Morning Coffee Scans The Horizon

Alabama HS prospect takes official visit.  Five star corner back prospect Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsen City, AL) took his official visit to Texas this weekend, soaking in the Longhorns impressive practice facilities and attending the 'Horns basketball victory over A&M. The nation's premier cornerback prospect told Rivals.com he had a terrific visit to Austin ($). "It was a great visit. I was blown away. It's going to be a tough decision."

With visits complete to Alabama, Florida, and Texas, Kirkpatrick now plans to mull the decision with family, until announcing on national signing day in February. If he lands in Austin, it will be because of his long-standing relationship with Will Muschamp, with whom he's grown close. Texas fans would love to see him in burnt orange, but it would be quite the upset if Kirkpatrick winds up going anywhere other than Alabama. Studies consistently show that distance to home is the overwhelming top factor influencing recruits' decisions.

Program raiding.  After Texas volleyball assistant coach Tonya Johnson was hired to become head coach at Georgia Tech, Longhorns head coach Jerritt Elliott took a page from his football colleague at Belmont Hall, looking nationwide for a replacement. To everyone's surprise, he settled on 2008 national champs Penn State, hiring assistant Salima Rockwell for the same position in Austin she held in State College.

"It's surprising," [Penn State head coach setter Alisha] Glass said. "It was surprising even to her. It wasn't something she planned on, it just happened."

Rockwell was a three-time All-American setter for the Nittany Lions. The Gregory Gazelles under Jerritt Elliott were national semifinalists in this year's NCAA Tournament.

Trendspotting.  Since the ugly defeat in Norman, Texas has won two straight on the hardwood behind elevated roles for Gary Johnson and Damion James. In Lubbock, James led the team with 14 shots from the field, with Johnson second (12) and Abrams third (10). Saturday night against A&M, Damion James led the way again, this time with 21 shots from the field; Johnson had the second most attempts (14) and Abrams again shot it 10 times.

The hardest work is still ahead for this team, but the adjustment is a welcome one that amplifies the team's strengths, putting its best offensive players in better positions to do more often that with which they're most comfortable. Rick Barnes has also taken to greater emphasizing two adjustments I targeted two weeks ago -- playing more pressure defense and looking for offensive opportunities off defense and in transition.

Things are looking up, but the biggest test will come as opposing coaches begin to counter-adjust. When that happens, be it from a zone or double/help defense, expect AJ Abtrams and Connor Atchley to start getting more open looks on the perimeter. That, of course, is what both seniors traditionally do best. If they make teams pay, this offense -- this team -- can be very good.

Gundy looks to improve defense.  Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy hired Miami assistant Bill Young to take over his defense, hoping the veteran coach can do for his team what Will Muschamp did for Texas. (Hat Tip: reader Miller Time)

[A]n analysis of the defensive numbers proves Muschamp’s tremendous contributions to the team's 12-1 record.

In 2007, the Longhorns allowed an average of 25.3 points per game. That number fell by almost a touchdown last season to 18.6.

Under Muschamp, now the heir apparent to head coach Mack Brown, the Horns stopped their opponents with greater frequency. Two years ago, UT permitted 942 offensive plays but limited its foes to only 783 snaps in 2008. Other substantial defensive drops from 2007 to 2008 included yards allowed (4,825 to 4,079), first downs (329 to 218), pass attempts (517 to 466) and pass completions (314 to 266).

Oklahoma State allowed 5.6 yards per play in 2008, 78th most in the country.

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