Have your brew and eat it, too. Or something.
Texas football, 2010. Optimized, yo. But still Afternoon Brewsky style.
Okay, let's get started...
Busy day for Mack and company. There isn't much that coaches can say about recruiting (What..recruiting? It's game week..) and the NCAA likes it that way. Brown managed to comment on the combination of the 2010 and 2011 classes after the commitment of Malcolm Brown, alluding to the obvious and incredible strength of the two groups.
It may be a day that flies under the radar for the most part, but the first of September marks a signficant point in recruiting and it was something Brown could talk about, sending a message to juniors around the state:
Today is a really important day for recruits and for our staff in recruiting. Today is the first day by NCAA rule that you can write or email a junior in high school, so our coaches have been working really, really hard at preparing for Rice today, but also trying to make sure you get a good start and get off on the right foot for young juniors.
Many school have already offered the top juniors in the state, but yesterday was the first day that those players could receive their official scholarships in the mail -- most of the players on the Wish-y/Watch Lists surely had their mailboxes blown up today.
For Texas, those top players won't receive offers, that won't happen until the first or second Junior Day next February, after the 2011 class signs, per Longhorn policy. What will happen is that the top juniors will begin to receive invitations to the first Junior Day, strong hints -- everything except the offer, basically -- that they are the top targets. Busy day, because if Brown and company don't handle this part of the process well, they could end up offending the best players.
Really, though, it's less about waiting as a show of respect to the previous class and more about the Longhorns attempting to closely follow the stringent rules on contacting players:
One of the things we send out which is very important to us; to the coach, to the parents and to the prospect, is the fact that this is the first day that you can have contact because not everybody feels that way and we want to make sure they understand that we’re not behind. That’s just the rules and we’re going to go by the rules. It’s funny how sometimes high school juniors will say, ‘Why aren’t you recruiting me, you don’t send me letters, you don’t email me,’ and I say, ‘Well, you can’t.’
The 2011 group needs some attention as well, as yesterday marked the first day that the coaching staff could call their own committed players. Because though the 2011 class is mostly finished, the coaches have to make sure that the committed players know how important they are to the program's future as well. Cedric Reed and Kendall Thompson are two guys who have still received a lot of attention from Texas A&M and Longhorn fans can be sure that the Aggies are not the only coaching staff in the ears of some of these kids talking about the depth chart at Texas or how they can help resurrect another program instead of laboring behind older players in Austin.
Depth chart change afoot. Throughout the spring, Brown sent strong messages to all the players in the program about making an impact before the freshman arrived -- otherwise, the incoming group would receive the repetitions. From the look of the depth chart and the rhetoric by Brown about this group being more prepared than any othe, the coaches are serious about giving them chances to play.
Allowing freshman to get out onto the field and make mistakes is a change in philosophy for a coaching staff that notoriously tried to protect the young linebackers during the horrific Derry-Bobino-Killebrew era. Now, Brown is willing to live with those mistakes as part of the developmental process.
However, that isn't to say that the players won't be held accountable. In fact, though a lot of fans like to make fun of all the OR designations on the depth chart, it's really a challenge to the players to show up to practice with focus and intensity -- the depth chart can change daily. Ultimately, it's one of the little things the staff has done in the last several years to create a culture of accountability and let the players know that earning playing time is not just about "bleeding for the program."
Doesn't hurt recruiting either to point to freshman coming in and receiving a fair chance at playing, something opposing coaches used against Texas in the past.
The long and winding road. The story of Tyrell Higgins is in a lot of ways similar and yet completely opposite from so many other defensive tackles in the Texas program over the last four years. There wouldn't be so much hand-wringing going on if there hadn't been so much attrition there -- from the controllable, like making the poor decision to rob someone (Andrew Jones) or the outright squandering of talent (Brian Ellis) -- to the uncontrollable, like Jarvis Humphrey's kidney condition and Michael Wilcoxon's injury-related retirement from football.
Tyrell was a defensive end that we felt like was quick and made some plays, but we also felt like he would be a down guy. He is very polite. He is very intelligent. His attitude was such that he did not work as hard in the weight room or the field. He made some poor decisions off the field and really and truly got himself in a bind and left our program, and since he has come back he has done everything right.
Higgins didn't go into any more detail himself about what exactly happened as a freshman:
I had a tough freshman year. I came in not focused on what I should have been and what I was recruited to do. I was focused more on myself, and I paid the price for it.
After returning to his hometown of San Antonio and spending a semester at a junior college, HIggins re-focused and decided that the University of Texas really was the right place for him. However, Higgins had to earn back the trust of the coaching staff and had to pay his own way last season as a result.
HIggins still had the same low-key personality -- that didn't change, but what did change was his work ethic and dedication to improvement to give himself an opportunity to contribute to a team that suddenly meant more after nearly losing that chance.
He is still quiet, but he has worked really hard on the weights. He had some stomach issues last year that kept his weight down, and he is back up to about 285 now, so that has given him a better chance to play. The fact that we are thin at the position has helped him. The fact that Calvin [Howell] has been banged up some and some of the younger guys did not come in in great shape has helped him, and he has taken full advantage of it. I thought after he was awarded his scholarship on Tuesday that he had his best scrimmage since he has been here on Wednesday. Hopefully, that will give him confidence in everything he needs to do to be a good player for us.
The work in the weight room wasn't unnoticed by Will Muschamp either:
I think Tyrell has made the biggest change in the weight room. He is stronger [and] better. He can hold the double attack on the better teams, as opposed to spring ball and back in the fall.
He has answered our challenge to him as far as becoming a better player and contributor. We are going to play about five guys inside, and he is certainly one of them.
A trip to Africa with the Acho brothers this summer helped give Higgins some more perspective on the game and the world that he lives in. Being awarded a scholarship once again helped "lift a big burden" off his shoulders, shoulders now more capable of carrying such a weight after his hard work. Now, time for those on-field contributions that have been such a long time coming. Tyrell Higgins is ready.
Acho Ocho Uno tackle talk fading. Ever since the spring, the prospective, situational move of Sam Acho inside to defensive tackle was accompanied with the quotation by coaches that Acho spent 40% of his snaps "inside" last season, most likely meaning plays in which the elder Acho lined up inside the tackle's outside shoulder.
Now, the talk this week is about the move inside of Alex Okafor, broken Monday and now further confirmed by Brown's quoted defensive tackle rotation for the Rice game -- Cavin Howell, Tyrell HIggins, Ashton Dorsey, Kheeston Randall, and Okafor, not Acho.
According to Mack, Okafor's length can team with Randall's on the inside to compress a pocket -- as Okafor will almost certainly play inside situationally, as Acho is/was planning to do. Linebacker Keenan Robinson weighed in by complimenting Okafor's ability to take on double teams inside, something of a surprise considering his lack of mass when compared with other defensive tackles, who typically have at least 20 pounds on the 260-pound Okafor
As a freshman, Okafor wasn't the edge-rushing threat anticipated by many when he entered the program, making his mark as a strong defender of the run. So it's possible that Acho may move inside at times, still, but there's a strong possibility now that Okafor's lack of success on the edge and Acho's ability in that regard helped spark this move.
A note on the H-back's role in the offense. One of the major off-season stories has been the introduction of the H-back position to the offense, expected to be a major catalyst in the resurrection of the rushing game.
On Wednesday, Brown elaborated on how the position will operate in the offense, which Brown mentioned on Monday will still be uptempo at times to wear out opposing defenses and catch defenses in the wrong personnel groupings. Versatility is the key:
The H-back package will be extensive. It is a base and viable part of our offense now. What we’re trying to do is expand that position to a position to where he can be tight. He can be a wing and be off the ball as a tight end. He can be on the ball as a tight end. He can motion across and change formations. He can motion back in the backfield and be a fullback. At the same time, we want to get it to a point where you can be in an H-back look, and then spread out and go four wide [receivers] to make it more difficult to substitute.
So, again, calling the offense this season more "pro style" is a misnomer, as it usually is, because what the Longhorns really want is multiplicity offensively and that's what the coaches hope the H-back will provide.
Brown also noted that Chris Whaley will see playing time at H-back against Rice.
On why Malcolm Williams probably won't start against Rice. Here's a hint -- it has less to do with his value to special teams or his inability to play 80 snaps a game like Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby...
If a receiver drops the ball in practice and he says, ‘Aw, my bad,’ we said, ‘No, you dropped the ball in the first quarter at Rice and we punted because you dropped the ball - that’s what we see.’ The receivers know that if you drop balls, we’re not going to throw balls to you.
Okay, the public challenge has been made. It wasn't exactly a secret though -- it's time for Malcolm Williams to show an ability to catch the football and realize his vast athletic potential. Or not. Watching him fight the ball in practice as much as he does in games helped this writer vacate the Malcolm Williams bandwagon some time ago.
Thing is, I would love a reason to jump back on. Wouldn't you?