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October 25, 2012

The TicketCity Locker Room

Note from Ticket City: OB subscribers can save $25 this week on orders of $150 or more with discount code OB1225

Q: (Dallashorn02) - 1) Mack decides to step down effective the end of the year and you are in charge of hiring the next coach. Please submit the top 4 candidates you would contact not named Saban or Muschamp or Harbaugh and add some flavor of why you like them.

2) What position changes would you like to see in the spring?

A: I think my first call might be to Gary Patterson for a lot of reasons, with the biggest centering on his greatest strength as a coach, his ability to identify talent and develop it. The guy is just a beast of a football coach and I think the only real downside is that he's working in a small pond right now and you never know how a big pond might change things, but that guy has the goods.

My second call might be to Stanford's David Shaw, who was my first choice for offensive coordinator when the search opened up in 2010. The guy runs a clean program, has a dynamic personality and brings Harbaugh roots to the table.

I'd probably kick the tires on Chip Kelly and make the call, just to gauge his interest level. I think the other obvious call that would be made might go out to Boise State's Chris Peterson. Outside of those four, I don't see a lot of natural elite college options.

As far as position changes are concerned, I would involve Joe Bergeron more at fullback in the spring because I think a two-back set with Bergeron and anyone else is better than the current two-back sets that feature Ryan Roberson. On the defensive side of the ball, I'd probably give Steve Edmond a look at the Buck position.

Q: (1solo) - When a pro player gets hurt, the type and severity of the injury is announced, and there is an expectation for time to be missed based on a typical recovery. When a UT player gets hurt, the details of the injury are kept secret and accordingly, the expected return date is unclear. I don't follow other college teams. Could you explain for me the rationale for the difference here, or do you think that I am incorrect in perceiving a difference?

A: I don't think there's a school in the country that hides behind the HIPAA laws and worries about them as much as Texas. All of the mystery is created through the football program and every single action that it takes is done so under the HIPAA umbrella.

In fact, other media members and I have jokingly wondered if any of the men in the athletic department would use the HIPAA argument should they ever get caught in an affair because it's basically the answer that's given for every single decision made behind the scenes on this front. Mack Brown has described the process as one that is in place to protect NFL dreams and that there's a legal set of parameters that have to be followed by the letter of the law (featuring a signed release from the player and his family) before any discussion can take place, but if you look around the country there are plenty of schools that are much more open about this subject matter and they aren't getting sued in the process.

It's yet another area of the Longhorn program that feels way more complicated than it needs to be. Other schools and coaches around the country deal with the discussion of injuries and the release of information in a way that doesn't include a game of Cloak and Dagger, but we're talking about a head coach that makes his trainers tape all ankles, uninjured or not, out of the fear that someone will take that information and turn it into an advantage.

Bottom line: It's a Mack issue, period, and it's certainly his prerogative if he wants to use HIPAA/lawsuits as his shield in the matter. However, if Mack is right and all of these injuries are super serious business, it makes you wonder what his record would look like in the last three years if the opponents had been able to obtain all of this incredible valuable Intel. The reality is that the secrecy of this current Longhorn program only adds to the added disconnect that we're seeing from the middle-class of the fan base and power players within the program. If you give enough money, you can come to practice and get all of the information. If you don't, you can't have any personal interaction with the program outside of the 12 games and the spring scrimmage, and if you want information you can just watch the Longhorn Network.

It feels like controlling the message is more important than winning at times, but perhaps only because they've been so much better at the former than the latter in the last few years.

Q: (justjenk2) - With all the talk arising again that the program is "soft" and a lot of the blame for that being placed on Mack, a few guys and I have been having a discussion about the root causes and potential fixes to the problem. One piece of that discussion has been the recruiting philosophy advanced by Mack versus that of Saban and others in SEC land vis-a-vis "oversigning." We know some of the SEC teams oversign their classes, but comply with the 85 scholarship limit by forcing attrition, perhaps avoiding the perceived country club environment Texas has and reducing the risk of recruiting misses caused by the trend of offering kids before their junior years. We also believe that Mack and the other Big XII schools do not partake in those tactics. That presents a few questions that have come up in our discussions and I thought your take would add some value:

1. Does Mack's recruiting philosophy promote the "soft" program Texas seems to have, by not instilling the fear that recruits could be a victim of oversigning attrition?

2. Given the nature of offering kids so early and the recruiting misses Texas has seen arguably as a result, any chance Mack changes his philosophy to more oversigning?

A: First, I do not believe a culture of softness is created by the philosophy of not over-signing. There's probably a bigger issue of too many early offers/commitments losing some of the fire in their belly by feeling like they have "made it" before they even enter their junior seasons in some instances.

Second, not only will Mack not over-sign in the future, but the NCAA has created new rules that prevent some of the blatant over-signing we used to see.

Q: (caldonna) - Are the defensive woes really as straightforward as simplifying the scheme? I had a former NFL coach tell me recently that you can simply tell players, "run to the football and kill the guy holding it." However, I see some plays that scream of a lack of football sense to my untrained eye. For example, DON'T PEEL OFF THE RECEIVER IF THE QUARTERBACK STARTS TO SCRAMBLE!!! Could some of the breakdowns in the backfield be a result of safeties and corners trying to compensate for the linebackers coming up lacking?

Secondly, is Harsin suffering from an embarrassment of riches? The aggressive, "ready or not, here we come" offense we have been expecting has been conspicuously flaccid, especially against West Virginia and even more so until the final two minutes against Oklahoma. We know that David Ash is a more-than-capable quarterback, and Jaxon Shipley, Daje Johnson and DJ Monroe are proven playmakers, and Johnathan Gray has the potential to be another playmaker. Is Harin suffering from vapor-lock on what to call, or is Mack really handcuffing the offense that much?

If you had only one trip in a time machine, which would you do first? Do a Nancy Kerrigan on Chris Simms the night before the Big 12 Championship Game or place a grand on Douglas over Tyson?

Finally ...is there a scarier ex-girlfriend than Tammy "Sunny" Sytch?

A: I'm of the opinion that there are multiple issues at play within the defense and that it's not as simple as any one thing. Clearly the scheme has been too demanding at times because the players have had trouble executing the demands of it, but some of this comes down to players not making plays. Guys like Steve Edmond, DeMarco Cobbs and Adrian Phillips looked like different players in practice than they have in games and it has confused the hell out of the coaching staff. That group just isn't on the same page at all and the coaches haven't been able to find the right page in the book to correct these issues quickly. Mix in a lot of youth, some injuries and a schedule full of teams that can expose your defense on a weekly basis with all of these other issues and you have a bit of a perfect storm.

Outside of the Oklahoma debacle, I think Bryan Harsin has been very good this year and he deserves a lot of credit for both the development of Ash and the emergence of an offense that has taken noticeable steps forward this season. Some of the distribution of offensive touches is a bit confusing at times, but I don't think he's suffering from an embarrassment of riches because they aren't that good yet. If anything, I'd argue he needs a few more consistent riches because too many of his players haven't taken the biggest steps of their maturation process, which would allow them to be consistently great.

I have to admit that if we have a time machine, you and I have different initial instincts about a first trip, but if those are my two options, I'll see you in Vegas. Just call me Biff.

Finally, how many times does Sunny have to have the cops called on her before Damien Darling figures it out? Is she worse than Tawny Kitaen?

Q: (HornScott10) - I'm not surprised by the fact that after the loss to OU an Orangebloods revolt was launched to fire Mack Brown, that's pretty much par for the course on the board. What I am surprised by is how little opposition this movement has been met with. Are you?

A: I keep thinking back to the movie What's Love Got to Do With It with Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. When Tina Turner finally decides to leave Ike, it didn't occur after the first time he embarrassed her or got physical with her. It was the culmination of incident after incident over the course of many years that led to her checking into a hotel room under an alias and beginning the next chapter of her life. I'm sure she never truly knew before Ike went Ike for the last time that it actually would be the last time. Instead, she was overwhelmed by the breaking point.

That happened to a large portion of the Texas fan base in that Oklahoma game. I'm not even sure many of the fans even knew they had so many resentful feelings about the past, but when that beat-down in Dallas commenced, a lot of memories rushed forward and in the midst of an underwhelming three-year stretch, a breaking point was reached.

The discontent isn't about the Oklahoma game and only the Oklahoma game. There are many, many layered issues all rolled into one, with the Oklahoma "thing" simply serving as the largest symbol of the discontent. On top of the scoreboard, many of the worst elements of the program for some were only exposed in greater detail within the subtext of that humiliation.

Q: (Philipjk21) - I don't know when the next locker room report will be, but I have to ask this question before I forget:

Is Texas worse off than we were in 2004 as far as getting owned by Bob Stoops is concerned? I thought winning a title would change the notion of getting owned by "Big Game Bob," and it seemingly did for a while. However, it looks like UT and Mack have gone full circle. After all, we have gotten beat the last three years, two of those being embarrassing blowouts, and in 2009 we BARELY beat a very average OU squad with a team full of very experienced and talented leaders (A championship team barring a freak injury). It looks like we have gone completely back to the days of Mack being completely mind f**ked by Bob perhaps worse than ever.

A: On one hand, my answer is no, they are not worse off. I don't believe that OU is as good of a program as it was from 2000-04, which is a big piece of the discussion. However, there's No Vince Young on the roster right now to flip the momentum, either. We might be splitting hairs, as losing a lot is losing a lot.

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