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January 7, 2013No. 1 - Scattershooting on the Longhorns
College football is a sport that's all about the head coaches. Alabama is great because Nick Saban makes it great. Notre Dame is back this year because Brian Kelly brought it back. Oregon is the most dynamic speed team in the country because Chip Kelly demands it to be so. One of the areas of concern about the Longhorn program right now is that it's sometimes hard to determine what Mack Brown's fastball is as a coach. When he first arrived, Mack was a 100MPH flame-thrower of a recruiting wizard that literally changed every rule of the game inside the state of Texas. All these years later, and Mack's not really that guy any more. So, who is he right now in 2012? What area of the job serves as his fastball these days?
Did you know that by the midway point of next season, Mike Davis will likely rank fourth in career receptions, fourth in career yards and in the top 10 for touchdowns in Longhorn history. If he posts something along the lines of 64 receptions for 1,180 yards and seven touchdowns, he'll finish third, second and fifth all-time in each respective category.
... Coming out of the bowl, Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson looked like the top two defensive tackles on the depth chart, as both players have shown playmaking abilities, high motors and the ability to emerge as 12-game enforcers. That leaves seniors Ashton Dorsey, Brandon Moore and Chris Whaley fighting for playing time behind the young bulls. Frankly, this position really disappointed as a group this season with only a combined four sacks, zero forced fumbles and only a single fumble recovery. The talent on paper is there, but the results need to improve greatly. This is a big year for Bo Davis.
If both players are back to 100 percent, the Longhorns will add two impact players on the defense with Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat. It's easy to forget that those two players represented two of the top four players on the entire defense going into the year. Jeffcoat finished second on the team in tackles for loss and sacks and he played in only four games.
Alex Okafor's 12.5 sacks were the most by any Longhorn player since Kiki DeAyala's 22.5 in 1982. Seriously, 22.5? That's the sickest, most underrated stat in the Longhorn media guide.
Guess which linebacker that barely played for a large portion of the season still finished tied for third on the team in sacks behind Alex Okafor and Jeffcoat? That would be none other than junior-to-be Tevin Jackson. Memo to Manny Jackson has to be on the field all the time next year.
New rule: College coaches who are paid top-five paychecks are not allowed to whine when they don't produce anything close to top five results on the field.
Texas needs to find ways to get Johnathan Gray in space next season. He's more of a dynamic all-purpose back than he is a workhorse over the long-haul. Also, am I the only one surprised that there weren't more "wow" moments from the former prep star? While he had a solid freshman season, he never really exploded onto the scene like I think we all expected.
It's unreal how much better of an offensive line evaluator Mike Sherman was during his stretch in College Station in comparison to the Longhorn program. Consider the 2010 recruiting year when the Aggies loaded up on line prospects, while the Longhorns originally considered bypassing the position altogether. So, what happens? The Aggies land Luke Joeckel (No. 7 on the LSR), Cedric Ogbuehi (No. 12 on the LSR) and Jake Matthews (No. 14 on the LSR) up front and transform their line into one of the best in college football with two NFL tackles and a future pro guard. Meanwhile, the Longhorns didn't take a single tackle in the entire class that year, despite the fact that there were existing concerns about the viability of the players at the position within the program.
The rise of A&M's 2010 offensive line class really puts into perspective how poorly UT's class of linemen from 2009 has developed since arriving at Texas - a foursome that included one five-star and three four-star prospects, none of whom play tackle.
No. 2 - 10 observations from the Under Armour/Army All-American Bowls
1. The Longhorns must keep A'Shawn Robinson. As ironic as it could be, I thought Robinson was the best-looking Longhorn commitment of the two major all-star games played over the weekend. Playing out of position at defensive end, Robinson was a brute force on his side of the field the entire day on Saturday. There simply is not a more important prospect left on the board for the Longhorns than Robinson, as they just don't make them like this kid very often.
2. There wasn't enough of a sample size to draw any conclusions on quarterback commit Tyrone Swoopes, as he had only two series and one ended with him fumbling on a rollout. The bottom line is that he's an incredible high-end prospect that will need time to develop. The key to recruiting a guy like Swoopes is that he can't be your only quarterback option for the future because he's a little more high risk than you'd prefer. It makes the development of the young guys on campus and the player following him in the 2014 class critical because you simply can't have all of your eggs in the basket of one player unless you know he's the guy, not think. If David Ash starts for two more seasons, Swoopes will be able to redshirt and then compete for the starting job as a third-year sophomore after two years of development in the program. That's as ideal as it gets.
3. It was kind of a quiet weekend for the Longhorn commitment group. Kent Perkins had a solid day at right tackle in the Army game, but Jake Raulerson was in a tough spot at center, although I thought he was solid, especially in the snap department. Honestly it was a quiet day for almost the entire player group from the state of Texas, as Torrodney Prevot, Justin Manning and Derrick Griffin showed a single flash here and there, but there really wasn't a guy on the field that you'd say was clearly the best player or a true stand-out from a crowd guy. The closest was probably Robinson.
4. If there was ever a year to only take 13-15 in-state kids, this might be the year because it looks very disappointing to these eyes on paper.
5. The Longhorns should have offered Mike Mitchell. Sometimes you shouldn't make this thing rocket science. How big of a pain in the butt could the old man have been, if that was really a key issue? I think the kid has a chance to be a star in the Big 10.
6. With only one Longhorn commitment in the UA Game, I spent a lot of time watching Harker Heights offensive lineman Darius James, who for some reason was starting at LEFT TACKLE and appeared to be his team's only left tackle candidate. Therefore, it's important to note going in that he was a round peg in a square hole. However, now that we have that declaration out of the way, it's time to admit that I thought James had a rough day. I don't know how much of it was simply him playing out of his comfort zone, but the aggression and power that makes him a really valued prospect was completely missing on Friday. I kept looking for some power and explosion to show, but even when he did have good pad level on a guy in the running game, he didn't move the line of scrimmage at all. James needs to be in a big-time college weight program immediately and he has some work to do.
7. I don't get all of the Max Browne love. I guess we'll see.
8. If you were buying stock from the results of the Under-Armour Game, you probably grab as many shares of Tampa (Fla.) Wharton cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III as possible because he was the single most dynamic force in the game from pretty much start to finish. That kid is just a stone-cold killer of a football player, as he did it all in that game. Will Muschamp is getting himself a junkyard dog.
9. One of the most interesting recruitments left in 2013 involves Miami Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas. That dude is crazy athletic/explosive and his final five schools are Alabama, FSU, Georgia, Miami and USC. That battle is going to be a knife-fight between knife-fighting schools until the bitter end.
10. Pure random one-liners. Hope Mills (NC) South View defensive tackle Greg Gilmore looks a hell of a lot better than the No. 247 ranked player in the country if you ask me. I would have loved to have seen Keith Ford get a few more touches. Same with Dontre Wilson, but when he got his hands on that punt in the fourth quarter, he reminded us all of his upside as a get-in-space player. Ben Boulware is a South Carolina boy if I've ever heard one, and he can play.
No. 3 - Rick Barnes and Co. missed a golden opportunity in Waco
For a team that figures to live on the NCAA Tournament bubble this season, the Texas Longhorns missed a real chance of securing a quality road win that could be remembered in March. The Longhorns had the Bears right where they wanted them, struggling against the ropes and threatening to go down to the canvas hard, but they just couldn't put together the right combination of punches to close the deal.
When overtime ended and the Bears were victorious, it felt like such a waste. When can you expect that Javan Felix is going to drop 26 points and nine assists with only one turnover again? I'm not sure he can play better than he did on Saturday, but if he can consistently come close, then the Longhorns will have found themselves a dynamic player to build around for the next few seasons.
The kid has a fearlessness that you love. Of all the babies on the roster, who would have thought he'd be carrying the bucket?
On the other hand, the Longhorns need some of their other young players to raise their games. It's going to be hard for the Longhorns to beat good teams on the road when Cameron Ridley can't make a shot or get to the free throw line. It's going to be tough for the Longhorns to beat good teams on the road when Jonathan Holmes has many fouls as rebounds and points. It's even tougher to win when your bench isn't giving you a true shot in the arm. You add those three things together and it took a nuclear performance from an off-the-radar freshman for the Longhorns to have a chance.
And they should have won that game. You wonder how badly they'll wish they had it back in a few months.
No. 4 - The Aggies maim the Sooners
Well, that was certainly emphatic. This dream season for the Aggies reached even higher heights over the weekend with the dismemberment of a Bob Stoops-led program that had tormented them for so long during their time in the Big 12.
Basically, they did to OU what OU did to Texas earlier in the year.
In the process, Johnny Manziel validated his Heisman win with one of the greatest bowl performances in the history of college football, as he passed for 287 yards and two scores to go along with his 229 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. That's 516 total yards of offense for those keeping score at home.
The immediate question after the game centers on the junior tackle duo of Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Word on the street is they made a pact to either stay or leave together for the upcoming NFL Draft. If they stay you can make a real case for A&M as a pre-season No. 1. Of course that's a big if because some have Joeckel pegged as a top-three pick and Matthews seems to be a lock to go in the top 15.
When you consider that that Demontre Moore has already declared pro and that the departing senior class includes Ryan Swope, Uzoma Nwachukwu, Kenric McNeal, Christine Michael, Patrick Lewis, Spencer Neely, Sean Porter, Jonathan Stewart, Steven Terrell and Steven Campbell, the decisions by that special pair of tackles looms incredibly large.
This team has a lot of parts to replace next season, but Manziel behind those two tackles gives the A&M team a chance to dream.
As for the Sooners, goodness gracious where does one even start? Ol' Bob can talk all he wants to about the number of Big 12 title trophies in his possession, but there's nothing special about that program, what they did this season and what they've accomplished nationally in the last decade.
You have to think the coach that is now openly mocked as Big-Game Bob is getting some of the same questions and looks that his contemporary in Austin receives.
No. 5 - About the national title game
The closer this game approaches, the more I think the Tide rolls in a big, big way.
Yes, the Irish have the emotional edge as the underdog, but Nick Saban has the better players and a month to prepare.
Close for 20 minutes, but it's a two-score edge at halftime and a blowout by the end.
Alabama 34 Notre Dame 10
No. 6 - There's good news and bad news in H-Town
Let's start with the good, which included a win this weekend over a Bengals team that just isn't ready for the next step as a franchise.
Arian Foster was in beast mode. Owen Daniels played like an elite tight end. Jonathan Joseph pretty much locked up A.J. Green and J.J. Watt was J.J. Watt.
It's hard to win in the NFL playoffs without some really good things occurring and it wouldn't be fair to take a playoff win and strip it down to next to nothing, so let's give the win the respect it deserves.
That clarification out of the way, this Texans team wasn't constructed in 2012 to win playoff games and if you project this performance forward a week, it's hard to see the Texans having the hardware needed to win on the road at Tom Brady's crib.
That's the bad news. If there was hope out there that a light switch would be found against the Bengals, it didn't really happen. More than anything else, I found myself saying that the Texans were incredibly lucky that they were matched up with a clearly limited Andy Dalton, instead of a team with a little more behind center than the Bengals brought to the table.
How much pressure is Matt Schaub feeling right now as the starter? I thought his face on the sidelines when victory was assured told a big story, as he looked like one of those guys at a carnival that tries to win a gold fish for a child and finally has a ring land on a bottle after spending $50 to get there.
Yes and no. The Texans had enough in the wildcard round, but they step up three weight classes next week and nothing about their play in the last six weeks suggests that they will take out a team that humiliated them earlier in this six-week stretch.
Unless there's a swan inside of Schaub that I just can't see, the season ends on Sunday.
No. 7 - The Ray Lewis Game
Sorry Andrew Luck, but someone needed to be the sacrificial lamb for the Ray Lewis Goodbye Game in Baltimore and you just happened to be on the team that was on the menu. You'll have your day down the road, but this was all about Ray Lewis and a Ravens team not ready to see the end of an era just yet.
Man, I'm going to miss Ray. From his entrance to his 13 tackles on the field to the celebration at the end of the game to his interviews afterwards, the guy just gives us everything that he has.
I don't know if this Ravens team can truly threaten the Broncos, but for at least one more day the old lion was the kind of the jungle.
It's just the way it had to be.
No.8a - Is there anything Mike Shanahan won't do for a win?
I guess not.
If there was one thing that seemed very clear, very early in Washington on Sunday afternoon, it's that Robert Griffin III was a limited football player playing on a knee that is supposed to support the franchise quarterback for the next decade and not just the 2012 season.
Before the game, great discussion had taken place all day over the comments that Dr. James Andrews had made that suggested that Mike Shanahan put RG3 on the field without his clearance, and then indicated later that he had the clearance. On top of that, Andrews indicated that he was on pins and needles watching Griffin play on his wounded knee.
So, what happens? Shanahan rode his quarterback until his knee finally gave out. It was a situation that needed an adult making the decisions, at least one that apparently can't see the forest through the trees.
Frankly, it was disgusting to watch and Shanahan better hope the MRI machine is his friend or he'll never live it down. He might not live it down, anyways.
Meanwhile, don't let what happened on the Washington sideline diminish what the Seahawks did on Sunday because they dominated the final three quarters of that game.
I'd be very nervous if I was an Atlanta fan.
No.8b - The Packers cash in a cake-walk
If it makes Vikings fan feel any better, they weren't beating the Packers on Saturday night, with or without Christian Ponder. That team had its moment last weekend when it made the playoffs and the Packers are simply the superior team and I'm 99 percent confident that the outcome was going to be the outcome.
However, the Vikings have no one to blame but themselves for having a back-up quarterback starting for them in the playoffs that came to the team as a wide receiver several years ago.
(Quick sidebar: I once started Joe Webb as a flex starter in my 2010 fantasy football championship game, while he was playing quarterback for the Vikings, just because I could and I wanted to have a little fun at the expense of my RosterWatch.com-led opponent. It was truly a glorious weekend.)
Anyway, how in the world can Vince Young not have a job in the NFL as a back-up quarterback, but a guy like Webb does? That game was fundamentally decided before kick-off, which can only represent the most frustrating thing that could happen to a 53-man roster that just played 16 games to get to that winner-take-all moment.
It was a pretty cruel fate and as I suggested two weeks ago, the rushing record that Leslie Frazier helped ensure that Adrian Peterson didn't get was more important than the one-and-done playoff flameout that was achieved.
As for Ponder, I wonder if he'll ever have another chance to start in a playoff game in his career. These opportunities don't grow on trees and I'm not convinced he's a starter in the NFL for more than another year or two.
Oh, and next week's unofficial NFC title game is in San Francisco and I like the Packers.
No. 9 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop .
Movie trailer of the Week: If Ryan Gosling is in it, I'm in.
Hottie of the Week: I have a new idea for a Harry Potter movie
Sign that the Apocalypse is Upon Us: Texas Chainsaw is No.1 at the box-office
Bless Instagram: Oh Sophia Vergara, you're hurting us!
Mom of the week: Jessica Alba wowowowow
WTF story of the weekend: Suge Knight = Peace keeper?
Some girls have all the luck : Kelly Clarkson: All the hot lesbians hit on me
Let's be blunt: Bieber trolling the universe with a doobie.
100-words movie review: Les Miserables (A-)
You can either handle a movie with no dialogue and all song, or you can't. I suppose I'm in the former, which means 158 minutes of never-ending singing didn't kill me. As a fan of the production, I thought Tom Hooper did an excellent job of transforming the story to the big screen. Although some of the casting decisions remain questionable, the performances of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Banks really carried the day, along with Hooper's vision. Also, I might be in the minority, but I liked Russell Crowe's performance. Tough task, but the movie delivered.
If I had a vote that mattered (Oscar-style)
(These are my updated Academy Award picks based on movies I have actually seen in 2012.)
Top 5 Movies on the to-see-list: Silver Linings Playbook, Zero-Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Rust and Bon, and Amour
3. Les Miserables
5. Moonrise Kingdom
1. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
2. Ben Affleck (Argo)
3. Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)
4. Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
5. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
2. Denzel Washington (Flight)
3. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
4. Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
5. Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe)
1. Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Best supporting actor
1. Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
3. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
4. Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths)
5. Alan Arkin (Argo)
Best supporting actress
1. Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
2. Sally Field (Lincoln)
3. Amy Adams (The Master)
4. Kerry Washington (Django Unchained)
5. Samantha Banks (Les Miserables)
No. 10 - The List: Garth
Here's the deal if you were growing up in the state of Texas in the early 1990s with any country music roots at all, it was pretty much impossible to have lived without Garth Brooks impacting your life. The guy was like the Michael Jackson of the country scene, producing iconic albums and songs for all-time that you could laugh, dance, cry and even shoot your significant other to, while also producing live shows that destroyed the concept of what an interactive country musician could deliver.
I can't even say that I was a big fan when I was growing up in his peak run because I wasn't heavily into the country music scene at the time, but I had so many friends that were Garth-heads that you couldn't help but know every song in his catalog through listening osmosis.
The thing about Garth that I've always kind of been into is the idea that he doesn't skip to anyone else's beat but his own. You're talking about a guy that would crash his guitars and fly around the arena suspended by cables in his live shows, confessed his adultery to Barbara Walters, created a second pop music persona named Chris Gaines and then retired in his prime as if he were Jim Brown.
Like Mike, if you weren't around to see it, it's hard to explain exactly what he was in the early 90s. And if you doubt his place among the all-timers in his genre, just tell me who else has or had the juice to put 980,000 fans in Central Park for a concert or 150,000 tickets in Dublin for a series of shows.
Let's get on with the list
The last five out: The River, One Night a Day, Standing Outside the Fire, Every Time it Rains and Calling Baton Rouge.?
Ok, here we go
10. Ain't Goin' Down ('til The Sun Comes Up)
I can't tell you how many times I heard this song at Dallas Night Club from 1999-2005, but it's a hell of a lot.
9. That Summer
It's the Mrs. Robinson of county music, a great coming of age song about young love in the summertime with an older woman.
There's a part of every man that wants to be in a rodeo.
7. Papa Loved Mama
I'm a sucker for any song that involves a truck driver ending up in the pen and his needful wife ending up in the grave. Geez, when you say it like that, it doesn't sound so good. Trust me, it's a great song.
6. Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)
God bless, Chris LeDoux.
I'll probably hear some outcry over the inclusion of this Billy Joel cover in the top five, but I call them like I hear them and there's a power behind his performance of this song that I love every time I hear it. Billy Joel might have created the song, but Garth put the damn thing on the all-time map.
4. If Tomorrow Never Comes
It's just a damn beautiful country song. I'm a sucker for a ballad and he croons with the best of them in this classic, which was his first No. 1 hit.
3. The Thunder Rolls
My own personal favorite.
2. Friends in Low Places
It's arguably the greatest bar drinking sing-a-long song ever recorded. Honestly, this song could probably end wars if it was played on the front lines. This is one of two Garth Brooks songs ranked by CMT as one of the top 15 country songs ever produced, and Garth didn't have any more just two this one and
1. The Dance
Frankly, this isn't for discussion and I don't care what some of you loons might say. If you think I'm wrong, find any concert video that he's ever done and just watch the crowd when he sings it. I'll never forget attending the funeral of a father of a very close friend of mine and hearing this song come on the speakers and damn near send everyone floating into a self-made river.
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