I had a chance to chat with a friend who follows Texas football every bit as closely as I do and who had a chance to watch Texas' first two open practices. Transcript of our conversation follows:
PB: Long time no talk, amigo.
TS: There was a time when I could keep up with you through your blog. Slacker.
PB: Hey now. My summer job engulfed my days.
TS: Ah, I figured it was a girl.
PB: Also that.
PB: Let's talk football, though. For the second straight year, I'm away from the practice fields and counting on reports from readers and, of course, you. So let's do this. Give me your scoop on the two practices so far.
TS: I don't have to tell you: never trust practice reports. Ever. It's not that the people reporting on the practices aren't offering interesting observations, but it's still meaningless. If you're not careful, you find yourself having 20 minute conversations about Blake Gideon.
PB: (Who will look good mopping up FAU's ashes.)
TS: Exactly. Anyway, you can't project squat from two open practices, but with that said, seeing the guys in action is absolutely worth one's while. Also, for what it's worth, I think pretty highly of Gideon all things considered - he's a player.
PB: I'm pals with a fellow who works at the Hill Country News who made sure I didn't overlook this kid. He was benching 375 last August, and he can move. Our own Scott Ware, perhaps!
TS: Not a bad comp, actually.
PB: Will Muschamp: are we all a little overhyped? Amazingly, I find myself leaning to 'no' on this.
TS: I'm with you on this one. The commitment to putting the best 11 on the field is what I love the most.
PB: Kindle in the Buck package? Yes, please.
TS: Precisely.. Sitting here today, I'm officially shocked he's on our staff. We'll be lucky to have him two years. I think he's that good.
PB: I do too. The commitment to slimming players in the name of speed and the overt commitment to playing nickel have me nodding and smiling.
TS: That and - as I mentioned before - getting the best 11 out there. Think about it this way: the traditional training method is to groom the 320 pound tackle, the linebacker with shoulders that make his neck disappear, etc. And then plugging those prototypes into the 4-3. That's not what's happening here. Muschamp wants speedy athletes who he can use like tactical weapons in any number of ways.
PB: Being multiple.
PB: And that's not coach-speak, either. "We want to be aggressive" is hollow chatter. When Muschamp's talking about "being multiple," it's already clear there's a very real concept he has in mind and wants deployed against the spread offenses taking over college football.
TS: With the proof in the pudding: you can see it in just two practices.
PB: Other thoughts on the defense?
TS: I actually thought your three guys on defense from your "My Guys" post were great choices - Acho, Beasley, and Houston. Obviously, Earl Thomas looks special. The two guys I'm most interested in seeing early this fall are Kindle and Jones. Kindle because if he breaks through this year, all bets are off in terms of the ceiling for this defense (we could be amazing) and Jones because I have no feel at all for what to expect from him. He's got physical gifts, but he's not a great end right now.
PB: If the defense is exciting, the situation on offense is enigmatic. Your early thoughts?
TS: I think we've got guys who can play, but the reason I'm sort of with you on the "hold the high hopes for 2009" thing is because I think it's gonna take some time to sort out. The players we have will slaughter weak defenses this year, but I think we'll hit a few walls against strong defensive clubs.
PB: On the bright side, there aren't many in the Big 12.
TS: There really aren't, which is why we're in better shape than I'd hoped a few months ago. Because we are gonna have an elite D sooner, rather than later.
PB: My key on offense is finding that go-to deep guy. Someone keeping the safeties honest.
TS: No question. And I also am with you on Malcolm Williams being that guy. Maybe not right away, but you're right - he's got the tools to be ridiculous. And your unspoken point seems right, too: I think the big runs come if and when the vertical passing game emerges.
PB: Yup. Any final thoughts?
TS: At the risk of returning to my knees for Muschamp one too many times, I think his effect on the staff as a whole is manifesting itself in numerous positive ways. You wrote about this in your preseason guide and I think it's exactly right: his hire is good on a lot of levels, but chief among them is that he really keeps that post-A&M momentum going. I think that's affecting overall team attitude, morale, intensity, and accountability.
PB: Agreed. This year looks to me like the training ground for a dominant squad in '09, including - not yet mentioned - our offensive line.
TS: Yes. Your boy Huey is every bit as good as you hope. Kyle Hix is a Sunday player. By next fall, we'll be in great position. And it looks even better for 2010.
PB: Thank you, sir. Always good to chat.
TS: Indeed. And though I'm sick of agreeing with you, I'm also more excited about this year's team than I have been about any non-VY squad under Mack Brown. It's gonna be fun.
PB: Hook 'em.