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Morning Coffee Has Much To Sort Out

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One of the most interesting - not to mention important - questions of the 2007 season will be the play of the linebacking corps, a subject Kirk Bohls featured with aplomb yesterday. The Statesman columnist does a nice job of framing the big picture for the upcoming season: Texas has six guys who can play - three upperclassmen (Derry, Bobino, Killebrew) with experience and three underclassmen (Kindle, Norton, Muckelroy) with tremendous athletic ability, but far less experience.

It's a legitimately complicated situation, too - however black and white some fans want to make it. Robert Killebrew is a perfect example of just how gray (charcoal) this is: On the one hand, the guy simply didn't make plays last year. As far as SLBs go, he was one of the conference's weakest starters in 2006, at least performance-wise. On the other hand, there's an awful lot of chatter (rightly so) about the need for some real leadership in post-VY Texas football, and Killebrew's a fiery senior who's grown into a vocal firecracker in the locker room and on the field.

That's just one example, but the whole situation is filled with juxtapositions. Derry is a far cry from an athletic player, but, as Duane Akina puts it, "He's the Michael Huff of his position mentally."

And on and on it goes. The speculation right now is interesting, but we won't resolve any of these conflicts until we have some tape from the field to review. Killebrew says he's busted his ass to improve his position play - will he? Will Derry improve his pass coverage abilities? Is Bobino going to avoid more blocks this year? And what of the young guys? Is Muck really ready to be a star? Can Kindle realize his potential?

Right now - more questions than answers.

Speaking of positional uncertainty, Duane Akina hasn't sorted out the secondary yet, either. As with the linebackers, there are more questions than answers, and as with above, we just can't say too much about it until we see some of these kids out there.

The biggest difference is the experience gap between the returning LBs and DBs. Texas may have failed to produce a bevy of top LB prospects over the last decade, but it has been Secondary U over that same period. Michael Huff, Quentin Jammer, Nathan Vasher, Michael Griffin, Aaron Ross - the list goes on and on.

And don't forget - at least statistically speaking - the unit can't perform any worse than the '06 group did. Some regression to the mean is to be expected, even with the dropoff in experience.

Let's switch over to the offensive side of the ball, starting with this excellent story from Chip Brown on what adjustments Greg Davis needs to make in '07.

Those of you who were at the BookPeople book signing last week got a taste of this, as both Chip and I talked a bit about how well-suited this Texas offense is to be a pass-first spread attack. The big question is whether Mack Brown will allow it. As Chip notes, Greg Davis isn't married to a power running game - Mack Brown is. My position on this is well known, but I think Davis is one of CFB's better offensive coordinators.

And as Chip Brown notes, this would be the perfect season for Mack to shed his insecurities about not being a powerful, hard-nosed running team. I weighed in on this last week when I noted that, at the least, Mack Brown is asking the right question. If he gets the answer right, this is going to be the most explosive non-VY offense Texas fans have seen in decades.

The interesting thing is, going to a Leach-like spread attack (similar to the one he ran at OU, and now at Tech) knocks out all of Texas' weakest birds with one stone. The offensive linemen get to pass protect. The receivers (huge team strength) are emphasized. Colt is the primary conductor. And we can run off the success of the pass.

It's ideal in so many ways and, I think, the key to the 2007 season. More than anything else.

Last, before I resume unpacking and moving in to the new home, a quick shout out to all my gracious hosts on the trip up here.

First, to Orson and his wife, who showed me the best of Atlanta in 36 hours, to my delight. Saturday night was particularly outstanding, featuring first a dinner with Orson, his wife, and my good friend Kyle, followed by one of the best nights out on the town that I can remember. Those in the Atlanta area need to make a point about making it out to Club MJQ. Best club night I've had in a long time. And it wasn't that a half dozen girls (no joke/bragging here) sexually assaulted me on the dance floor (though that was wonderful). It's just a badass club, with a counter-lit bar, good music, and an awesome crowd. I'm counting down the days until I can go back.

Second, to my incomparable Uncle Tom and Aunt Jan, who can still make me laugh like no one else. And Tom? If you ever cut up 17 peppers for dinner again, I'll kill you. (Seriously - thanks for everything. See y'all in Chicago.)

--PB--