Texas Longhorns Sunday Twitter mailbag

USA TODAY Sports

Questions…and answers. Sort of.

At a certain point in the season, it's hard to find too many new topics to explore, pretty much where the Texas Longhorns find themselves after the dismantling at the hands of Oklahoma State last week that doesn't look nearly as bad when placed into context with how the Pokes took apart the Bears on Saturday night in Stillwater.

With all that being said, those forces have conspired to create this wide-ranging Twitter mailbag.

Let's get this started.

The fact that it just won't go away makes me think that there's something to all the rumors that are circulating. Other than that, my feelings are more conflicted -- while I appreciate Saban's incredible ability as a head coach, I also think that there are some corners that he cuts in terms of oversigning that Texas fans aren't entirely comfortable with and would require some changes to the ways that the Horns do business if Saban comes to Austin and wants the same margin for error he uses at Alabama to minimize attrition as a result of player problems, injuries, or missed evaluations.

At the same time, the last four seasons have been so horrific compared to where the program was that there could be a sea change happening in regards to what is acceptable from a head coach and what isn't for Texas fans.

And do I think that Saban will be the next head coach for the Longhorns? I have absolutely no idea, to be honest. Leaving a program like Alabama that is already positioned to win national titles for a lateral move to a school that is not as well positioned? Man, that takes some mental gymnastics to rationalize beyond the economics and lifestyle changes that Texas could offer.

When Saban said that he was too damn old to start over again, I think that's the most believable denial that he has made about this whole situation.

He also has a wandering eye and famously needs challenges to remain as psychotically obsessed with every little detail as he is now.

My take remains essentially unchanged since all this broke a couple weeks ago -- it's amusing, at the least, that Texas A&M is now basically saying the same things that they ridiculed when Texas said them. To A&M's credit, though, the circumstances have changed significantly since they moved to the SEC and it's clear that the program doesn't need the exposure the rivalry used to afford it.

The funniest thing about the comment from Jason Cook, though, is that he mentioned seeing Texas in a BCS game and not the Cotton Bowl, even though the Aggies are yet to make an appearance in a BCS game, something that isn't exactly going to happen after A&M fell to LSU on Saturday in a game that almost surely destroyed Johnny Football's Heisman chances.

See ya in the Cotton Bowl, Ags? (ESPN now has them projected there.)

There could definitely be some attrition. San Antonio Warren defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao is set to take official visits over the next two weeks to Arizona State and UCLA, respectively, just after Newton all-purpose back Kevin Shorter was making noises about taking his own official visits. That may not happen right now with Shorter's future up in the air after a head injury ended his season and has put his future in some jeopardy.

And the instability won't make it any easier to recruit the prospects still on the board, especially Coppell's Solomon Thomas, who looks headed to Stanford at this point.

The next coaching staff at Texas, which could be weeks away from starting to be assembled, is going to have some tough work to do to hold this 2014 class together without losing too many players.

As for defensive tackle depth, the Horns can't afford to have much attrition at the position in the next several years and would really benefit from keeping Lealaimatafao and adding Longview's Zaycoven Henderson to the mix, a strong possibility at this point as conventional wisdom is that the Horns remain the leader for the former TCU commit.

Fortunately someone appears to have a voodoo doll for various important Baylor players and has been taking them out, no small factor in that loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday night.

Getting Lache Seastrunk and/or Glasco Martin back changes the complexion of that game, but there's a clear formula for how to beat the Bears on both sides of the ball as currently constructed and that makes the prognosis for the season-ending contest closing Floyd Casey Stadium a much more winnable game than it appeared mere hours ago.

Positive:

1. Anthony Fera -- Texas would be in serious trouble this year if Fera wasn't providing the Horns with exactly what they thought they were getting last year when he transferred from Penn State -- the team in fifth nationally in field goal percentage this year at 94.4% and the punting has been solid, though the average of less than 42 yards per effort is hardly extraordinary.

2. Cedric Reed -- The playing time replacing Jackson Jeffcoat and hard work in the strength and conditioning program have both paid off in a big way as the Cleveland product finally has man strength at their on the edge and has been dominant at times against the run and the pass. He's playing at an All-Conference level, at the least.

3. Geoff Swaim -- The impact in the passing game hasn't been there, but that was mostly expected. As a blocker, though, Swaim has been everything advertised and more as the team's most effective weapon to take out his assigned opponent. Quite frankly, he's been incredible.

Negative:

1. Peter Jinkens -- A strong finish to the 2012 season was supposed to herald a truly breakout sophomore campaign that just hasn't happened as defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has instead opted to utilize two middle linebackers against spread offenses, even though Jinkens was supposed to be the ideal linebacker in the Big 12 conference. On the season, Jinkens has made only 25 tackles, two fewer than he had last season.

2. Quandre Diggs -- Duane Akina's secondary has benefited tremendously from excellent nickel back play over recent years -- from Earl Thomas to Aaron Williams to Kenny Vaccaro, Texas has had NFL-caliber players there since 2008. Thanks to his physicality as a tackler, Diggs was supposed to transition easily there, but it hasn't happened, as he's been unable to beat the blocks of bigger opponents, a fact that has no doubt hurt his draft stock and ensured he will be back in Austin next season.

3. Mykkele Thompson -- A player severely maligned along with Adrian Phillips after both struggled in 2012, there was some reason to expect that Thompson would improve in his second year as a starter as he grew into a true defensive player after playing quarterback in high school. At least in the area of taking correct angles, that just hasn't happened, resulting in some big plays given up and death to the belief that things will ever click for him on defense. Right now, he's looking like one of the most notable developmental failures for Akina in recent years.

Well, there's been no official announcement yet and there aren't even many rumors out there that the decision has been made, so it's hard to say with complete confidence that Brown is gone...but Brown is gone and it wouldn't be surprising to see an announcement in that regard before the bowl game.

There are quarterbacks on the team that can run those plays, but the coaching staff has chosen not to utilize them for those purposes. it is true that Case McCoy is incapable of running those plays and it's a fact that is greatly hampering the Texas offense, especially in the red zone.

Yeah, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh's name is out there, which is...silly. Don't see that one happening or Texas hiring an NFL coach, in no small part because the transition from the NFL to college can be as hard as the transition from college to the NFL because of the need to recruit and the lack of practice time.

But what about Jon Gruden?!? Mike Tomlin?!? Bill Cowher?!? Siliness, silliness, and more silliness.

Let's not talk about NFL coaches any more until there's actually reason to believe that one might take the job. Deal?

The odds are decent there could be complete turnover. However, if it's Saban, he could keep someone like Bo Davis that he has worked with before. Or if it's Muschamp, a scenario that increases seems possible with the terrible loss to Georgia Southern this weekend and also less likely Texas would consider him because of it, he could keep a defensive member of the staff or even Applewhite, whom he wanted to take with him to Florida.

Otherwise, if there aren't any connections, most if not all of the assistants will be replaced. Right now, the defensive line coaches have done the best job and Oscar Giles has consistently put players in the NFL, so he may be the most likely to stick around, though that's nothing more than a gut feeling.

Not that long ago, Akina would be a near-given on such a list, but his flaws in teaching zone defense have been on display and the developmental work that he's done with Thompson and Diggs has not been among his best.

The touchback percentage is actually up this season, having jumped from 35% to 42%, though it certainly feels like it hasn't gotten any better. While it does seem like the staff isn't allowing Rose to go for the end zone every time, there's also nothing particularly substantive to support that other than the visceral impression of things that doesn't hold especially true when looking at the numbers.

The bigger issue here, which has certainly been mentioned in this space before, is that the continued failures of the coaching staff to get any improvement out of the kickoff coverage team or demonstrate that there is accountability for players who don't make plays or actively make mistakes is one of the greater indictments of this current staff.

Over the course of the year I've vacillated on this a little bit.

Originally, my thought was that it's better to have a defensive-minded coach because defense is more about personnel and offense more about scheme, so having that recruiting advantage helps the defense and the head coach. And it definitely took some of the offensive-minded coaches like Mike Leach and Art Briles a while to build defenses -- it's happened for the latter, but still hasn't really for the former.

But after watching Will Muschamp's offense struggle and the TCU offense struggle, the advantage of having a head coach who can help scheme offensively is also important, since that side of the ball is truly about scheme more so than defense, at least if Bill Walsh is to be believed.

Call that a dead stall at this point.

Otherwise, my pure preference is for a spread option offense because of the advantage gained by both optioning off one or more defenders and the added advantage of evening the numbers with a running quarterback. Compared to what Texas is forced to do right now, that's +2 on the defense.

And so while the success of David Shaw at Stanford is incredibly impressive, his style of offense is almost completely unappealing to me, along with the fact that Texas clearly doesn't have the personnel to execute that style of offense and might not for several years if he unexpectedly ends up receiving the offer to become the next coach and unexpectedly takes it.

Perhaps the necessary added layer to this discussion is that the next Texas head coach, whether they are offensively or defensively inclined, needs to have the ability to identify and hire a strong recruiter and coach opposite the side of the ball they specialize in coaching. Surviving coaching turnover with strong hires is the best way to assess that ability.

There could be some overlap from the athletic director search committee with some Powers people, but Steve Patterson will also pick some of his own people to help. In the end, though, the people who make those calls won't be on the search committee, so the committee probably won't have that much actual impact on the eventual decision except in how they interact with the big-money donors who call the shots.

With Daje Johnson suspended, Texas is done to only two scholarship running backs, not including Overstreet, so Thanksgiving is the most likely time for him to get some carries from a traditional tailback role, though it's still questionable whether that is the best way to use him since he doesn't have prototypical size and may have the type of pad level issues that plague a lot of tall running backs.

The addition of a package for Overstreet would be a welcome addition to the red zone offense as long as Major Applewhite could do a better job calling the plays for that package than he did with the Wildcat this season, when it became completely obvious that Texas was going to run Power out of it all the time, even though it turned out that Power is hardly be the best running play for this offensive line.

Topical. Oswald acted with a young Barry Switzer, who was only 26 at the time. Rice plays Texas because they're masochists and love getting knocked around.

If you mean the Mack Brown era, we're probably mere days away from that. If you mean the losing, that could take a little bit longer because a new coaching staff may not be the magic answer if the quarterback situation remains as unclear as it looks today.

Sorry for the bad news on that front.

The good news is there ail be some things that happen around the program leading into Signing Day 2014. Y'all ready for this ride? It could get a little wild.

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