On Irby. As reported earlier this week, Texas tight end Blaine Irby is officially out for the season, ending speculation about a mid-season return. Evaluated from a Full Healthy Season Of Irby versus Not, it's obvious Texas would be better off with him. However, given the situation as it actually exists heading into the season, the analysis isn't so cut and dry; the news that Irby will not return in 2009 is, I'd argue, probably for the best.
Despite the return of Colt McCoy, an experienced offensive line, and a wealth of raw talent at the skill positions, the Longhorns on offense will once more open the season seeking to build and establish an identity. How well will the team rush the ball? Out of what formations? How often? How do we get the Freak (Williams) the ball on the outside?
Those are but a few of the big, well-known questions about the offense which we'll discuss ad nauseum from now until September, but if there's an ingredient common to each recipe providing the answers, it is the degree to which Texas is successful in quickly finding a quality tight end (or two) amongst the cadre of youngsters. Put another way: more than any other single factor, the difference between Texas' offense having the potential to be great and an out-and-out beast may well be determined by the tight end position.
For that reason, the news about Irby is perhaps something of a blessing. Mack Brown and Greg Davis now know unequivocally what they'll need from DJ Grant, Barrett Matthews, and/or Trey Graham (or another tight end prospect competing for a featured role). To the extent Irby's news helps focus everyone on how quickly and forcefully their development will have to be attended to, there's some strategic benefit. The more information you have, the easier it is to make sound strategic choices, near- and long-term.
And finally, looking down the road a ways, this likely benefits both the team and Irby in the long run. Assuming a full recovery is possible (no sure thing): two full years of a healthy Irby benefits him and the team more so than one half season of Irby at 80% and another at 100.
(I discuss the importance of the tight end to the Davis option passing game in greater detail in this year's Eyes of Texas annual. More in this space in the coming weeks, of course.)
The headline says it all. As noted on MB-TF, "
The easy take here is the snarky one, but what's the point? It is what it is. More importantly, after last year no Longhorn fan should be in denial about the tangible consequences of the ESPN-ization of college football. The story about the teams determines the fate of the teams. The lesson was painful, if obvious: either get on board and play the game, or step aside and hope the buffoons get it right.
All of which is to say: there's no sense fighting the hype, pretending it doesn't exist, or downplaying its ever-expanding importance in the game. The punditry have made it crystal clear how they intend to cover the sport, and if it's hype and attitude that they want, then you'd might as well grin and bear it. Was there backlash against Mark Richt and Georgia when they did the berserker on Florida's end zone? Were the politeness police out questioning Bobbi Stoops for desperately dropping 60-bombs to get back in last year's race?
Not exactly. I guess we're still waiting to hear what this year's team motto is going to be, but as I'll explain in greater detail in The Narrative 2009, Mack Brown ought to consider: "Take No Prisoners."
Whatever runs best on ESPN.