Oh, yes: it is here! Christmas in July, with goodies raining from the sky this week as both EA Sports NCAA Football 2011 and The Eyes of Texas 2010 hit retail stores.
I'm proud to announce the arrival of the fourth-annual edition of The Eyes of Texas. Like last year, the magazine is a full 128 pages of content dedicated exclusively to Texas Longhorns football, accompanied by dozens of professional color photos that shine on the glossy, thick paper stock, as well as stats, roster details, and schedules. Every one of Texas' 12 regular season opponents is previewed in brilliant detail by the magazine editor, who is brilliant. The Eyes of Texas delivers everything a fan needs to get ready for the 2010 season, supplemented by rich content covering broader program analysis and, as always, a concluding section of articles looking back through Longhorns history.
Purchase Info: Residents of our great state will be able to pick up a copy of the magazine beginning this week at all manner of bookstores, newsstands, groceries (H-E-B), the UT Co-Op, and other retail outfits like Wal-Mart and Target. Out of state residents or others who prefer to purchase online can secure a copy via the secure website of Maple Street Press. Scroll down the left column a smidge and Garret Gilbert's profile awaits you.
Themes Heading into 2010: Ordering information out of the way, let's talk about the fun stuff: this year's contents. The circumstances surrounding Texas football heading into 2009 all but dictated the contents of last year's magazine. That seemed to me far less true heading into this year, when no one storyline stands out as singularly important. Instead, the situation features a number of big themes and issues, with more questions, more unknowns, and less understanding of what to expect or how successful this team can and will be.
The most obvious, and most important, is the beginning of the Garrett Gilbert era, but even that one particular topic contains important additional themes and sub-themes: How will he be used? Will Texas really improve in the running game, and if they don't, what does it mean for Gilbert? As for receivers, Shipley joins Cosby in the NFL... now what? And will the Longhorns field an offensive line that better keeps Gilbert's jersey clean than the previous three years' groups did for McCoy?
Beyond Gilbert, among the important themes surrounding the program heading into 2010 is the exceptional state of the program as pertains to recruiting. Money, power, and NCAA politics are increasingly relevant to the program and its well-being. Not unlike last year, the defense faces two big questions -- can Randall stay healthy and how big will the drop off be between ET and Scott-Vaccaro-Brewster -- and if this year's answers are anywhere close to as satisfying as were last year's, the defense will again be in the conversation as the nation's best.
After the jump, a detailed look at this year's table of contents.
THE EYES OF TEXAS 2010
Part 1: 2010 LONGHORNS FOOTBALL
01. Meet the 2010 Longhorns (PB) - Two pages of roster info, stats, and analysis are devoted to each positional group on the roster (QB, RB, WR, OL, DL, LB, DB, ST), providing an easy-to-reference overview of this year's roster, supplemented by my brief analysis of the various players and positional groupings.
02. Meet the Freshman Class of 2010 (Wescott Eberts, aka Ghost of Big Roy) - Everyone's favorite local recruiting writer takes over the freshman preview section, and deservedly so. Big Roy tells the story of how the remarkable class of 2010 came together and the significance of each new member of the Longhorns.
03. Know Thy Enemy (PB) - For this year's opponent previews, I both expanded the article and claimed its contents for myself. While likely cupcakes are still covered in a single tidy page, Texas Tech, UCLA, and A&M each received multi-page write ups, while I committed a full four pages to both Nebraska and OU. The schedule sets up an interesting year for the Longhorns, with four of their five toughest games packed together consecutively (at Tech, UCLA, n-OU, at Nebraska). Most think Texas is likely to drop a game or two in there somewhere, but if UT emerges from Lincoln at 6-0, they'll be in the driver's seat for the Big 12 title and a contender for a berth in the BCS Title Game.
04. Road Trips & Travel Tips (Cory "54b" Davies) - I don't know anyone who's been to as many road games in the last decade as 54b, and I'd bet you don't either. Cory once again provides concise, organized, and above all helpful information related to taking road trips to Houston, Lubbock, Lincoln, and Manhattan.
05. Ascension of a Quarterback (Mark Ritchie, aka burnt in ny) - Mark Ritchie provides the most detailed breakdown of Garrett Gilbert I've seen published anywhere -- a must read full of keen insights and helpful observations that shed light on what kind of player Gilbert is and what can be reasonably expected of him this fall.
PART 2: SURGING FORWARD
06. State of the Program (PB) - We're rich, successful, and continually replenishing with an endless supply of youth. Or as Deloss Dodds put it, "We are the Joneses." With this article I take a look at the state of the program heading into 2010, identifying its core strengths, its future prospects, and key areas to watch heading forward. Cliff's Notes: Keep Boom, stay hungry, get serious about fixing the OL and we're golden.
07. Defense 101 (Paul Wadlington) - Better known in this neighborhood of the interwebs as Scipio Tex, Paul's comprehensive article analyzing both Will Muschamp and his 2010 roster is equally insightful and well-written. From explaining the strategy Muschamp will use at defensive tackle, to elevated analysis on the situation at safety, you'll know everything you need to enjoy watching this year's edition of the Goon Squad.
08. Power Plays: Building an Offense for Gilbert (Ian Boyd) - Barking Carnival round up writer Nickel Rover asks and then answers the important question: If based on this year's roster we were to envision the ideal offense, what would it look like? Providing analysis of this year's offensive players, schemes and formations, and individual plays, Ian's article provides the most helpful kind of critical analysis, one that fans concerned about what the offense will look like are going to enjoy reading.
09. Looking Ahead to Recruiting in 2011 & 2012 (Wescott Eberts) - Big Roy provides a comprehensive and thoughtful introduction to, and analysis of, what is shaping up to be a truly special class of 2011, offering insights on key decisions about prospects made by the staff, while highlighting the top targets remaining on the board and Texas' chances to secure their commitment. Finally, the article concludes with Big Roy's round up of the top talent in the state at each position in the rising junior class of 2012.
10. A New Era: Realignment (PB / Cody Cheek, aka txtwstr7 / Ami Hooper, aka dimecoverage) - It took three BON writers -- plus Hopkins Horn behind the scenes -- to get this article to publication, an article that not only had to be rewritten 48 hours before the magazine was sent to the printer, but then again, with 24 hours left. That's how quickly things changed. Still the Big 12 was rescued just before the magazine headed to press, and I'm both proud and a little bit surprised to say that as the magazine hits newsstands next week, this article will be both relevant and up-to-date. Miracles do happen, people.
11. Mack in the Time of Plenty (Billy Becker, aka whills) - Mack Brown has hinted that he envisions the 2010 offense as the "Applewhite offense." Which one? And what, exactly, does that mean? With his typical wit and insight, Billy Becker investigates those questions with a look back at the 1998 Texas offense and what it might tell us about what to expect from the Longhorns offense this fall.
PART 3: LONGHORNS HISTORY AND TRADITION
12. The Kicks Heard 'Round Texas (Jeff Asher and Abram Orlansky, aka 40AS) - Probably my favorite piece in this year's magazine, Jeff and Abram decided after Hunter Lawrence's 46-yard field goal sailed through the Cowboys Stadium uprights that it would be fun to look back through program history at every game-winning kick as time expired. As it turns out, there have been just four, and they've all happened in the last fifteen years: Phil Dawson's 50-yarder to beat Virginia in 1995, Dusty Mangum's 37-yarder to win the 2004 Rose Bowl, Ryan Bailey's 40-yarder to beat Oklahoma State in 2007, and Lawrence's Big 12 title-winner last December. Even more amazing, Jeff and Abram interviewed all four kickers about their game-winners, and deliver a unique and captivating account of those four unforgettable kicks, as seen through the eyes of the kickers who made them.
13. Earning the Right (Cory "54b" Davies) - As you probably know, our beloved 54b gets his moniker from his playing days as a walk-on defensive linemen for the University of Texas in the mid-1990s. What you don't know is what it's like to go through Two-A-Days in August as a member of the Longhorns football team. You will after reading 54b's fascinating minute-by-minute account of the pain, work, and ultimate satisfaction of the arduous experience.
14. The Faith to Succeed (Keith Heugatter) - Barking Carnival's TaylorTRoom provides a rich retrospective on the career of one of the greatest, and most beloved, Longhorns of all-time: Colt McCoy. Keith's typically excellent article chronicles the prodigious production of college football's winngest quarterback of all-time, and the way he got it done, both on and off the field.
15. Gods and Generals (Adam Jones) - Adam Jones, author of the must-read Rose Bowl Dreams: A Memoir of Faith, Family, and Football, delivers yet another captivating, insightful, delightfully crafted article to The Eyes of Texas annual, delving this year into the topic of how Texas under Mack Brown has become Quarterback U. From the improbable feats of Major Applewhite, to the excellent-except-when-we-needed-him-most Chris Simms, to Vince Young and Colt McCoy, Texas has been brilliantly quarterbacked for the overwhelming majority of the past 12 years.
BACK PAGE COLUMN: Grief Therapy, Texas Style (Cory "54b" Davies) - As always, 54b punctuates the magazine with a column that perfectly captures the mind and spirit of the Longhorn faithful -- looking this year at how painful it is to accept and move on from January's heartbreaking loss in Pasadena.