Let’s take a trip into the badlands of Longhorn football. To a place where no returning starter resides, where the depth chart is as muddled as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ personnel decisions, to the area some think is the black hole of the team. A few thoughts on the tight end position:
- We’re making this into a bigger issue than it needs to be – Fixing the running game is more important to success in 2009 than finding the next David Thomas. Sure, a capable tight end is a factor in running the ball. But it’s low on a list that includes being willing to work on (commit to) the rushing attack; the blocking scheme and execution of same; picking a couple of backs and getting them enough snaps to develop competence and confidence; play calling.
- 2. This is not an uh-oh situation – Where Blaine Irby’s loss in game three (just after the open week) left the staff scrambling last season, the coaches have had since January to figure this one out. They likely knew then that Irby’s return for 2009 was unlikely. The shifts of D.J. Grant, Ahmard Howard and others to the position, and Greg Smith’s weight loss, indicate that a shortage of personnel won’t be the issue it was last fall, when the top three TEs went down before the end of September.
- There is talent – No, the NFL won’t be scouting UT tight ends in 2009. But one of Mack Brown’s mantras is that Texas won’t offer scholarships to players who can’t start in a high-level Division I program. This year’s various candidates are not incapable. Shy on experience, yes. Limited, probably. But not without skills.
- Don’t expect one of the true freshmen to solve the problem – We know Mack’s strong tendency to go with players who have tenure. Neither incoming freshman, Trey Graham or Barrett Matthews, was in spring training. Everybody will get a chance, but the veterans will get a lot more chances.
- It’s time to stop blaming the fill-ins for what happened, or didn’t happen, in 2008 – Blame the coaches for not preparing backup tight ends, that Rice tackler, the gods of the game who left the Longhorns largely injury-free – except at tight end. Get off the reserves who were ill-prepared, in body size and practice time, to replace Irby.