As we close this season of Longhorn football, let us first pay tribute to those that have departed this year.
In memorandum - the luster from the 2005/2006 National Championship. In a season that was far from usual, we did have a return to normalcy in at least one area. Longhorn fans questioned the coaching staff more than they praised them. Last year, we were accepting of some mistakes or growing pains while we continued to bask in the glory of the MNC. This year, the luster started to fade as our 'Horns lost to their two rivals and failed to exact revenge on an average K-State team. So rest in peace National Championship luster, hopefully you will come back to us some day soon.
What went wrong? Were expectations too high? Was the talent not there? Did we get complacent? Did the coaching staff fail to get enough out of their players?
Let's tackle these one by one:
Expectations: Big 12 south division champion, BCS bowl, Big 12 championship. We came within winning one game of acheiving each of those so we fell short, but not miserably short. I'd say expectations were right on.
Talent: First off, I don't buy the argument that Texas has better talent than everyone or almost anyone we play. True talent is when the players on your team are as good as anyone right now in their respective positions --- not next year, not the year after. Yes, we have good talent. Yes, Mack and his staff are as good as anyone at recruiting players. But, this year the 'Horns had "talent" in potential, whereas in other seasons (2004 & 2005) the majority of the talent was in experienced, proven players.
This year's team had true talent at QB, RB, TE, WR, LT, and the defensive line. Period.
This year's team had potential at RB (McGee), up and down the o-line, both DE's, 3 LBs, 1 CB (Beasley), and Safety (Ishie).
I know a lot of you may think that our potential should trump everyone else's talent, but I don't think so. This year's "talent" was over-hyped. We did not have the edge position by position that we have grown accustomed to (and spoiled by). The future is bright though.
Complacency: Absolutely. Coaches said they were reemphasizing turnovers, then they called them "takeaways", then it was tackling, then it was this, then it was that. They kept saying they were challenging their players, but were they? Challenging them to me is taking those who perform badly, sitting them at the end of the bench, and telling them to earn their way back to the field. We got complacent, especially with our seniors.
Motivation: Yes. For whatever reason we came out flat in the two games you would have thought we would have wanted to win the most outside of OU. Against Nebraska we put up a turd until superman donned a #25 jersey. The coaches got complacent and failed to motivate.
Final Analysis: For all intents and purposes the only reason we may win a 10th game for the umpteenth consecutive season is because we get to play an extra regular season game now. I fully expect at least one of the coordinators to be let go (Akina), and the other to possibly move on to greener pastures (Davis). This isn't to say their aren't mitigating factors which may or may not have been under the coordinators control.
Injuries to Limas and the o-line could save Davis. But hey, injuries happen every year, and rarely do teams end the season with the same line that started the season. (Only 7 teams in the NFL have started the same o-line in every game thru week 11).
If playing the seniors was Mack's call, and not Akinas, then Akina will get one more year. However, the inability to get his players to focus
Candidates: If there is a coaching change, I hope Mack would go the way of new blood (like the Chizik hire) and not cronie-ism (MacDuff hire). Here's my wishful thinking, just to kick around.
Defensive coordinator - Would Muschamp (Auburn) follow Chizik's example? John Tenuta (Georgia Tech) would also be at the top of the list. Frank Spaziani (BC) has put together a very strong defense against the run. South Florida's coordinator, Burnham, has also been successful for a long time. As always, the Texas job is a step up for any of these guys and I think we've showed based on the Chizik hiring that almost anyone out there will entertain coming to Austin.
Offensive Coordinator: Besides the obvious (though green) Major, there are several other notables that could fit Mack's approach. Malzahn @ Tulsa, Fedora @ Oklahoma State, Logan @ BC could all inject new blood. My gut tells me Major is the heir apparent, but he's not ready for the pressure of coming back to Texas. If Davis sticks around another year or two, then Major becomes the imminent choice down the line. If not, I think any of these guys would be interesting choices.