Since it is the depths of the offseason between the end of spring football and the glorious, welcome start of 7-on-7 action, content can be hard to come by, especially with PB and I working on the annual for this year (tease!).
So, I did what any
lazy busy writer does -- I turned to the Twitterverse for some questions, promising a significant prize. What prize, you ask? Why, good sirs and madams, edification, ever the prize for reading my writing! Come on now, that was an easy one.
Read now, thank me later.
@SBN_Wescott: Which Texas WR steps up to be a legit #2 behind Shipley next season?— Chris Phelps (@MannyMoJack) May 3, 2012
This is pretty much a softball, just to get things going here. The obvious answer is Mike "Magic" Davis, who showed off his new nickname for all the world (of Longhorn Network subscribers) to witness him magically turn pass attempts into interceptions. Seriously -- Case McCoy targeting him was responsible for creating both of the likely backup's interceptions on the day. Good thing no one saw it! Hardee har har.
Yeah, those Longhorn Network jokes are lame. Let's move on.
In all seriousness, Davis showed greater effort in the blocking game than he had in the entirety of his career -- combined -- and that is cause for optimism. He also made plays in the second open practice, so there was visual evidence to support the positive ravings of coaches and everyone else associated with the program in regards to how Davis re-committed himself to making a difference at Texas, a commitment that was lacking last season for reasons we can only surmise.
The other real candidate here is Marquise Goodwin and the story remains the same -- he's focused on track and will continue to do so until he finds out whether he's made the Olympic team. Only at that point will Texas football once again come into focus for him. And that's not throwing blame in his direction either, as there's no reason to question his desire to represent his country on the greatest stage.
But it does continue to limit his upside and flatline his learning curve. Most probably, Goodwin will be coming back to the team some time in August and trying to get caught up, especially in developing or re-establishing his rhythm with David Ash.
If there is cause for optimism in Goodwin becoming a strong number three receiver for Texas in his final season, it's the fact that 23 of his 33 catches came after October, including both of his touchdowns. In the best-case scenario, re-establishing chemistry will be the operative word rather than developing it. Those reps though? They won't be there to fall back onto.
@SBN_Wescott next candidate for attrition will be!! Why did Terrell leave the program?— Dale A. (@nvlonghorn) May 3, 2012
Since there's no reason to tiptoe around this issue, let's just be blunt -- the primary attrition candidate at this point is Aaron Benson. His back-up job on the strongside could be seriously threatened by Dallas Skyline signee Peter Jinkens in the fall after a lackluster spring and the simple fact is that there's been no positive buzz around Benson since he arrived in 2010 -- a sign of a pending departure.
As for the second question, it's not clear exactly why Terrell left. The playing time argument doesn't make a ton of sense because he was in line to be, at worst, the fourth tight end/H-back in the rotation, meaning at least a handful of snaps every game. Considering that he's a better pass-catcher and has better size than Barrett Matthews, it wouldn't have been a shock to see him pass the senior in the competition for some game reps.
The real answer likely involves much more speculation. Perhaps the most opinionated player on the team on Twitter, Terrell sometimes got himself in trouble and it could be that he never completely meshed with the program's new mentality following the 2010 purge. Against, that's completely speculation, but it's the only thing that really makes sense.
@SBN_Wescott does WV leave Austin with a W?— Texafornia (@T_Five_O) May 3, 2012
Later in the season, I would feel much more confident about Texas pulling off this win. As it is, it feels like a toss-up to me and that means that I'm going with the Longhorns because the offseason is a time for optimism. Save the pessimism and panic for the season when David Ash throws his first incomplete pass and everyone starts calling for Case McCoy. Ugh. I just made myself depressed anticipating that inevitable moment. Optimism. Yes, okay.
@SBN_Wescott Will Harsin and/or Diaz take HC job before Texas is contender for BCS?— Jeff Mayes (@jsmayes) May 3, 2012
The answer to this question depends entirely on the projection of the timetable for contending. My personal opinion is that Texas will *contend* for a Big 12 title and BCS appearance this season, with a strong chance of making it back to Pasadena in 2014 to complete the Holiday-BCS-Rose Bowl MNC appearance cycle for the third time.
With that in mind, things look great! Harsin and Diaz will both surely be around this fall. After that, the future becomes much more murky. There's a lot of talk aboutdemanding three-year commitments from both and that may be the case, but it's also the case that Mack would not and could not keep either from leaving if the right job came along.
And that latter part is key -- neither one is going to leave for San Jose State, as Dick Tomey did following his one season at Texas. Both will be selective about their first head-coaching job and that's the major factor in delaying the timetable. It's also the case that how much success Texas has on the field will influence the opportunities that become available, as well as pure, blind luck and the inevitable Petrino-like happenings around college football that remain completely unforeseen at this time.
As a result, if the Texas defense performs at a nationally-elite level, as it did for much of the 2011 season's final third, the shining star that iswill flash even more brightly and that could bring the major suitors flocking.
Just know that the 2013 offseason and, if they make it that far, the 2014 offseason, will contain an inordinate amount of rumors regarding one or both. Even during the lead-up to the bowl game. Be prepared.
@SBN_Wescott can u address the reasons why Texas struggled against balanced offenses (OU, Baylor) last year but excelled against pass happy— MJ Yen (@MJ6087) May 3, 2012
Manny Diaz may not mention it among his top five priorities as a coordinator, but one of the primary objectives for any defensive mastermind is making the opposing offense one-dimensional, whether passing or running the ball. As an example, people always think about how important it was to stop Mike Leach's passing attack when the Pirate Captain roamed the sidelines in Lubbock, but in actuality, stopping the running game was as important or more important, because Tech became truly unstoppable in the rare instances when the rushing attack got going.
Against Oklahoma, the biggest issues were with a secondary that wasn't quite ready -- see Quandre Diggs and the long third-down conversion he gave up -- and some gap breakdowns that resulted in the long run for Dominique Whaley. Not to take away from the Oklahoma offense, but the Texas defense improved in both of those areas as the season went along.
As for Baylor, well, the Bears were just too good, even for a defense that was performing at an elite level. I'm not sure if there was or is any other team that stretches the field as well vertically and horizontally and has so many answers for whatever a defense wants to throw at it, especially in being able to run zone-read fakes and still throw the ball. The horizontal stretching especially makes it difficult to control those interior running gaps that are so important.
In summary, Texas wasn't particularly ready against Oklahoma and Baylor was just too good, even for a good Texas defense. Other than that, the answer, again, lies in the chest match of resource allocation and balanced teams force choices that can be wrong much of the time. Those choices become much easier against a one-dimensional offense.