When enough reader emails come in on topics worth exploring publicly, I'll put a post together for the site. This is one such time. As always, you can email me any time with questions or comments. I'll never use someone's full name in a post unless they explicitly okay it.
For starters, I totally misread how strong a player LSU could/would be in this thing, but once Shepard visited, he locked in on the Tigers as his #1 school, committing soon thereafter. I don't have any kind of inside information as to how all this played out, but it certainly looks like Mack Brown was just honest with Shepard in saying that he wouldn't be guaranteed anything at quarterback with Texas. Whether Mack said he'd have a fair shot to compete for the job is somewhat disputed, but at least two people who follow this closely have told me they think Shepard was told he'd get a chance to compete, but nothing more.
If that's true, then it looks like Shepard either wanted more than that or looked at our depth chart and didn't like his chances. Of course, LSU does have Jarrett Lee, a solid four-star prospect in his own right, but it might be that Shepard became convinced that his chances of winning the job over Garrett Gilbert were remote.
Whatever the case, I'm glad Shepard's not headed to a fellow Big 12 school, but I am a little worried about any coattail effect that might lure other top Texas kids east to Baton Rouge. For example, does Jamarkus McFarland follow suit? No way to know right now, but it's worth watching. LSU's got plenty of momentum from the national championship; now they've got Russell Shepard, as well.
I do indeed love Russell Shepard, and I wish there'd been a way to grab both he and Garrett Gilbert. The big thing for me is that the Texas offense under Greg Davis has been at its best with a mobile, home run-threat rusher behind center. Our pro-style offenses of Applewhite and Simms were certainly good, but far from great. Our offense under McCoy has been inconsistent. (What would you call the McCoy offense, by the way? A hybrid spread attack with two sides of scramble?)
Since Shepard's out, though... I do like Garrett Gilbert and think we can build a successful offense around him. Instead of a rush-based spread option attack, though, we'd be wise to look at implementing something like what Missouri's been running with Chase Daniel - it's not difficult to imagine Gilbert running that offense to perfection. Beyond mere scheme, this also means Texas needs more gamebreaking playmakers at skill positions - an offense like that requires a Jeremy Maclin to be at its best. Guys like DeSean Hales and Fozzy Whittaker need to develop into big time playmakers.
The latest reports have Evans choosing between Memphis and Texas, with Louisville and Villanova a distant third. I haven't the slightest idea how to handicap the race between the Tigers and 'Horns, though my gut feeling is that this is Memphis' race to lose.
Also of note is Gerry Hamilton's report ($) that 2008 prospect Wesley Witherspoon is making his official visit this weekend during the Oklahoma State game. Joining him will be the #1 prospect in the 2009 class, Renardo Sidney.
LONGHORN BASKETBALL FANS PLEASE NOTE: The University will be going on Spring Break after this week's classes, which could make for an incredibly empty Drum this Sunday when these critical recruits visit campus. A few things you can do to help:
- Go to the freaking game. If you can go? Go. Even if you prefer watching the hoops on TV - go to this game.
- Tell everyone you know to go to the game. Bribe, if necessary.
- Make signs for these recruits. Start chants. Do the "We are not worthy!" bow. If you bring your girlfriend, have her beg for an autograph on her chest. Just do something drastic to make these kids feel like they're desperately wanted.
One other thing I'm thinking about with hoops recruiting right now: we need a point guard, ASAP. Assuming DJ turns pro after this year, we're in a tough situation heading into 2008-09. I talked to a pro scout last summer who had wonderful things to say about Dogus Balbay, but after missing all this season to knee injury, he'll be brand new. Beyond Balbay, will we be in a position where we're playing a guard better suited for the wing at PG? Remember, as good as the 2005-06 team was, we were definitely hurt by trying to use Gibson as our point guard. And Rick Barnes' best teams at Texas have come with elite point guards running the show. Just something to keep in mind as we look ahead to the big name recruits for 2009.
One player to keep an eye on is the nation's top-rated point guard in the '09 class, John Wall of Raleigh, NC. Given his location in ACC country, it may be a long shot, but he hasn't narrowed his list down to anything meaningful yet. And don't forget, Kevin Durant came from Maryland.
So who you got?
Great question, Paul. For the sake of this argument, we'll go along with your assertion that Augie's out, though I think you can make a solid case for him if you want to. But let's limit it to Rick Barnes and Mack Brown.
First, the essentials: Mack just completed his tenth season at Texas, amassing a 103-25 (80%) record overall, 65-15 (81%) in Big 12 play. He has one conference championship and one national championship - both in 2005. Rick is in the middle of his tenth season at Texas, going 241-91 (73%) overall, 119-40 (75%) in Big 12 play. He has won two conference championships at Texas (1998-99 and 2005-06) and can win a third on Sunday with a win over Oklahoma State. He's reached the Final Four once (2003-04) and the Elite Eight once (2005-06).
Now, to the nitty-gritty:
RECRUITING - As a whole, this category is as tough as any to call because both guys are doing it so well. For his part, Mack's built an unrivaled system within the state of Texas that's effectively changed the face of college football recruiting in Texas. Barnes has done damn well within the state himself (Johnson, Augustin, Aldridge, Gibson, Ford, to name a few), but he's done more to establish Texas on the national recruiting scene than has Brown. To wit: both coaches have landed arguably the best player in the history of their sport - VY for Mack and KD for Barnes. But I'm tempted to give Barnes more credit here, as Durant was stolen from ACC country while Vince Young is from Houston. Though Mack Brown is far from irrelevant on the national recruiting scene, what Barnes has done is nothing short of remarkable. Especially given the program he inherited.
CHAMPIONSHIPS - There's sometimes relative disappointment about Mack Brown's performance in Austin because he's only won one conference championship, and there's relative appreciation of what Rick Barnes has done because of the state of Texas basketball prior to his arrival. Though Rick Barnes can close the gap this Sunday by picking up his third Big 12 championship, there's no substitute for a national championship, and Mack Brown delivered that to Austin. That's what we live for, and that game on January 4, 2006 was the best sports moment of my life. Far, far greater than the exhilarating thrill of watching Texas win the South Regional in 2004.
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT - This one's not even close. Consider, for starters, the difference between "Pack On The Pounds" Mad Dog and Todd Wright. While Texas' football weight program is questionable, at best, the work Todd Wright does is simply phenomenal. Look, too, at the job Rick Barnes has done with guys like Kenton Paulino and Connor Atchley - both of whom were awful as freshmen - and there's no competition.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY - We have to say something about the differing atmospheres in which these two men compete. Though I'm not sure winning a national title in basketball isn't the harder of the two, the competitiveness and degree of difficulty in college football is tougher on a game-by-game basis. Throw in the expectations of the Texas football fanbase versus the Texas basketball fanbase, and this one's not even close.
PUBLIC/ALUMNI RELATIONS - On the one hand, Rick Barnes is a stud. I love his candor, the way he interacts with the media, and the job he's done making Texas basketball relevant once again. On the other hand, Mack Brown has built the ever-expanding beast that is Texas football. I might rather have a beer with Rick Barnes than Mack Brown, but there's no denying what a popular politician Mack Brown has become. The man could run for governor.
STAFF - Forget Rick Barnes' outstanding staff. I'm dinging Mack Brown points for Greg Davis and Mad Dog that he can't make up with his excellent hires.
PROGRAM GROWTH - I don't think Mack Brown gets enough credit for resuscitating the Texas program and rebuilding it to its present level. These days we take our perennial Top 10 status for granted, so much so that we forget the (often lamentable) 30 years in between national championships. With that said, Texas basketball was never more than a blip on the radar until Rick Barnes came to town. The big knock on coming to coach at Texas was that it could never be a basketball school because of how much the fans adore football. Well, the fans have been a bit slow to come around, but the results are there. Texas basketball is one of the Top 10 programs in the entire country.
- This is one of those terrific problems to have:
[SCENE: Two fans waiting for their drinks at a crowded bar.]
Fan 1: Saw you havin' a heated argument with your t-sip friend over thar. Whatchy'all arguin 'bout?
Fan 2: We can't decide whether our Top 10 basketball coach or Top 10 football coach is better.
Fan 1: Saw 'em both off!
Fan 2: [peering in closely] Are you retarded?
Who's the "better" coach? If we're being scientific, there's no way to say for sure - the sports are different and the context is different. For me, I really, really, really want to say Rick Barnes. He's probably my favorite coach at Texas. And if he delivers a national title to Texas, I will.
For now, though, the nod goes to Mack Brown. For 2005. That's what we live for, and that's what he gave us.
Like I said - what a great problem to have.