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December 17, 2012

Mack talks QBs, new coaching duties and more

****On Manny Diaz possibly interviewing for a head coaching job today, Mack Brown said, "We don't talk about our guys when they do (interview). Manny had two calls about head coaching jobs last year and had one other one this year."

MY TAKE: I heard Monday Butch Davis, despite his public denials, is still in the picture for the FIU job. I still think Manny Diaz is down the list. But things can change.

****Sounds like Quandre Diggs' work at safety in the bowl practices is more than a temporary thing.

"Duane (Akina) likes to move them around, and if you have more corners than you do safeties for next year, you're losing that toughness, confidence and leadership that Kenny Vaccaro brings. So who will be the guy to step in there? So Quandre has played at safety about every day, because he knows what to do."

MY TAKE: This is an interesting move, and one I think can really pay off, because everything I've heard about Duke Thomas at corner is that Thomas can ball.

I can't believe Thomas didn't get on the field much at all this year. Again, if a kid can play, work him into the rotation for a series or two (especially during some of the team's early struggles - sadly another example of how hard it can be for young guys to get on the field, even in a rotation - with guys who have bled for the program.)

When I asked Diggs about playing safety at mid-season, he didn't sound crazy about it. He said, "We've got guys who play safety. I'm playing corner." We'll see how this develops. But I think Diggs is a natural at safety because he's physical against the run and can cover, and then see if Thomas and Byndom can handle the corners.

****On the decision to name David Ash the starting QB for the bowl game, Brown said, "Major talked to David (Ash) and Case (McCoy) today, and David is healthy, so David will start the ballgame in San Antonio."

Was it as simple as Ash is healthy now, so he gets his job back?

"You can talk to Major about it later. The offensive staff talked about it, and David did a good job until he got hurt, and so I think that's where we're headed," Brown said.

Brown said he's still up in the air about bringing in another quarterback in the class of 2013.

When I asked him what David Ash had to do to take the next step as the quarterback at Texas, Brown said, "David was 8-3, and at Texas we want to be 13-0. That answers it the best. We need to have that position get its swagger back and step up.

"I looked it up the other day, and with Vince and Colt at quarterback, we were 75-9 over a seven-year period. That's a pretty good run. The standards are higher than 8 wins. And that's what the kids need to understand. Our coaches do understand that. And we're ready to take that next step and get it back to where it should be."

MY TAKE: The quarterback question is the biggest one on the team going forward. Let's see how Applewhite's influence, if any, can help.

****Brown provided some insight into the decision about making David Ash the starter at QB for the Alamo Bowl.

"I have my opinion, but I asked their opinion first," Brown said. "I said, 'You've got to make a decision. You can decide if you want to announce it now or wait until you get to San Antonio.'

"Major and the staff talked about it yesterday. They came in this morning, talked to both kids and they told me about an hour ago, it's of their opinion, they'd like to announce it today and move forward. And the final decision would be Major's. I would ask the proper questions, but he's got to make that decision."

I followed up by asking Brown if Applewhite had wanted McCoy to start the Alamo Bowl would that have been the final decision?

"Every final decision is the head coach's," Brown said. "But 90-plus percent of the time, I go with the position coach, because he's the one who is going to coach him. The entire offensive staff made the decision (on Ash) and brought it to me this morning."

MY TAKE: I tried to get Brown to clarify just how much autonomy Applewhite will have over the offense. I don't know if I succeeded.

****Don't look for a lot of changes to the offense for the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State. But it sounds like changes are coming for the spring, and Mack Brown has already said he expects Texas throw it more under Major Applewhite.

"I don't see a lot changing before the bowl game, because they were already into the game plan," Brown said. "So we'll be who we've been all year, but I do see some changes coming in the spring. We won't talk about those today, because we want to get through the bowl game first.

"And then start looking at some changes in the spring. All these guys have their own ideas, and we'll move forward with those in the spring."

MY TAKE: I think we'll see less motion and shifting when Major takes over and some different concepts in the passing game.

****Was it a no-brainer to go with Applewhite when Harsin left?

"I told him two years ago it would be unfair for me to put him in as offensive play caller right after Greg (Davis) left. He played for Greg. He coached with Greg. And I didn't think he'd ever have a chance to be Major's input. It would be, 'Well, he's still doing what Greg did.' That's not fair to him or Greg.

"So when he and I really thought about it, I didn't know it would be two years, but usually our guys who have some success get hired pretty quickly if they want jobs, and Bryan (Harsin) was a guy who came here to get a head coaching job. That's the only reason he left Boise. So I told Major to get himself ready to be the play-caller, because that day's going to come and it's going to come fast."

On Applewhite, Mack Brown added, "It was a risk for him to leave Alabama is a play-caller and come here. I'm glad it's all worked out. It will be fun to watch him.

"I think he'll be a star. I think he'll be really good at it. He's driven and has always been that way. And he has a way with the kids. They all really like him. He's really hard and really tough, but at the same time, they embrace that."

MY TAKE: Harsin's time at Texas wasn't bad, and it wasn't remarkable. Time will tell if Applewhite should have been elevated to play-caller two years ago.

****Brown said Harsin took the Arkansas State job after interviewing with school administrators in Texas and before ever going to Jonesboro, Ark., to see the campus.

Even Mack sounded in disbelief about this fact while relaying the story on Monday.

****With junior left guard Trey Hopkins out for the bowl game with a stress fracture, Brown said, "Sedrick Flowers is playing more at guard now. So it will be he or Luke Poehlmann. We'll probably play both of them."

I asked Brown what he's seen from Flowers in practice this season?

"He's getting better. He's probably 310 to 315 pounds. He's got a lot of mass. We think at some point he'll be really good, so we'd love to get him some work in this bowl game. When he got hurt last year, it set him back with his shoulder."

Coaches are also trying to determine if Caleb Bluiett stays at TE or moves back to DE.

MY TAKE: Flowers should have been in a rotation all year at guard. The fact that he hasn't been is a failure in player development if Brown really thinks Flowers is going to be a good player. You find a way to get good players on the field.

****Linebacker is a position that really needs to step up, and Peter Jinkens is a guy everyone is watching.

"Peter played well for us at the end, and that was such a blessing for us, because he can really run and make plays," Brown said. "There's a part of me that wishes we got him in there sooner, because when he got in, he really did things well."

Mack Brown also singled out DT Malcom Brown and DE Shiro Davis as freshmen who have really come on.

MY TAKE: I'm going to keep saying it, I know there's a lot invested in Steve Edmond at middle linebacker, but if Kendall Thompson can handle the job, give him a shot to compete for it. And Jinkens and Tevin Jackson need to be on the field.

Obviously, Jordan Hicks needs to be on the field. But this position should be light years ahead of where it was this season in 2013. If not, it's a total failure of player development, because there's been a enough flashes of play-making that these guys have the tools to be successful.

****Stacy Searels definitely wants more bulk in the offensive line.

"He continues to recruit really well," Brown said of Searels. "He said when he came here he wanted an offensive line that can cover up the defensive players, and we're headed in that direction. We're still young with some of those guys, but we're upgrading there as we move forward.

MY TAKE: Searels wants behemoths and isn't happy that he doesn't have the size he wants yet. That's why you may see DT Brandon Moore getting a look on the offensive line soon.

****Stacy Searels and Bruce Chambers (along with whoever gets hired as RB coach) will devise the protections and most of the running game, while Major Applewhite and Darrell Wyatt will handle the passing game.

"But Major will make all final decisions," Mack Brown said. "To have a co-coordinator situation, you have to have a guy who makes those decisions. So Major will set the game plan with input from those other guys. But he will make the decisions about what feels best in calling the plays and practice."

Brown said if Searels and Chambers want to work on one-on-one blocking with defensive tackles in practice and Applewhite wants to do some team scrimmage work, Applewhite would have the final say.

MY TAKE: Applewhite and Searels both have their ties to Nick Saban and get along very well. This should make for good chemistry on staff.

****Brown said he hasn't talked to any running back coaches. He plans on doing that after the bowl game. But he said his email and voicemail have been flooded with interested candidates.

"It's not going to be a hard hire. The question will be which direction will we go? Because there are so many great candidates interested in coming."

When Brown hires a position coach, he said he asks the staff to give him a list of 10 names with reasons why they would fit at Texas, then he cuts it down to five and proceeds from there.

MY TAKE: If the candidates are that great, Brown better be able to hit a home run in terms of coaching talent and recruiting talent.

****Brown said he thinks all of his juniors will come back to school next year, but he encouraged them to get the NCAA-permitted evaluations from the NFL giving a projection of where that player might be drafted.

Jackson Jeffcoat is the only real question, and all arrows point to him returning.

****Brown was asked if his recruiting pitch has changed with the program toiling through the past three years as compared to earlier in the decade?

"I'm telling them I think we're about to be really good, and you better jump on. The other times, we were really good, and you didn't have to say much about it. But I think kids choose schools for a lot of different reasons, and you never know why.

"I'm excited about this class. It will be a small class (in 2013), but it should be a real good class," he said.

MY TAKE: Selling hope.

****Brown was asked about all the attention being given to the fact Texas missed on quarterbacks from the state such as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel.

"I don't usually talk about those things, but I can say I don't think Robert Griffin would have come (to Texas) anyway, because of Colt (McCoy). He wanted to start. I think he committed to Houston and then changed to Baylor.

"Johnny Manziel is a great player, and he committed to Oregon and then went to Texas A&M and has done a great job. And you have to congratulate him for winning the Heisman.

"Andrew Luck? Great player who has done everything right. Our decision at the time was to recruit Garrett (Gilbert).

"Some of the coaches are gone who made those decisions, so that makes it more difficult. They are not here to answer the questions, and I doubt they'd take your call if you asked. But you make the decisions, you move forward. If they don't work, you try to evaluate why they didn't work and move forward.

"Case Keenum was a good one. There are some young quarterbacks from Texas who played in our league this year we didn't recruit who are really good players."

MY TAKE: You have to think the young QB he was talking about from Texas playing well in the league is J.W. Walsh at Oklahoma State, who Texas brought in for a camp with David Ash and Johnny Manziel after their sophomore seasons in high school, and Texas chose Ash from that group.

****The redshirt freshmen are getting lots of work in the bowl practices.

"I think that's a great class," Brown said. "For us to have played 16 of them, and the ones who didn't play have looked good. It will be fun to watch these guys grow. We're being very hard on them and demanding, and they are responding."

MY TAKE: There are some guys who redshirted who I'm very interested to see in the spring, including Hassan Ridgeway. Ridgeway is a beast. He destroyed Garrett Greenlea in a drill during practice this season caught on LHN's All-Access that had the entire team oohing and aahing. (Reggie Wilson even pronounced last rites over Greenlea.)

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