With 19 returning starters, the Longhorns are in the best shape based on experience going back to the Big 12 championship season in 2009. However, most of those tracking along including fans, media, and FBS coaches are in a "show me" mode. In spite of the player maturity the Longhorns were picked to finish fourth in the league by Big 12 beat writers. The first USA Today Coaches Poll garnered a mediocre 15th ranking, far better than at any time in recent seasons but below what marquee programs would probably slot given the number of older players.
But a more fit Mack Brown (self reportedly down 25 lbs) is confident and excited about his team's prospects. So much that he has, reluctantly, agreed with his staff to open a few preseason practices. And the media will be able to attend the first seven practices.
Coach Brown discussed several things during the press event today, from injuries to player position changes to potential red shirt year playing status and much, much, more. I'll touch on a few that jumped off the page.
Since Tyrone Swoopes spring game performance, speculation swirled during the offseason as to whether he would develop quickly enough to supplant Case McCoy as the team's second team quarterback. It was all but obvious to the casual observer that he passed redshirt freshmen quarterbacks Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet.
With the offseason transfer of Brewer to the University of Arizona and Case McCoy's two and a half month mission trip to South America, the question really wasn't if Swoopes would get a shot at QB #2...but when.
Coach Brown settled the matter today announcing Overstreet will now move to running back and work enough at quarterback to be listed as fourth on the depth chart. He mentioned that McCoy did manage to work out while out of the country, put on some weight (didn't qualify it as "good" weight but only that he ate well), and looks the part to spell Ash when called upon. The Texas head coach said that McCoy and Swoopes would work with the twos and ones.
Brown was cautious in playing up Tyrone's spring performance stating that his scrimmage was not really indicative of his spring practices. He also stated Swoopes has to get a lot more comfortable running the offense (ie. confident) before he'll earn an opportunity at live game situations.
Tempo and Power
The offseason meme of more plays per game, a.k.a. tempo, was a handy reference on the coach's Bevo note card.
But make no mistake, Coach is still adamant that slowing down situationally is still an important part of his team. He wants his team to exert their will as and when required. With the offensive line personnel now on the team with arguably two deep at every position the program is likely more set today to execute mouth punching at will. At least that's the hope of fans and coaches alike.
The 2012 defense was the worst-performing Longhorn unit, statistically speaking, in its storied history.
Not mincing words, Coach called out his defense and offered observation that after studying film of practices and games can't really explain why they lost confidence early in the season. Maybe due to the loss of leaders Hicks and Jeffcoat. Maybe it was they faced the three-game offensive juggernauts early in the year.
Bottom line: He has put the defense on notice to get back to Texas Longhorn standard or else.
The Greg Robinson Experiment
A lot of enthusiasm continues to bubble up surrounding the Player Personnel department. With Patrick Suddes hired as Director, coming over from Alabama, the team has already seen results of some of the events and actions he has implemented. Coach Brown made it a point to discuss the future of the program in terms of the next few recruiting cycles and the enthusiasm of those potential players looking at a new college football environment with the post season playoff format right around the corner and the thought of playing a home-and-home against Notre Dame.
Of note is also the surprise hiring of former Longhorn defensive coordinator Greg Robinson whose role is still yet to be detailed but suffice he will be leveraged for his experience in scouting opponents and assisting with game planning. Brown pointed out his three Super Bowl appearances in ten years plus college head coaching experience should assist the coordinator staff in a meaningful way.
Redshirt Playing Time
Coach Brown mentioned the AFCA has proposed to the NCAA, and that they are taking under review, that redshirt players be given a four-to-five game appearance during their redshirt year as opposed to the current system of forfeiting an entire year of eligibility.
For years head coaches have pushed for five years of eligibility but the collective administrators have balked.
Brown discussed that providing options to coaches, especially for those programs who are not as deep, to play Red Shirt players, say on special teams, might offset potential injuries.
For the one play to cost a player an entire season has always struck me as extreme but then again I don't have to fund those full-ride scholarships.
Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, Quandre Diggs, and Josh Turner will be limited the first few weeks of fall camp but are expected to receive full release by the training staff for the first game. That leaves a lot of reps for the young receivers and defensive backs to demonstrate their talent. Expect a ton of insider reports the first couple of weeks weeding through the potential of these players.