August 20, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (OneGeorge■) - Having lived overseas for 30 years and being more senior than most of your subscribers, I'm not completely up to date on all that's going on in recruiting. Until recently I hadn't heard the term "Street Agent". Please answer the following :

1. What the hell is a "street agent "?
2. What does he/she do?
3. Since college players don't get paid, what compensation does a "street agent" expect to get?

If answers to these questions are what I assume, why would a coaching staff deal with a "street agent" and why would they recruit a player who deals through a "street agent"?

A: I think the term "street agent" is probably overused a little, but here's a thumbnail sketch of what people are talking about:

Usually, a "street agent" is a guy that befriends a prospect with the hopes that the eventual friendship/connection will lead to some sort of long-term payoff. In a lot of instances, these leaches will position themselves as mentors to these kids, with most of the targets often coming from broken-home backgrounds (the less male influences the better). The role of a "street agent" is different in every recruitment. In a lot of cases you'll see these people associate themselves with a large number of prospects and they'll be on the up-and-up - no cheating or funny business. They might train the prospect, provide transportation, athletic gear, money - again, it depends on the desires of the prospect and their family.

Eventually, there are going to be a number of players that the street agent has some strong pull with and they'll become point-men in the recruiting process, instead of the high school coaches or family. You can imagine the slippery slope that can take place once we get to this position. If a kid wants money or a job for his mother or a tractor for his father, this is where the street agent can come in and negotiate a deal with programs that aren't afraid to get down and dirty.

In a lot cases these street agents will not only serve as a liaison for a prospect to get a deal, but they will take money from boosters or anyone else that wants to hire him as their own personal lobbyist in the recruitment. Of course, if there's no pay-off in the form of money or tickets or athletic gear or whatever, there's always the hope that if the prospect becomes a star at the next level, the established early relationship will lead to some sort of financial coup.

Q: (Prosperity) - Ok, Ketch. Care to chime in on the Ramonce Taylor debate that has been going on. What is your assessment of his two years on the team? Did you consider him to be an essential ingredient of the 05 championship team or a luxury role player (nothing special) who never played big against top opponents? Do you think that his speed and skills were overrated by most fans? Is there anybody on our current roster who can match his playmaking ability? How much better would Texas have been as a team if Ramonce had played all four years?

A: Let me put it like this - if Taylor hadn't been a key member of that championship team, he wouldn't have been on the team. Frankly, it takes a special kind of talent to remain on the roster when you're that much of an off-field concern and I really believe Taylor had elite ability. I'm not sure I buy the big-game performance knock because he played a key role in wins over Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and even USC. Yes, he was always good for an occasional bone-headed play, but his big-play potential showed up at some key moments.

I actually think his athletic reputation has taken a hit because of his inability to make an NFL roster or even get an invite. In my mind, his natural ability was through the roof, but he never committed himself to being great or being in fantastic physical condition. There was a level he should have taken his ability and he let that opportunity slip through his fingers.

While I'm not sure that there was anyone on last year's team that could provide what Taylor provided the 2005 team, I think the 2009 group has a few players with some serious upside as all-purpose threats. Redshirt freshman DeSean Hales is a player that comes to mind. He has a chance to be a player like that, even if it doesn't happen this season. I think the same could be true of a guy like D.J. Monroe or Marquise Goodwin.

Overall, if Taylor had been able to keep himself out of trouble and dedicated himself to his craft, the Longhorns might have finished stronger in 2006. A little bit of Ramonce Taylor is exactly what they were missing in the Texas A&M game. If he gives Texas anything close to the performance he provided against the Aggies in 2005, the Longhorns win that game and finish the season as Big 12 champions.

Q: (Mobilehoma) - 1. Do you see any signs that Colt McCoy will spend significant time under center or will the majority continue to be in the shotgun?

2. In the workouts you have seen just how much more speed is on the defensive side of the ball?

3. What are your thoughts on the new field turf?

A: 1. I think it's too early to project how much McCoy will play under center and not even the coaching staff will know the answers until they see some results in game action. I don't think there's any question that the team is committed to becoming a more balanced offense in terms of being able to go in and out of the shotgun. If they can run the ball better with Colt under the center, it could also open up more play-action deep balls to a guy like Malcolm Williams.

2. This is the fastest defense in the history of the Texas program and the biggest difference in my mind is the overall athleticism in the defensive line and the combination of speed/quickness/size/athleticism that the entire linebacker unit possesses. That position is finally where it needs to be and it will change everything about the defense.

3. I think it's a competitive advantage for the Longhorns if the surface plays as fast as most think it will. The Longhorns are a speed-team and they'll be able to overwhelm a lot of teams at home with that speed in ways that playing on a slower grass surface doesn't allow. I'm not suggesting that it will be a huge competitive advantage, but I do think it's at least a slight one. There's certainly no competitive downside to it.

Q: (Okiehorn) - utx posted recently that his friend said that the fall practices have been the best that he has ever seen and that there is a sense of urgency and crispness that has not been there in recent years.

My question is, do you share that same opinion?

A: The two teams had drastically different personalities, but I do believe the level of focus, the sense of urgency and the overall pace of practices is as good as I've ever seen and it's been a running theme for both weeks of camp. The 2005 team treated every practice and game like a party, while this 2009 group is much more business-oriented. Basically, the two teams are reflections of their respective quarterbacks, but both were/are absolutely dialed into the tasks at hand and the long-term objectives of the season.

Q: (TX82) - 1. What are your thoughts about (possibly) our top two recruits from one of our best classes ever, switching positions and starting over in their Junior years?

2. I thought it was interesting that the Big12 has a new rule and policy regarding head-to-head contact. I am all for more safety and fewer head injuries, but… Do you think that this has the potential to become controversial and suspensions could influence outcomes? Accidental collisions are going to happen.

3. Has the league considered enforcing offensive holding? Last year, offensive lines were allowed to tackle defenders (for the benefit of high-powered offenses and more scoring) and it negated the better offensive line. Any chance the league will instruct officials differently in '09?

A: I view the move of John Chiles to wide receiver on a full-time basis and the potential full-time move of Tray Allen to defensive tackle a little differently. The move of Chiles was long overdue, but the staff deserves credit for allowing him to compete at quarterback because a forced move last season might not have been as well-received as the voluntary move this spring. When Chiles was recruited, most expected that his eventual landing spot would be at receiver and that's where his true upside existed (although I know some schools thought he was a elite-level safety prospect) from day one. It was way too unrealistic to think that Chiles could overcome his lack of repetitions at the quarterback position coming into college. When you compare the number of practice/game reps of Chiles to a guy like Garrett Gilbert, who has been a quarterback his entire life, you'll find the gap between the level of preparations to be extreme.

When you look at Allen, his athleticism has never been a question. One of his big problems early on was in the strength department, but he as a young player forced into action when he wasn't ready to play. If we're having a frank discussion about his career, the decision to play him as a true freshman was a short-sighted one that was predicated on the inadequate upper-class depth along the offensive line when he arrived. On top of the fact that he truly wasn't physically ready to play, the decision to take the redshirt off of him meant that there was only one year of separation between him and Adam Ulatoski (the left tackle ahead of him on the depth chart).

There was never any doubt that Ulatoski would be a four-year starter, so by playing him in 2007, they essentially assured that one of the most talented line prospects to come into the program in the last decade would be aiming for a single big year as a starter at best. Even when they moved him inside to guard, he's buried on a depth chart that features only one year of separation from Charlie Tanner and none from Michael Huey, who is in his third year as a starter. Even if Allen had developed into a better offensive lineman than he currently is, his path to playing time would be blocked by players that began starting when Allen should have been redshirting.

I'm of the position that he's too talented to not have a role or a future. If Will Muschamp believes that he can take him over to the defensive side of the ball and make a player out of him - I'm down with it. Although he hasn't been a defensive player, I'm not so sure that it won't work. It might take a while for the fruit of his labor to come in, but it's easy to see his combination of size and athleticism finding success on that side of the ball.

As for your second question, it's a legit concern. It must be stressed from the Texas defensive coaches to every player in all three phases of the game that that helmet-to-helmet contact , even if accidental, can lead to serious punishment without warning to the team. Every coach in the Big 12 knows that this is a stressing point by the conference, but I'm sure we'll see a suspension or two before people finally get the drift. Also, I think you'll definitely see the conference use an open mind when it comes to suspensions. The league isn't trying to sit guys out, so they'll review each matter carefully and make a decision based on the evidence. If a referee blows a call and there's evidence of it, I'm confident that right will prevail over wrong.

Finally, I don't know what you're talking about I regards to holding. I found the officiating to be mostly fair and if I were going to quibble with the offensive holding calls, I'd lean more towards having the officials call even fewer in 2009. The refs aren't allowing the linemen to use their hands enough.

Bob Stoops and Mike Leach

Q: (walk-on horn) - If you had our current "11" offense (QB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE), with Greg Davis calling the plays for both groups, and best offensive line possible, which grouping of players do you think would comprise the more deadly offense and would score more points with ease:

QB Vince Young, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Limas Sweed, WR Jordan Shipley, WR Sloan Thomas, and TE Bo Scaife


QB Colt McCoy, RB Cedric Benson, WR Roy Williams, WR BJ Johnson, WR, Quan Cosby, and TE David Thomas.

Is this decision even close? Or do the freakish talents of #10 make it an easy decision for Team VY?

A: You might have had me if you'd flipped the running backs. The idea of the 2005 version of Young pairing up with the 2007 version of Charles is impossible to ignore. The balanced out the receivers and tight ends very well… probably too well.

Let me turn the question around to you - if you took Vince Young, Jamaal Charles, Roy Williams, Jordan Shipley, Quan Cosby and David Thomas and you matched them up against a team that looked like this:

QB - Tim Tebow, RB - Tim Tebow, WR - Tim Tebow, WR - Tim Tebow, WR - Tim Tebow and TE - Tim Tebow…

Which team would you take?

Q: (kimounten) - Hey Ketch, great work by OB covering the Longhorns. Best Longhorn website by far (not that I've been looking!) Anyway here goes, I know this has been beaten to death, but I would like your take on how MB and the staff handle recruiting and what you would do to improve our already outstanding recruiting effort.

Currently, it seems to me that we do an outstanding job recruiting early in the process, but we seem to tail off after the first several months after national signing day. To me it seems like MB and his staff only goes for the guys that bleed orange and those that don't return this affection or are on the fence get left behind. I personally love Mack's strategy to go for the guys that bleed orange and I think that it pays dividends in the camaraderie of the team. These early commits seem to make the base of our recruiting classes of late and I think we have to continue to start our recruiting classes in this manner to continue our amazing run of success. These guys are in essence "glue" guys. What I feel our classes are missing is the proverbial "cherry" or "cherries" on the cake. To me I would love to have Mack strap on his helmet and take a "don't take no for an answer" mentality with our remaining targets. It seems like a lot of the 5* talent out there (which a lot of our remaining targets are) do not commit early and I find it hard to believe that just because the talent doesn't commit early, that the Longhorn staff would just shut down their recruiting of these players. Many players like the limelight of the recruiting process and frankly I don't blame them (although quite maddening to the following public). As a 17-18 year old kid with seemingly endless possibilities, it is the staff's job to get them to Austin and convince them to play at UT. I truly believe that after the recruiting fanfare ends and a school's makeup comes off, UT is still a beautiful girl. Unfortunately, some recruits that are talked into playing elsewhere roll over the following season and truly find out what they had done the year before! To help in this matter I think it would be great if we could add one "Kyra Sedgwick" (the closer!) to the staff to help close the deal. I am not pointing any fingers at coaches and their recruiting tactics or anything like that, but one more guy that could "sell a ketchup popsicle to a women in white gloves" couldn't hurt. Anyway, I hope we make a concerted effort to try and recruit these players until they choose Texas or commit elsewhere because that is all I see that is missing from our already outstanding recruiting efforts. What do you think Ketch?

A: I have four thoughts.

1. That was the longest single paragraph in the history of the Locker Room. Did the Enter key break on your keyboard?

2. You could have written a dissertation on the death of video games at 7-11's across America and I might have allowed the question in full, solely on the inclusion of the Kyra Sedgwick reference. Man, I love her in The Closer. She is currently No.1 on my Top 5 Cougars list. Every time she does a bedroom scene on that show, she makes a point to let the entire world know that she's a bad ass.

3. From a global perspective the Longhorns dominate the recruiting scene in their home state and they can pretty much put the station wagon on cruise control and land a top 10 class with relative ease. It almost seems to easy in the first couple of weeks in February. The volume of talent assembled in their first two Junior Days this year is staggering and underrated nationally. Mack Brown has the recruiting engine well-oiled.

4. Even if the engine is well-oiled, it doesn't mean that a can of fresh oil from time to time won't help the car. The bottom line is that the Longhorns do lack a true killer closer in recruiting. They've got a staff of very good recruiters, but there's nobody that's in the Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson league. At some point they need to go get one.

5. I think Mack Brown needs to re-think his philosophy of disengaging in long recruiting battles. I think this current staff is hurt by the fact that they don't have to engage in hand-to-hand combat on a daily basis in recruiting and when the Longhorns do find themselves in an honest-to-goodness, head-to-head tussle or even a multi-school battle, they often resemble an army that's fighting a war in unfamiliar terrain. I'm not saying that out of state recruiting or late-season recruiting is the same as Vietnam, but it sometimes feels like that war might be won before the Longhorns land another super blue-chipper in the final week of the recruiting process. Mack should encourage a few nasty recruiting battles every year just to keep the staff sharp.

Q: (colliedp) - I was a bit taken aback this last NFL draft when I heard Mel Kiper, of all people, bring up the "Texas Factor" and implying it was still a relevant complaint/concern among the NFL scouts, GM's etc... Now, I have grown up with friends who are huge OU, FSU, Miami, and Texas Tech fanatics and they love to use the term Texas is (a female body part). They love to bring up Simms, VY, Benson, and of course Ricky along with a few other high profile high school kids that never panned out. I guess I should throw in Roy Williams too, but can you consider him a bust since he's a multi-millionaire Pro Bowl receiver? This seems to be a common national theme, to point out the "busts" and ignore the true NFL stars that the Longhorns have. The study you did a while back on Major Program Draft Picks and their subsequent NFL production or lack thereof, was a great read, but it seemed to have little impact on those outside of the OB community. My belief is that even though that put Texas into a good light regarding the NFL, it still didn't do us justice. I'm of the theory that Texas' true impact NFL stars are just now trickling into the NFL and our best days are ahead of us. (You may have said the same thing, it's just been a while since I read that article) With all of this said, here's my question. Isn't it time that Texas be allowed to pass the National (female body part) Baton off to the likes of USC or OU?

Bonus Round: My best friend is a G.A. at Arkansas State. Would you agree with me that it's safer for him to play in a college pick'em tournament during the season rather than hook up with his player's girlfriends??? Seriously, let's pass this guy the (female body part) Baton and let him run with it!!

A: I looked it up and your first paragraph contained a 156 fewer words that the previous award-winning question. Nice try.

As for Texas' reputation, I really believe that's it's nothing that a few top of the draft home runs can't fix. Brian Orakpo will be a player that can help change the Texas reputation, as can some of the top players from the last two seasons. If Texas keeps winning BCS games, competing for national championships and churning out impact players, I think people will begin to take notice and move on to a different talking point. If any deserved criticism of the program exists when it comes to developing NFL talent, it should be focused on the players at the top of the draft. Once you get out of the top ten and you look at the volume of good players that are selected throughout the other rounds in recent years, including the middle-to-bottom half of the first round, and if you suggest otherwise your opinion is really stupid, short-sighted and misguided.

Bonus Round: I think you just dimed your friend out. Also, I've never had a locker room question submitted with three separate references to parts of the female anatomy. Tell the truth - sober or not when you sent this email?

Q: (Yazmine) - Ketch for the last 4 seasons seems like 4 ever, Quan Cosby has been THAT GUY for us, need a 3rd and 7 or 4th and 4 on a big make or break drive, Quan always seemed to be THAT GUY. Can John Chiles playing a new position be 'that guy'

Will someone else be able to be 'that guy' or will we just not have THAT GUY this year who will be able to fill Quan's rather large shoes.

A: When Jordan Shipley isn't playing the role of THAT GUY, I fully expect James Kirkendoll to step in and also be THAT GUY. Those two could combine to catch somewhere between 150-200 passes this season.

Q: (Bill Boy Bryant) - If Mack believes he is stepping down in the next 1-2 years, he then knows that this year, 2009 Season, will probably be his last chance to win another National Championship.

If he has that mindset, do you think he will coach any different or have even more of a sense of urgency with this team and this season.

A: There's no question in my mind that this staff is coaching with the kind of urgency that would suggest the world is going to end next year after the season. The coaching staff fully understands what's on the table.

Q: (hornsup94) - I'd love to hear a comparison of our preseason concerns this year vs. last year and of the 2005 NC team. This year obviously we have depth issues at TE and DT and we're trying to crack the code with run blocking and find a RB who can really keep defenses honest on every down.

Rank our team concerns this year and compare them with last year and 2005.

What were we (you) most worried about in August in those years and how did those worries shake out at season's end? Do we have more team concerns this year or less?

A: I think one of the big differences between this year and last year is that when the Longhorns entered last season, they had question marks at every single position on the field in some capacity. Colt McCoy has been a turnover machine as a sophomore, there was no proven go-to-running back, there was no established big play receiver, the tight end position appeared shaky, the offensive line was still rather young and inexperienced, the defense was replacing two starters at defensive tackle, Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle couldn't stay healthy for an entire season, the secondary was a mess and special teams needed to improve. On top of that, the defense broke in yet another defensive coordinator.

Those are just some of the questions facing that team last year going into the season, with the biggest and most substantial of them being the inexperience in the secondary. Frankly, there's no question mark on the 2009 team that rivals the impact and stress that was caused by going into last season with a bunch of babies… talented babies… but babies for sure at corner and safety. When you consider the schedule and quality of quarterbacks/offenses they faced, the 12-1 record is hard to fathom. It was a stunning accomplishment for every coach and player in the program.

Q: (Texas57) - My question pertains to the current stock of talented defensive backs. Over the years Texas has had some devastating hitters in the defensive backfield like Michael Griffin in 2005. Other than the big interception, the bone jarring hit is an opportunity for a DB to change the momentum in a game. I would ask you to rank the biggest hitters among the current stable of DBs. The biggest hit, that I remember, from last years DBs was from Christian Scott on the Kansas RB who had just steam rolled Gideon. Thanks in advance.

A: With all due respect to the cornerbacks on the team, I'll rank the top three hitters from the secondary like this (in order): Christian Scott, Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon/Nolan Brewster. It's quite possible that Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown belong somewhere on that list.

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