Let's start off Wednesday's notebook with some good news …
After listing receivers John Chiles and Mike Davis as probable on Monday, Mack Brown confirmed again today that both players should be able to go on Saturday in Lincoln.
"They practiced well yesterday, and I think they will be well," Mack said. "John hasn't been well. He has tried to play. He wasn't well against UCLA, and he hasn't been able to get off bump coverage. He hasn't been able to get open like we need him to. I was concerned about Mike, but I thought that he looked good yesterday, and hopefully some of the freshmen will start being more consistent."
A position switch worth noting …
There have been some rumblings that redshirt freshman DT Kyle Kriegel was getting some work along the offensive line, and Mack confirmed the news when I asked about any guys who might be cross-training.
Mack indicated that Kriegel, who actually came into the UT program as a DE out of Elysian Fields, made the move several weeks ago. Kriegel is getting work with offensive line coach Mac McWhorter at the end of practices and he's only working on that side of the ball.
The coaches have not settled on a specific spot along the offensive line for the 6-5, 270-pounder.
"Right now, we're just trying to get him ready to play," Mack said. "We'll evaluate in the spring where he would play. He will not play in games this year."
Kriegel is the only player who has been looked at as a possible position switch.
Texas will retire Colt McCoy's jersey before the game against Baylor on October 30.
McCoy won the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Player of the Year award in 2008 and 2009 and the Maxwell Award in 2009, making him eligible to have his jersey retired. McCoy and the Cleveland Browns are off the weekend that he'll be honored, so McCoy will be in Austin for the ceremony.
"We're very, very proud of Colt," Mack said. "Every time we look at his name up in the upper part of the stadium with the other great names that have played at The University of Texas, we'll be proud of him, we'll be proud of his team and all their accomplishments."
Mack said the honor wasn't brought up to McCoy until the team knew it could be done. Once they checked the schedules and realized it could happen this year, the decision was made to notify McCoy and set up the announcement.
"There's a process you have to go through with a group of committees. I have absolutely nothing to do with it," Mack said.
Just nine months removed from playing his last game as a Longhorn, Mack he's glad the school moved quickly with its decision.
"One of the things, I feel like, when somebody has accomplished something, why not let him enjoy it now?," Brown said.
When Vince Young moved on to the NFL, the school had a policy that it would retire only jerseys for Heisman Trophy winners. After that, Texas changed the wording to its current policy, making it possible to honor national players of the year. McCoy will join Young, Earl Campbell, Bobby Layne, Tommy Nobis and Ricky Williams in receiving this honor.
"To me, why wait? Fans appreciate it, it's fresh on their minds, he can enjoy it," Mack said. "I'm in full support that the athletic department and university decided to do it now."
This could be an exciting and eventful couple weeks for McCoy, who is expected to get his first NFL start this weekend when Cleveland travels to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.
"He texted me and said 'I'm excited about this weekend.' I didn't know what to respond at first," Mack said. "I think I'm going to text him back tonight, tell him to say hello to Casey Hampton."
On to this week's game against Nebraska ...
Mack said the Longhorns had a good practice on Tuesday and the team is focused. It also understands that it has a big challenge in front of it.
Defensively, Mack said Texas will have to clean up some of the errors it made when it faced UCLA, a team that's not nearly as athletic as Nebraska but was able to grind out 264 yards rushing against the Longhorn defense.
This week, Texas will have to play with discipline, not have busted assignments and cut down on missed tackles.
"You cannot have success against what Nebraska is doing on offense right now unless you're disciplined with your assignments and your eyes, and then you have to tackle a great player (freshman QB Taylor Martinez) that's 195 pounds and playing as well as any quarterback in the country after you get there," Mack said.
Defensively, Texas expects Nebraska to keep its guys around the line of scrimmage, play both man and zone and press the UT receivers. If Texas sticks to its stated plan to let Garrett Gilbert open things up a bit, this could be a game where Malcolm Williams can beat tight coverage at the line and have some opportunities downfield.
The biggest key to slowing down Nebraska's offense is getting the ball out of Taylor Martinez's hands. Easier said than done. Martinez is fourth nationally with 147 rushing yards per game (10.8 ypc). The team that's best been able to keep him in check is South Dakota State, which limited Martinez to 75 yards 13 rushes.
Nebraska does a really good job of getting Martinez the carries in different ways so keeping him bottled up over the course of four quarters is going to be a difficult task for the Texas defense. Against K-St., Martinez did a great job of selling pass on QB draws, allowing defenders to get upfield before Martinez would dart into the secondary for long gains. The challenge for Will Muschamp is finding a way to eliminate those big runs. If Texas can force Nebraska to make first downs through the air, the Longhorns have a fighting chance.
"Everybody's trying (to get the ball out of Martinez's hands," Mack said. "That's what's amazing. They've developed a scheme much like we did with Vince. They have different blocking schemes and they can block the guy that's responsible for him."
This week, receiver Brock Fitzhenry is playing the role of Martinez in Texas practices. The good news is that Fitzhenry is a natural fit because he was a great running quarterback in high school, so Texas should have some solid preparations. The bad news … there was a play in Tuesday's practice where a defender missed a tackle on Fitzhenry and only the coaches' whistles prevented it from being a big play.
"It scares you to death. (Martinez) just keeps pressure on your defense on every play," Mack said.
Will Texas really open up the offensive playbook and become more aggressive this week? (And if it happens and is successful … what took so long?)
Mack followed up on Greg Davis' comments from earlier in the week indicating Texas would open things up, but Mack's comments focused a bit more on taking situational gambles than chances with the offensive scheme/personnel.
"You just have to play well when you do. It's easy to say 'go for 4th-and-2' when you make 'em. It's easy to say 'fake those punts' when you make 'em. It's easy to say 'turn 'em loose' when you're moving it. Turn it loose means moving it, so that's what we have to do on offense," Mack said.
We'll all know on Saturday whether Texas will go for the throat early or play "not to lose." Your guess is as good as mine.
Mack on Texas playing the underdog role and whether he'll use that for ammunition to fire up his team …
"You all use that for me. I don't have to," he said. "We've got it too often as of late."
This time last year, Nebraska was nearing a horrific stretch in which it was hammered by Texas Tech and then lost to lowly Iowa State, both in Lincoln. Since then, the Huskers have steadily improved, with the narrow loss to Texas in the Big 12 Championship the only blemish on the Huskers' record.
Facing a similar Nebraska team last December, Texas held the Huskers to 106 yards of offense in the title game. Now, with Martinez running the show, the Huskers have the look of a team that could easily quadruple that total if Texas isn't on its game defensively.
"It's basically the same guys except for him," Mack said. "He's just made that much difference so you have to give him and them credit for what they've come up with offensively."
Does Nebraska face more pressure since it has title aspirations this year, while Texas is simply trying to scrape together as many wins as possible?
"I think we can still win the conference this year if we win the rest of the games," Mack said.
During the off week, all the Texas assistants hit the road to recruit, both in state and out of state (McWhorter was in Arizona watching current commitment Christian Westerman and Muschamp was in Louisiana looking at top target Jermauria Rasco).
The coaches hit the road immediately after Thursday's practice and took in as many games as possible, even hitting some Saturday games.
"We felt like we got a tremendous amount done. You plan on this at the first of the year, when have an open date. You knew the game they were going to have, you promised kids you were going to come see them that weekend," Brown said.
One change that does shake things up a bit is the rule stating only two coaches can go to a particular school at the same time. In the past, the area recruiter, position coach and coordinator could all go visit a prospect if the situation warranted it. Now you can only take two coaches at any given time.
"You really have to change your planning up, try to figure out who is more important to go to that school. If it's not that coach's area, does he set it up and then the position coach and coordinator go instead of the regional/area coach and one of those two? We're having to look at things differently," Mack said.
Mack didn't go out last weekend because he gets only one visit per prospect. He and the assistants are not permitted to talk to players at the school or at the games, so Mack chooses to save his visits until after the season when he can have direct interaction with the prospect and his family.
The recruiting efforts focused on a combination of 2012 prospects and current 2011 commitments.