September 9, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Insp_Clouseau) - Every pre-season we here how our kicker is booming it out of the end zone on kick offs and then this never transpires into real games. What gives?

How do you see next year's recruitment of Jonathan Gray unfolding? The coaches handled the Malcolm Brown recruitment very well. Given that he really likes UT and that his Dad went to Tech, do you see him committing early or waiting until the end? How will they handle the recruitment of the other great backs while holding a spot for Gray?

A: You want my honest opinion? I think Mack just says things about his team with a little bit of hyperbole at times without thinking that someone is going to hold him to the fire over the remark. For instance, I don't know that anyone really believed Justin Tucker was really booming them all five yards deep without the wind's help every day in practice, but it certainly created a level of performance that Tucker can't live up to. Probably 80-90% of the place-kickers in the NFL aren't capable of that kind of depth on kickoffs from the 30-yard line.

The truth of the matter is that Tucker is a good kickoff guy that can get a lot of good height on his kicks and most will land between the goal line and the five-yard line. There's actually nothing wrong with that kind of consistency. Tucker could probably hit more out of the end zone if he applied less height to the kick, but if he mishits the ball, you're looking at a potential big return if the wrong guy is getting his hands on the ball before your coverage team has had a chance to get down the field in their coverage lanes.

You just have to read between the lines with Mack's comments in a few areas and the kicking game can be one of those areas at times because he takes as much pride in that unit as any on the team and he probably doesn't get the acclaim those units deserve.

As for Gray's recruitment, there are a lot of schools that believe they are in great shape, but I would expect this to be a Texas/Texas Tech battle and I've heard that the entire Gray family is a fan of Mack's program. Obviously, he's been to the 40 Acres and camped with the coaches on a couple of occasions, already. Until there's a reason to bet against Mack in recruiting that I don't know about, you can probably guess where I think the smart money is located.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Do you think that with all of the negative developments that have occurred with some of the defensive linemen not being in the best shape, and some lingering injuries, that the staff might focus on closing out this recruiting class with another DL? Also, I haven't heard much about the progress of Traylon Shead. Is he not making a splash, or do you think maybe the staff made another error in that area of recruiting

A: My hunch is that the Longhorns sit tight with their current plan in recruiting, especially if you believe that they are the odds-on-favorite with Jermauria Rasco - a belief I currently subscribe to. Although the young freshmen defensive tackles didn't arrive in great physical condition, the coaches aren't of the opinion that those guys aren't players, which is a big piece of the discussion. It doesn't change the fact that they aren't contributing as much early on as some suspected, but it does mean that they still figure to be key pieces of the puzzle in future years.

Keep in mind they have commitments from their top two defensive tackle prospects and their top defensive end prospect. Plus, Steve Edmond will play the Buck position, which is a bit of a hybrid defensive end (see Dravannti Johnson), especially on passing downs. If you add Rasco to the puzzle, that's a hell of a defensive line class to pair up with a pretty awesome 2010 group.

As for Shead, he's opened more eyes early on than I would have guessed, but he probably needs a full off-season before we know what he's capable of. Patience, grasshopper.

Q: (HKHORN10) - In light of all the RB scrutiny (both in the game against Rice but also with the MB news) I have a question about the RB coaching situation at Texas.... is Major Applewhite the right guy and in the right position? I'm not asking if he belongs at Texas. No doubt in my mind. But is he the best guy for the RB coach position. How's he doing? Is he the best Texas could have at that position or could they go out in today's real world and find someone better?

A: I'm giving Major the benefit of the doubt for a couple of reasons. First, he's a hell of a recruiter, even if it didn't pay off at the running back position until recently with Malcolm Brown and his ability to play key roles in the recruitments of players like Connor Wood, David Ash and Quandre Diggs shouldn't be underestimated. Second, his backs might not have posted a lot of big individual numbers thus far, but they've been very good at the fundamentals of the position. You haven't seen a lot of fumbles or dropped passes or missed assignments from his group in the last 2+ years and that's a sign of good coaching.

The Longhorns had a tough stretch of running back recruiting from 2007-10, but three of those seasons really had nothing to do with Applewhite or his evaluations. For instance, he liked guys like LaMichael James and Eric Stephens in 2009, but he was only given only one slot in recruiting that year and it was reserved for Chris Whaley - a decision made before he arrived as the position coach.

The details matter in a discussion like this. Understand that the spotlight is on Applewhite and his players this season and there's no question that there's pressure for him to turn that group around. Sure, there's some proving that still needs to take place, but I think only someone with a na´ve understanding of the program would point the running game problems at his feet.

Q: (TexasWoody) - Why do you think DeSean Hales is not playing more? He looked really good in the Spring game and I thought Gilbert had a pretty good connection with him.

A: It's pretty simple - depth. He's battling guys like Marquise Goodwin and John Chiles for reps in the slot and its pretty tough competition. I think next year has a chance to be a break-out year for him once a couple of the older guys depart, but it'll probably be a bit of a make or break year.

Q: (ArtR) - My question is simple, what is up with D.J. Grant?

A: You can't rush back a player coming back from a major injury and he's still in recovery mode. One source told me this week that he still hasn't been cleared to participate , although he's getting closer - maybe 80% at the moment. It's unlikely he'll be a factor this year. He's another guy facing a potentially make or break year in 2011 once he gets fully healthy.

Q: (JimsTexas) - ok Ketch we all know this team has a lot of potential and the defense will have to keep us in the game till the offence grows up. Look into your crystal ball and tell us how good you feel Texas will be by the time we play OU in the Red River Shoot Out. Thanks and have a good day

A: That's probably an impossible task, but I have the upmost confidence that this team is going to be a top 5 quality team by October. In Will Muschamp and Garrett Gilbert, I trust.

Q: (TW51) - You may have addressed some of these before but I don't recall reading.

1. Can you discuss how the internet and message boards such as OB have affected recruiting. Do you know of examples where coaches or players have been influenced or taken any action as a result of what they have read online? How does the staff deal with these boards and do you think if given the choice they would prefer a blackout on information or the way it is today?

2. There is quite a bit of discussion, especially about defensive linemen playing various techniques ie: 3 technique or the 4 technique. Can you discuss the differences and how various players may be better suited for one or the other?

A: Oh gosh, the Internet has changed every single element of recruiting - some for the better and some for the worse. I think the single biggest thing it does for the better is that it educates prospects about what's going on around them and the lies that coaches used to tell and get away with aren't nearly as wide-spread. It's pretty hard for a guy like Urban Meyer to tell a kid like Jevan Snead that Tim Tebow isn't his guy at quarterback when Snead can see Tebow's dad sitting in a golf cart with Meyer like they were best friends.

The checks and balances that it has created is very beneficial for the athletes. Obviously, it's tough for the coaches because they can't comment on any individual matter on the record and they probably don't always want their business out in the open as much as it is. Coaches would always prefer to control the message and they aren't able to do that with the Internet as easily. Of course, they would prefer a blackout, but they'd also probably like to do away with media coverage of all sorts on their program, except when they deem it necessary and when it fits their own agenda.

As for your second question, the different techniques refer to where a lineman lines up shaded over an offensive lineman.

Here's a quick breakdown of how it works with a defensive lineman, although different coaches will often have slight variations:

1-technique: Usually lines up on the inside shoulder of the offensive guard in the A-gap.

2-technique: Usually lines head-up across from the opposing guard.

3-technique: Usually lines up on the outside shoulder of the opposing guard or is positioned right in the middle of the B-gap.

4-technique: Usually lines straight up with an opposing tackle or has a slight shade off of the tackle's inside shoulder.

5-technique: Usually lines straight up or on the outside shoulder of the opposing offensive tackle.

6-technique: Usually lines up across from a tight end or the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle.

7-technique: Usually lines up outside of the tight end's outside shoulder.

As it relates to the type of player that work best for each technique, it really depends on the scheme and the responsibilities of the player within the defense. Many one-techniques hold down the fort in the A-gap and are often responsible for that hole only, which is why you'll often see a lot of the bigger interior players line up there are a lane stuffer. A two-technique often has responsibility for both the A- and B-gaps, and it takes a little more athletic of a player to man that position. The same holds true as you move out to the other line techniques, as it's simply a matter of what is asked of a player on a given play within the scheme.

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