"The only thing that disturbs me about my profession is the fact that people give you too much credit when you win - and too much criticism when you lose. I'll be the same person and do the same things and say the same things when we lose. But people won't believe me then. I won't change, but the people will."
-- Darrell K. Royal in the Alcalde, September 1962 edition
Another year, time to cast my eyes to football with my burnt orange pince-nez.
The Big 3:
Mack Brown - Mack Brown may not have changed, but it certainly seems like he's learned a few new tricks. Recruiting has been amazing of late, Texas remains a BCS sweetheart, and he has steered the program into a position where it can essentially declare ownership of its own conference. Oh, and he also has the best winning percentage in UT's history and there doesn't appear to be a slowdown anywhere on the horizon. Even the future OOC scheduling has picked up - though speculation as to whether Mack will still be helming the ship through the later years abounds. There doesn't seem to be a big storyline surrounding mack this year, just another in the renaissance of Texas football and the generally quiet speculation as to when and if he will turn over the scepter to his chosen successor.
Greg Davis - After a national championship, two other BCS victories and an MNC appearance, Greg Davis seems to have rehabilitated his image. Or, at the very least, the lynch mob has temporarily put out their torches. It's not easy to define what exactly, Greg Davis is, largely because longhorns fans don't conceptualize "very good but not great" very well. (As a thought exercise, think about the average longhorn fans opinion of him if Texas were an equally dynamic running team with an equally flawed passing game, and then tell me how many "Greg Davis sucks" cries we would expect to hear from the student section) Arguably the best QB coach in the game, a good architect, but more of a play-caller than offensive strategist, Greg Davis will inevitably be judged by no more than a handful of drives. I don't know when or against whom, but at some point the offense will have to generate points in a hurry and Davis will turn to his one true love - the passing game. The degree to which Davis maximizes talents of various receivers who don't quite fit his offense (i.e. more physically talented than skillful players like Williams and White) and minimizes deficiencies of a young bunch (e.g. as a true sophomore, there are still concerns about Gilbert in the empty set) will largely determine how loud the murmurs get and how many reignite their torches and prepare to storm Belmont.
Will Muschamp - Coach of the future or the next in a long line of UT defensive coordinators who finds work helming a middling BCS program? There isn't much to be said about Will Muschamp's defensive style that hasn't been more adroitly expressed by PB, Ghost, Scipio or the dozens of other great longhorn writers, so I'll address the other ultimate concern - will he stay or will he go? His salary is competitive with the head coaching position at programs like Clemson, West Virginia and Pitt - and with incentives he's not too far off UCLA and Arizona head coaching positions. Let that soak in a minute - a program that wants to hire away Muschamp would have to start at about the same or worse financial leverage with Muschamp as a Chris Peterson (Boise), Mike Rilely (Oregon State), or Kevin Sumlin - with no head coaching resume. Many programs with the money won't be willing to make an investment on a relative unknown. Teams to cheer for will be Georgia (Mark Richt went from OC to HC with no HC resume), LSU (Some institutional familiarity on both sides). Others Longhorn fans should learn to love (temporarily at least) are Michigan (not necessarily because they would hire Muschamp, but because they could easily hire a leading candidate on LSU or Georgia's board who isn't Muschamp) and the dark horse, T. Boone University. (No I haven't lost my mind, T. Boone only has so many years of watching football left, a nearly bottomless checkbook and could see the advantages of hurting an in conference rival while (likely) upgrading over Gundy). If you don't want Muschamp to receive an offer he has to seriously consider before he inherits Mack's office, cheer for the rich.
Mike Tolleson - It seems like every year Tolly is expected to pull a 280lb rabbit (Tyrell Higgins is a great name for a Continental Giant) out his metaphorical hat, meanwhile Oscar Giles has freshmen who could start for 80-90 FBS programs. While Tolly is known for producing guys like Roy Miller or Ben Alexander, players who show fine polish late in their careers, this group is young beyond a redshirt sophomore and true junior. The real questions are how fast he can develop players at a position where the physical demands often outweigh the mental, and whether Alex Okafor, noted fan of My Super Sweet 16, was moved to 5 tech because of the outstanding freshmen (Jeffcoat and Wilson) or whether Tolleson called dibs on the the second coming of Lamarr Houston. Or a combination of the two?
Bobby Kennedy - Jordan Shipley is probably the Greg Davis/Bobby Kennedy archtype, a player who can be the roundest of round pegs for the offense. Now Kennedy is faced with trying to sand the edges off a bunch of rhombi before Davis needs them to save a BCS/MNC season. Like Tolleson, Kennedy reliably produces a few upperclassmen surprises (e.g. Nate Jones), so the odds are good that at least one of Chiles, Williams, and Kirkendoll will reach something resembling their full potential is high. Who will make the leap first, a talented but to date underachieving group of upperclassmen or the the most hyped group of young receivers since Big Roy, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas? I'll take Chiles and Mike Davis, and set the over/under at no less than six different starting wideout lineups before the end of Big 12 play.
Mac McWhorter - Often viewed as a contributor to Greg Davis' flaws, McWhorter is commonly viewed as the weak link in the offensive coaching staff. Regardless of your opinion on McWhorter, please take a moment to be thankful that he replaced Tim Nunez, who now coaches offensive line at eHow.com. Rightly or wrongly, there has been a lot of criticism for the failure of Tray Allen to develop into the kind of bookend he was projected to be out of high school, and expect a firestorm of second guessing with the switch of Hix from right to left Tackle. This line may be more physically imposing, but whether it has the wherewithal to avoid mental mistakes and help a young QB avoid being blindsided has yet to be seen - and probably won't be until OU.