control next year? If they were deciding tomorrow where does Hicks and Jeffcoat end up?

A: If we're discussing the events with Muschamp and the interest from Tennessee, it's doubtful that anything that happened this week will have hurt the Longhorns in their pursuit of these five-star players. If anything, his loyalty to the school couldn't have been expressed more strongly and I would imagine that those two players would be excited about it. Not even millions of dollars from an SEC power could tempt him to leave the 40 Acres and that actually works as a pretty strong closing point to the pitch you're trying to sell.

As far as projecting the future, I'm not sure what is to be gained by worrying about whether Georgia comes calling. Muschamp has never given the Longhorn faithful any reason to doubt his commitment to the program and I felt like he went out of his way to investigate whatever interest he had in the Vols head coaching job without giving the Longhorn program a black eye.

Finally, I still think the Longhorns are the favorite to land both Hicks and Jeffcoat and if you're making me predict where they would sign if today were signing day, I'd still stick with Texas. Of course, there have been rumors of a potential game-changer in the recruitment of Jeffcoat and if his dad takes a job with the Sooners, all bets will be off.

Q: (Orangebloods Mirvin) - Since there has been so much tension in the last 36 hours or so, i.e., WM, Buckner, Hicks & Jeffcoat, etc., etc., I just thought I'd ask the ever classic conundrum for all men everywhere.

Ginger or Mary Ann

A: I've been asked this question in the past and I'm sure a number of you will scream foul, but I'm a Ginger guy. Call me shallow, but if we're talking about two very attractive women, I'll almost always select the rich and famous, if for no other reason than it would make for a better story if we were ever saved. Of course, she'll eventually leave me, but I'll snag a few magazine covers and Hollywood party invites out of it along the way.

Q: (99TexasEx) - Thanks for the opportunity Ketch! There's been some chatter about changes on the Offensive side of the ball. Can you give us your best guess to what will actually change for the 2010 Longhorns? Going more to a Pro-Style O? Does it play to Garret's strengths given the system he played at Lake Travis? Running the ball?

Additionally, I'd anticipate we'll know more as the winter coaching carousel shakes out, yet, changes to coaching staff? It's been said that Coach Muschamp's influence is impacting the direction of the program already. Any chance that we see a similar 'passing of the torch' from Coach Davis to someone on the O staff?

A: If the national championship game is any indication, look for the Longhorns to play a little more under center next season with some pro-style influence because the coaches feel like it will help with the continued development of a running game that will serve much greater importance in 2010. The offense simply won't have Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley to repeatedly bail them out. Of course, the overall direction of the offense will probably start to take more direction during the off-season, beginning in the spring. Ironically, Gilbert played almost exclusively in the shotgun and in a pass-heavy offense at Lake Travis High School, so if the offense is going to evolve into a more traditional pro-style offense, it will require some added evolution from a quarterback that will already be making quite a few adjustments in his first season. My best guess is that you'll still see quite a bit of the three- and four-receiver looks out of the spread, but the Longhorns will want to be able to slide in and out of the pro-style looks, especially when trying to establish the ground game. Gilbert isn't nearly the run threat that McCoy is, which makes the move to a tweaked philosophy a necessity.

Q: (Ralphie369) - After returning from Pasadena, re watching the game, & discussion/analysis with several long term season ticket holders; the consensus seemed to be that the receivers in the game with the exception of Shipley could not readily adjust to Gilbert's type of passing after mostly taking reps with Colt the entire year.

1. Which of the current rotation do you see as being most able to adjust to a different style passing?
2. Which among Darius White, Mike Davis, Chris Jones, DeMarco Cobbs or Darius Terrell do you see as a significant contributor next year?
3. Just name your projected top six or eight wr, te, or Hb rotation please.

A: I'm probably of the opinion that you either fight the ball as a receiver or you don't because it's a natural skill. If we're looking at the four receivers that are returning after having caught 30 or more passes in 2009, Marquise Goodwin and James Kirkendoll are probably the most natural pass-catchers, while Malcolm Williams and John Chiles could use more work and improvement. One of the things that jumped out at me about Goodwin in August before he played his first game was his ability to catch the ball away from his body with his hands. The kid is fearless, never gives and inch and produces in the biggest of games. As we head into 2010, he's probably the guy that's poised to become Gilbert's early personal favorite. Also, keep an eye on sophomore DeSean Hales, who was a favorite of Gilbert's on the scout team.

Of the freshmen coming in, Dallas Skyline's Davis probably has the best natural ball skills of the entire group, along with DeSoto's Terrell. Frankly, none of the players coming in have worked with a quarterback anywhere near Gilbert's ability, so it's tough to project the readiness of each.

3. I think it's pretty tough to nail down a rotation at this point, although Goodwin and Williams are locks. The smart money is also on senior Kirkendoll and Chiles receiving a lot of playing time as well, but neither player did enough down the stretch to have any playing time guaranteed to them. Of the young players currently enrolled in the program, Hales and redshirt freshmen Greg Timmons[/db[ look like guys that could take reps away from veteran players. Also, I fully expect Davis to play from day one. Two different college coaches told me this week that they believe Davis could emerge as a Big 12 Newcomer of the Year type player as a freshman.

If we're talking about the H-back/tight end position, keep an eye on sophomore [db]Barrett Matthews because he can be the kind of player that upgrades the level of play from the tight end position that the Longhorns have received the last couple of seasons because of his athleticism and versatility. Also, if D.J. Grant is healthy, he gives the Longhorns a potential upgrade at the flex over Dan Buckner. The starting flex position was his until the knee injury before the season. Terrell could also be a guy that makes an impact as a true freshman.

Q: (PigFoooey) - I have my suspicions but would like your thoughts. Do you think Bullmarket is BEHIND the sheep with the human face?

A: That is a Yahoo search I could have done without. However, I believe Bull sometimes signs his emails, "Ben bir kara hırsız ve ben küçük bir penis var." I'm not sure what it means, but it could be a clue. Perhaps I'm thinking of another Sooner that emails me five times per day. I often get them confused.

Q: (jthhorn00) - What do you think the 2 deep looks like in 2010? I am really hoping for some open competition at WR and OL, and maybe Matthews stepping up, but I am probably going to be SOL.

A: This is probably an impossible task without the ability to have the spring and off-season as a primer, but I'll give it a shot.

QB: Garrett Gilbert (So.)/Sherrod Harris (Sr.)

Note: Keep an eye on Connor Wood as a possible No.2 candidate, but you'd like to have two years of separation between him and Gilbert.

RB: Tre Newton (So.)/D.J. Monroe (Jr.)

Note: Every back on the roster from 2009 returns, along with the arrivals of Chris Whaley and Traylon Shead. Monroe is the only difference maker in the group and he needs to be a much bigger piece of the offense in 2010.

FB: Antwan Cobb (Sr.)/Traylon Shead (Fr.)

Note: Shead might very well get a lot of snaps at tailback if he emerges quickly, but his fastest path to playing time could come in a fullback role.

WR: Malcolm Williams (Jr.)/Mike Davis (FR.)

Note: Williams has gotten better each season and he'll need to once again to keep the ultra-talented Davis from taking his reps.

WR: Marquise Goodwin (So.)/DeSean Hales (So.)

Note: Goodwin can play inside or out.

WR: James Kirkendoll (Sr.)/John Chiles (Sr.)/Greg Timmons (Rs-Fr.)

Note: Don't forget about Darius White and Chris Jones. As far as I'm concerned, the coaches should head into 2010 with a clean slate at receiver with a few notable exceptions.

TE: Barrett Matthews (So.)/Greg Smith (Sr.)

Note: If we're extending this conversation to the flex receiver, sophomore D.J. Grant will also be in the mix if he's completely back from his injury.

LT: Kyle Hix (Sr.)/Luke Poehlmann (So.)

Note: I'm going to need to see Hix on the left side of the line before I can believe it. This could be the team's scariest position in terms of quality and depth.

LG: David Snow (Sr.)/Michael Huey (Sr.)


C: Mason Walters (So.)/ Garrett Porter (Fr-RS)

Note: This could be Snow's position on the line, but he's a better guard than center, which makes Walters' development and ability to overcome the foot fracture a big deal.

RG: Tray Allen (Sr.)/ Mark Buchanan (So.)

Note: I'm convinced that Allen is a guy that needs to be on the field, but the depth at this position will be fluid because all of the guards and centers can play multiple sides and positions.

RT: Britt Mitchell (Sr.)/ Thomas Ashcraft (Fr-RS)

Note: Don't be surprised if Ashcraft makes a run at playing time somewhere on the right side of the line.

DE: Alex Okafor (So.)/Eddie Jones (Sr.)

Note: Okafor is my choice for break-out player for the defense in 2010.

DT: Kheeston Randall (Jr.)/Calvin Howell (So.)/Tevin Mims (Fr.-Rs)

Note: One of the true freshmen could compete for playing time here as well.

NT: Derek Johnson (Rs-FR.)/Taylor Bible (Fr.)

Note: The Longhorns will need some of the true freshmen to step up, as well as Tyrell Higgins.

DE: Sam Acho (Sr.)/Reggie Wilson (Fr.)

Note: If the Longhorns get a commitment from Jackson Jeffcoat, he'll be in the mix as well.

WLB: Emmanuel Acho (Jr.)/Ryan Roberson (So.)

Note: Acho is probably a more natural Will than Keenan Robinson, although they both play multiple linebacker positions within the defense.

MLB: Jared Norton (Sr.)/Dustin Earnest (Sr.)

Note: There's no question that the return of Norton gives the Longhorns a physical, sledge-hammer type in the middle of the defense.

SLB: Keenan Robinson (Jr.)/Tevin Jackson (Fr.)

Note: Robinson will play all over the field, but I have to think that Muschamp is going to find a place for Jackson in his first year.

CB: Aaron Williams (Sr.)/Carrington Byndom (Fr.)

Note: The loss of Marcus Davis means that a young kid or two will need to emerge as true freshmen for depth purposes.

SS: Christian Scott (Jr.)/Nolan Brewster (Jr.)

Note: The Longhorns lose an impact player at safety, while gaining one at the same time.

FS: Blake Gideon (Jr.)/Eryon Barnett (So.)/Kenny Vaccaro (So.)

Note: The fourth safety is pure guesswork at this point.

CB: Curtis Brown (Sr.)/Chykie Brown (Sr.)

Note: The Longhorns will essentially have three starters at cornerback in 2010.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Ketch, with the obvious problems with the run game the past couple of years, has any word come out about a possible change in philosophy about the type of OL recruit Texas will pursue? Also, do you think it is an actual personnel problem, or do think the scheme needs a twitch or two?

A: I'm of the opinion that the Longhorns need to take a step back, evaluate and make whatever tweaks are necessary because Mack Brown has been waiting for the offensive line to emerge for two seasons and we're headed towards a third in 2010. From a recruiting standpoint, it's quite possible that they've already made some adjustments and we just haven't seen the payoffs on the field. Three members of the 2009 recruiting class - Mason Walters, Thomas Ashcraft and Garrett Porter - arrived as players who have thrived as power players at the point of attack. When you combine them with a pair of tough, rugged commitments from the 2010 class, I think we're a few seasons removed from the classes that might have featured less power-oriented players. Frankly, it's hard to nitpick the results in recruiting from 2007-10 because the Longhorns have landed nothing but the best of the best from the in-state ranks, but the development has been lacking. That's the biggest thing the staff needs to evaluate - how best to tap into this deep well of talent?

Q: (LA_Horn) - Hey Ketch, what are your early impressions of next year's offensive line? It seems that this will be the most important unit on the team as they hold the key to protecting Gilbert and opening up running lanes for the backs. This seems to be one of the bigger lines that Texas has had in a while. Do you think that will make a difference in the running game? Projected line: Hix (320), Allen (315), Snow (300), Huey (320), Mitchell (310)

A: I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude with this group because they've been so disappointing the last two seasons. I've been waiting two seasons for Huey and Hix to turn the corners as players and it has never happened, which might mean it will never happen. The entire group is littered with guys that everyone is waiting on. It's a group that could be much better than last year's unit, but it feels a little like Groundhog Day with regards to that statement.

Q: (UTexUHouFan) - Just one Muschamp question from me. It relates to my fear that Georgia might be hoping to let Texas train their next HC.

Scenario: It is January 201x, and for whatever reasons the Texas and Georgia HC jobs both become available the same moment. Does WM go home to Georgia? Is he already home and truly a Texas man now? Or does it come down to a bidding war? (That was really just one question. :O)

A: First, I think it very well could come down to timing with Muschamp. If we're talking about him having a dream job opening with no answer to the puzzle that is the situation in Austin, then I would imagine the Longhorns will simply have to find a new defensive coordinator. If we're talking about a year or two, I can't imagine that Muschamp would pay his dues in Austin, only to turn away from the driver's seat when the keys are in his hand. If it were about money, he'd have already left.

Q: (Jason Smart) - OK, I'm not really as upset with the last rivals 100 as some on the board because I have my own theory of how Texas players should be rated (which is add a .1 to everyone's rating ;-)...) So when I read the OB topic with the heading of only 1 Texas player in the top 25, it got me to think of a good question for you:

If you were the main man making all the final choices, where would you put our current commits in the final rankings? Using my brilliant method of just adding .1 to all of our guys that play Texas high school football which IMO is the best and most competitive football in the nation, we would be bringing in 4 5* guys(with a chance at 6), 16 4*s. and 2 3*s. I don't know about you, but that seems more realistic than the final rankings, which has a few very big head-scratchers sprinkled in there.

A: I'm still working on the final revision of the Lone Star Recruiting top 100 and there will be a few changes that will impact the final numbers, but based on where things stand right now, I have the Longhorn commitments classified like this: 6.1 (two), 6.0 (five), 5.9 (seven), 5.8 (three) and 5.7 (four).

If were to add DeMarco Cobbs to the mix, it would give the Longhorns their eighth 5.9 prospect.

Currently, the Rivals national rankings have the Longhorn class classified like this: 6.1 (none), 6.0 (four), 5.9 (six), 5.8 (eight), 5.7 (two) and 5.6 (two).

Overall, both sets of rankings have the Longhorns with 18 commitments that possess at least the lowest four-star grade. The biggest difference is that I like Reggie Wilson, Tevin Jackson, Chris Jones, Trey Hopkins and a handful of others a slight up-tick more than the national guys, but the numbers are very similar overall. Rivals made the cut-off point inside the state of Texas at the 5.9 ranking at 18, while I extended that number out to 26. Meanwhile, Rivals cut off their four-star numbers in the state at 47, while I cut the line at 44.

Q: (Flynavy22) - After being in the recruiting business as long as you have, I know that you probably more than your share of dirty recruiting stories. Without naming individuals or schools, could you give an account of one of the dirtiest programs out there and why they are on top of your list?

A: My favorite recruiting story was told to me by a guy that has since been banned by the NCAA for breaking numerous NCAA infractions in the Southeast portion of our nation. He once told me a story about a new coach being hired at an SEC school and what the first day on the job had been like for this particular coach.

After all of the pageantry that went with the first day, the new coach had a town-hall meeting with some of the biggest donors. In a scene that has always reminded me of Hoosiers, one not-so-subtle donor finally steps up and asked point blank, "All we want to know is whether you plan to win like (former head coach) won?"

The new coached started on with his vision of the program and how they were going to win with class, character and good old Southern determination.

As the room kind of murmured, the donor tells the new coach, "I don't think you understand. When we say we want to win like (the former coach), we mean that we want to win like (the former coach)."

It was at that moment that it was explained to the new coach that his first true assignment on the job would be delivering a bag with $25,000 to the front steps of a very important prospect (who is now in the NFL). He was told that he would never be asked to hand-deliver another dollar to a prospect, but that the first delivery was basically a blood oath that let them know he was on their team.

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