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February 22, 2012
The TicketCity Locker Room
Q: (Omar Little) - Is it a slam-dunk in your mind that Ricky Seals-Jones commits to Texas on Wednesday.
A: Yes, if he commits on Wednesday as expected, it's going to be Texas in my opinion.
Ketch's Rule No. 49 in recruiting: If there's truly not a No .2 school in the mix, then you are asking a question with an obvious answer. If RSJ wasn't going to commit to Texas today, then I don't think he'd make a decision at all. At this point, Texas is an overwhelming favorite.
Ketch's Rule No. 62 in recruiting: Which college-team themed websites are covering the announcement? If there's more than one school represented, there might be a debate. If it's overwhelmingly one-sided, you are asking a question with an obvious answer.
Q: (Golfpr3145) - Ketch what is your feel on Manny Diaz? Do you think he will stay at Texas and be in line to take over when Mack decides to retire? I know he will have more offers than he can handle, but not every school has the amenities that Texas brings to the table. How long can Mack hold this staff together?
A: There's a decent chance that this will be the last season of this staff's collective existence together in Austin, especially if this team makes major steps forward from the last two seasons. Diaz's stock is pretty high and you'd have to think some quality job offers are going to start coming in for the defensive coordinator when the dust settles after the season. With Mack Brown no longer talking retirement and recently receiving an extension that takes him into the next decade, he seems to have recreated his roots as the head man, so there's no upside yet for Diaz in Austin beyond his current role. Maybe you can get another two seasons out of Diaz, but he's not going to be here forever because he's a guy with big eyes, a big stomach and high aspirations eventually he'll get a head coaching job offer that will be too great to turn down. He's not alone, though. One of the reasons why this staff is changing the culture in the program is that they want as much for themselves as much as the players do. Guys on this staff want to eventually become coordinators and head coaches. At some point, these young stars are going to spread their wings and look to fly.
Q: (hornrush) - Hearing that there are a few people in Bennie Wylie's and the players' doghouse, not the least of which is because of lackluster effort and performance in their "County Fair" regimen. The biggest surprise in the names was Aaron Benson and Chet Moss. Since this was supposed to be Benson's year to get playing time and Moss was on fire this time last year, can you give any insight as to what's happening with those two and who else may be in that proverbial "doghouse" as spring practice open up?
A: Changing the culture away from some of the laziness and entitlement that has existed in the program over the years takes a little time, more than last year's reclamation project would allow for. In year two of the Wylie off-season regime, he's no longer introducing concepts and learning names. Instead, he's in full grind mode with a year of establishing his own roots out of the way. The atmosphere that exists on campus right now is rich with the principles of Darwinism either survive or don't. The message in the program is that there's only room for guys who are willing to go all-in with the off-season and the commitment to it. Those that don't buy into selling out for themselves, the team and Wylie well, they can find other things to do outside of playing important roles in the program. Period.
As it relates to Benson and Moss, I think there are two different issues at play. With Benson, we're talking about a player entering his third season and the light switch just hasn't come on yet at a position with incredibly tough competition. He just hasn't been a standout from the crowd type of guy since he arrived in Austin, which is an ominous truth when you consider the buzz created by the likes of DeMarco Cobbs, Jordan Hicks, Tevin Jackson and a few others this off-season at his own position. The next six months are critical for Benson if he is going to find his mark in Austin as a football player. Meanwhile, Moss has been dealing with some personal stuff off the field that took him away from the team, which would explain any previous dog collar he was wearing, but he seems to be working with a clean slate and there are some hopes that he can emerge as a player with potential at the fullback position. Now that he's back in the mix, he simply needs to make the move to go all-in and not just half-way.
As for a list of names, I think it would be easier to simply look at the existing scholarship board and locate the names of all players from the recruiting classes in 2008-10 that can't seem to any real progress in their development. It's time for many of those players to either figure it out or get out of the way.
Q: (fplhorns11) - Can we get an update on the offensive skill positions? Last season we simply didn't get it done. How do you expect that to change this season in terms of coaching philosophy (i.e. will DJ get more than two touches a game) and player development?
One more question: over/under on getting to see the LHN on ATT or Time Warner by start of 2012 Football season? Thanks for everything, I couldn't get through a boring work day without OB.
A: Let's break this down into sections: quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
Quarterbacks: The Longhorns will go into the spring with David Ash as the likely starter receiving all the No. 1 reps. In a lot of ways, this team's season in 2012 will be defined by the progress that Ash makes. There has been positive buzz about his performance in the off-season, but now it's time for him to go prove some things on the field. Expectations for him currently include a big jump from his level of play as a true freshman. Case McCoy and Connor Brewer will battle it out for reps in the No. 2 spot.
Running backs: It's a pretty loaded group with the return of Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, D.J. Monroe and Jeremy Hills. Those players all appear to be healthy, which wasn't the case last season for much of the time, so this spring is about the continued maturation and development of those four, especially Brown and Bergeron. With Johnathan Gray arriving in a few months, those players need to be establishing themselves even more and cementing some concrete roles for 2012.
Wide receiver: This is kind of a wildcard group because not much can be taken to the bank outside of Jaxon Shipley. Will the green light go on for Mike Davis? What does the return of John Harris mean? Can Miles Onyegbule make some noise in his sophomore season? The Longhorns are looking for some consistency in this group and that's a big part of what this spring is for those players, who absolutely understand that there's a trio of freshmen arriving in the fall that will take their reps if they don't get it together.
Tight ends: It's all about M.J. McFarland. He's being hyped up considerably behind the scenes by Bruce Chambers and others, so this constant position of concern finally seems to have a potential answer. There are other players at the position who will fill roles on the team, but for right now, this team needs McFarland to emerge as a difference maker or there will likely be more of the same from the group in 2012.
You asked about expectations for the groups and philosophies, but I think it's too early to get into a lot of that stuff right now because this is a side of the ball still looking to take the training wheels off the bicycle. Will Ash actually show strong improvement? Can Monroe earn more than two carries per game? Is Mike Davis going to find the light switch? Is McFarland really a game-changer like some have suggested? Those are questions we're going to start find some answers for in the next couple of weeks.
As for the Longhorn Network, I can't tell you that I've seen any reasons for optimism that something is either imminent or looming down the road with any of the major cable/satellite providers within the next six months before the season. Negotiations don't appear to be far enough along to suggest that hope currently exists.
Q: (Sean1187) - Four years later, is there anything that you would change or add to your Diehard Guide?
Also, you can leave this out if you left it out on purpose last time, but you never answered....
Now that Mike's Pub is gone, where's the first place you're headed for a bad ass burger?
A: The truth of the matter is that I was under incredible pressure to finish the book because I didn't get enough of it written during the 2007 season, and I wasn't really happy with the first couple of chapters because of the desired format that I was asked to follow. I'd like for the first three-chapters to have been a little stronger and included a little more of my creative narrative, but that's on me. All I can tell you is that I will never write another book, while owning/running Orangebloods and working three hours of radio every week-day at the same time. There are a couple of book ideas I've kicked around in my head for later in life one would potentially be an inside look at my career as a recruiting reporter and all of the things that happened behind the scenes over the years and the other would potentially be built around telling the story of the Mack Brown era in Austin, from beginning to end.
As for the burger question, narrowing it down to just once place is so hard because the truth is that I don't have a go-to-place because I'm sort of a gypsy when it comes to these things. My burger decisions often depend on the vibe I'm digging that day. However, if I was on death-row and needed to make a true decision, I'd probably go with a Phil-a-Buster with bacon at Phil's Ice House or a double-cheeseburger from Dan's. If the prison let me add a third burger for my last meal (what the hell do calories matter if I'm headed for the electric chair, right?), then I'd probably order from Counter Cafe or Your Mom's Burger Bar.
Q: (jboy87) - 1) Geoff, what are your expectations for our linebackers as a group this year? Jordan Hicks played well in the bowl game but before then hadn't lived up to the 5 star status yet. Also why did Tevin Jackson, and Kendall Thompson not redshirt to create separation?
2) With our scholarships being so tight this year, who would you prefer to offer in the secondary with the recruit from Florida being a long shot? (Jacorey Warrick, Antwuan Davis, Maurice Smith, Kameron Miles, George Baltimore)
A: Despite the turnover at the linebacker position, I really like this group of linebackers that Manny Diaz is working with and in my mind it should be a standout unit for this defense. It's time for Jordan Hicks to emerge as a difference maker and we saw some flashes of that in the bowl game, which was encouraging. His emergence this spring and into the season is critical for the defense. Meanwhile, you continue to hear great things about DeMarco Cobbs, both in the way of talent and leadership. The wildcards in the unit might be Steve Edmond and Tevin Jackson. If those guys take the next step, suddenly the overall athleticism and physicality of the linebacker unit takes on an entirely new look. But, that's easier said than done. I'm not sure I would trade the foursome of Hicks/Cobbs/Edmond/Jackson with any other four from another school in the Big 12. That being said, there are others in this group that need to raise their levels of play or risk getting passed up by freshmen in the fall. As for why Jackson and Thompson didn't redshirt, it probably comes down to them not wanting to and being able to help on special teams.
The buzz on the streets about the defensive back recruiting is that Duane Akina just isn't ready to get offer-happy with any of the in-state guys. In fact, I'm not convinced that they'll truly make a defensive back offer this weekend at the second Junior Day because there's a feeling that Akina would like to take his evaluating into the spring because the numbers are so tight and he wants to get it right. If a guy like Jacorey Warrick gets an offer this weekend (he's a guy Akina reportedly likes), it might arrive in the form of him being offered as an athlete and not position specific. The first guy that I would offer from the in-state options is Kameron Miles. I'd also have a tough time telling Antwuan Davis no considering his desire to be a Longhorn and the fact that he presents elite-level, can't-be-taught speed and physical tools to the table.