Tracking Mack: Sept. 22
Sept. 22, 2010
Opening Statement: This week the AFCA has a special cause that they always stand up for, it’s called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. It’s a disease that affects young men more than young ladies. There’s absolutely no cure at this point, and it’s a disease where young men usually die by the time they’re 20. That’s their life expectancy. The American Football Coaches are reaching out. They’re asking everyone to pay attention to this disease. This patch will be on the left sleeve of every coach in America this weekend, and it’s something that’s very, very important. For more information, we would like for you to visit the AFCA, which is the American Football Coaches Association website (www.afca.com) for more information and see if you can help. If you know anyone that has a child or has had a child with this disease, it’s a very crippling disease and one in the MD category that we’re not doing very well with, so we’ve got to try to work as hard as we can to find a cure.
We also have information today that we’re going to release about future schedules. With Colorado and Nebraska leaving, now it seems apparent - it’s not coming from DeLoss [Dodds] or Bill Powers or Butch Worley or the Big 12 [Conference] - but it seems apparent to me that next year we will play a nine-game conference schedule. Colorado will not be a part of that schedule. Until last night, no one was sure whether they would be playing in the Big 12 next year or not. The way I’ve read the information that’s come out and what’s been sent to me, it seems like Nebraska will go to the Big Ten [Conference] and Colorado will go to the Pac-12 [Conference] next year. Because of that we will be cut down to three out-of-conference games, and we would play nine conference games. I’m expecting that we will start over on scheduling and just because we played a team at our place this year or at their place, that doesn’t mean that we will go the opposite direction next year. I think we’ll all have to start over and I think that’s the schedule they will be working on today, and they haven’t been able to work on those schedules because they weren’t sure Colorado was a part of that or not. In the near future, I expect us to get a future home and home Big 12 schedule that will at least put some things in place for next year. Personally, I’m glad that Colorado is happy. They can start their new life. Nebraska can start their new life, and the Big 12 can go forward.
Butch Worley and DeLoss have had a mess because they had to move one of the four out-of-conference games anticipating that we would play nine conference games now instead of eight. So it’s been a real difficult thing when you’re talking about changing a schedule for next year.
I’ll try to get this right: In 2011, we will play Rice at home. We will play BYU here, and then we will go to UCLA. The Central Florida game that was in place for next year has been moved back to 2017. The 2012 schedule will be Wyoming here, New Mexico here and then we will play at The Grove at Oxford, Mississippi. We’ll play Ole Miss there. The Texas-El Paso game that was schedule for 2012 has been moved back to 2016. In 2013, we’ll play New Mexico State here. We’ll go to BYU, and we’ll have Ole Miss here. In 2014, we’ll play North Texas here. We will play Brigham Young here, and we will go to Arkansas. In 2015, we will be at Notre Dame for the opener. We will come back home for Rice and then Cal. In 2016, we’ll have Notre Dame here. UTEP will be here the second week, and then we will be at Cal and that will be on September 17 for those that want to get six years ahead. Get your tickets early. In 2017, we will have Maryland here, which is new. We will play Central Florida here, and we will go to Southern Cal on September 16. In 2018, we will play at Maryland. That will be in FedEx stadium which should be a lot of fun for our fans and players. We will have USC here, and then we’ve got to get another out-of-conference game for 2018. In 2019 right now, Notre Dame will come here on August 31. We have not got other games scheduled for 2019. In 2020, we will go to Notre Dame on September 12, but we do not have a schedule beyond that for 2019 and 2020, and in 2018, we’re one game short. Our schedule for out-of-conference is complete now through 2017, and that’s been a lot of work for DeLoss and Butch Worley, and with all the realignment and conference changes, I think they’ve done an excellent job of getting us some exciting places to go and fun and tough teams to play.
Next year will be obviously different for the Big 12 since they’ve all moved on. We will not have a conference championship game in my estimation, but we will have a true winner in the conference because everybody in the conference for the first time in the Big 12 will play everybody else. Again, I think we will get a confirmation on the schedules pretty soon from what I’m hearing. I know people do make plans a year in advance. Some of ours make them eight years in advance, but I know some want to know where we’re going on the road next year so they can make their plans and others want to know when we’re playing here so they can move their weddings. I do understand that. We’ve had four kids married in the last three years, and we’ve had to do the same thing.
I had a discussion with coach Mac McWhorter on the sideline of last week’s game. It seems like that people have tried to make something out of that like there’s a rumor out there from a level-one source that I’m going to start firing assistant coaches. First I’d like to say, I make those decisions. Media and fans do not make them. Secondly, I would like to say, anybody who says there’s a rumor about a coach being fired on our staff does not have it, because I’m the only one that makes that decision. I haven’t talked to anybody about anything, so I think that it’s unfair to Mac. Anyone who was at the Lubbock game on that sideline knows that if you have a discussion you have to scream because you can’t hear. Number one, I could have said, [whispers] “Mac, could you try to do this better,” and it probably wouldn’t have gotten across to him very well from what I could see. Anyone who knows me very well knows I’m very emotional, and if I was going to fire every coach that I’ve screamed at or had a tough discussion with or staff member on our staff, we wouldn’t have anybody in the building. That’s one of the reasons I try to stay quiet on the sideline because I’m not good when I get vocal. We can put that one to rest, and we can put that one to rest today. Even if you were considering firing somebody, as a head coach, you darn sure wouldn’t be considering it after the third game of the season because the most important thing to us is UCLA. Rumors are disruptive. They disrupt recruiting. They disrupt your staff. So I went over it with our staff today and told them if they ever heard anything that didn’t come out of my mouth it wasn’t true, and it was totally a rumor. I know some people have to stir stuff up to get people to listen to them. I understand that. I’m not mad at all. Just trying to get something straight. For you that will say I was sensitive and bristled - neither one was true. Direct I am, so that’s where I’m going with it.
Mac McWhorter’s got more offensive lineman right now in the NFL than anybody else. We did miss a class in recruiting, and there were about four kids that didn’t make it here and we had to start playing kids before we redshirted them, and I do think it’s harder to play young offensive lineman than at any other position simply because they’re not ready. It’s something that we’ve got to really look at.
These coaches have won 28 out of the last 30 games and they’ve finished number two and number three in the country, and I think we all should make sure that we give them credit for that.
With that being said, I love the continuity of a staff for recruiting, and our offensive team has been very inconsistent for the first three weeks and I do want it fixed. The offensive line coach didn’t have six dropped passes. There are things that we can do a better job across the board of coaching. I’ve addressed it with the offensive coaches. Being young’s not an excuse. Having all three backs hurt’s not an excuse. We’re supposed to win regardless of what happens around here. They know it and I know it and they understand it. I want you to understand they understand it.
I made a mistake of talking way too much about the running game in the spring, so that’s gotten to be an obsession for some. We’ve got to go back and worry more about scoring instead of stats. The only stat that matters on Saturday night is that you have more points than they do. That’s the most important thing about winning. Our focus will be on scoring offense and scoring defense [and] turnovers.
There’s been a lot of talk about D.J. Monroe. We had him at receiver. We’re working him some at running back this week because it has not been a natural transition for him from a high school defensive back and running back to wide receiver. He’s not going to start. [I] don’t know how much he’ll play, but we are going to work him more at that position.
UCLA will be a very passionate game in my estimation for our fans because they sat here and watched them beat us to death in 1997. I asked Chip Robertson, our equipment manager today who was on that staff, and Mike Arias, our video guy who was on that staff, and Major [Applewhite] who was redshirted on that team. We were sitting in our staff meeting this morning and I said, “How many people - Texas fans - were at the end of that game in the stadium.” Chip said, “Turn around and look out there right now, it was about the same.” I said, “Well Chip, there’s none there.” He said, “Turn around and look out there right now, it was about the same.” So not many saw it at the end but we remember. The players on that team remember it and it’s something that you think about. UCLA’s been here twice. In 1970, we had to throw a touchdown pass right at the end of the game with 12 seconds left out of the wishbone to Cotton Speyrer to win the game. Then they came in here as an 0-2 football team in 1997 and beat us 66-3, so I would think that our fans will be passionate about this game on Saturday and especially since UCLA is improving each week. They’re getting better and they just beat a top-25 Houston team that all of us have great respect for. So we’ve got to understand that, to me; with this game coming into Austin without a lot of national hype, with them getting a lot of attention now and feeling good about themselves, Norm Chow is one of the best offensive coaches in the country, and we’re sitting here with them coming off of a big win the week before we play Oklahoma is really a dangerous game for us. I’ve gone back and studied what we’ve done the week before we’ve played Oklahoma. We’re 10-2. The two games we lost were to Kansas State at home, but we haven’t played well in some of those ballgames. One of them last year against Colorado.
We’ve tried to look at things that could have been better on Saturday night offensively, and one of the things we realized [was] that we had five offensive players on the offensive line play about 80 plays in that heat. The only guy that came out was David Snow, who got poked in the eye, and Garrett Porter came in for him for a few plays. That’s too many plays for guys to play that hard and that long. I remember we did the same thing down at Central Florida in that humidity, and they played 90 plays and we need to substitute more. Losing Tray Allen and Luke Poehlmann have hurt our substitution plan, there’s no doubt about that, but we’ve got to force ourselves into playing some of the younger guys and we challenged those younger guys to step up. In watching the video time and time again, they were out there 88 plays and on the interception for a touchdown, they were all sprinting to catch the guy. You’ve got to give them credit because they had no chance at all to catch him and they knew that as they were running, but they still sprinted. We’ve got to try to do a better job of trying to get more people in the game on the offensive line and understanding that’s a hard place to play for young people, and we do not have much depth there. Experienced depth for sure.
Our offense is a work in progress. That’s not an excuse. That’s a fact. It doesn’t matter. We started at about midseason last year, and we’ve got to continue to get better. We knew that you don’t just wave a magic wand with a sophomore quarterback and start a new offense and look great all the time. We’re excited to be 3-0 and are ready to continue to work hard to be 4-0, but like I said, we’ve got to quit foolish penalties. We’ve got to quit turning the ball over. We talked about no turnovers in Lubbock - we had four. We can say that they were flukes, and they were in some cases, but they were tipped balls and dropped passes and fumbles which we can’t have either way.
You go back and study Garrett Gilbert. I do not think he’s staring down his receivers which is a quality of a young quarterback. I think, like he said on Monday, he drifted too much on a couple of the passes and got into some trouble with the protection, but we’ve gone back and looked at him compared to our great quarterbacks over the 13 years and their first three starts and his and he’s either favorable with all of them or better than most of them. So we feel like he’s off to a very good start. There are a whole lot of things we can point to with our offensive inconsistency right now, but none of them matter. We’re at a point at Texas where we just need to win.
UCLA is running an offense called the Pistol offense they got from Nevada this spring that I think our fans will really enjoy watching. It’s like a one-back veer package. The quarterback’s in the shotgun. The tailback lines up behind him, and they will motion an extra receiver or running back in the backfield to get the pitch back for option. So they can run the one-back passing game. They can run the one-back, like your quarterback’s under the center, down-hill running game, and they still have the ability to get option. They’re rushing the ball for over 200 yards a game. So all the talk that will be on offense this week, I’m seriously concerned about stopping the run on defense because the quickest way to get beat is if you can’t stop the run and the keep the ball, and they have a great time of possession. So we will have our big challenge this weekend. Five senior offensive linemen at UCLA and good running backs and a good quarterback and a lot of shifting and motion, so you have to be really disciplined with your eyes because if you’re not careful, they’ll run right by you. They’ve been going through some changes on their offense like we have. They weren’t near as good in the first game or second game as they were against Houston, but they look like they got it against Houston and they were much better offensively than at any other time during the year. Their defense only blitzes about 18 percent of the time. They get you in a real tough spot because a lot of their blitzes come on long yardage [situations]. They’ve got a player that our fans will really enjoy watching. His name’s Akeem Ayers. [He’s] 6’4”, 255. He’ll be number 10, and he plays linebacker at that size but then they move him up in a pass-rush position when it’s on an obvious passing situation. Also their free safety we recruited, Rahim Moore. He’s number three. He’s a great player. He had 10 interceptions last year, and he was the most valuable defensive player in the Pac-10 last year.
Our seniors are 18-1 at home. They’ve won 16 in a row at home. Our senior class is 38-5 overall, and we need to get the crowd pumped up and we need to try to make it 17 in a row in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
On the defense facing UCLA: We think they are doing well, but we have had so many situations with four defensive ends in the game in the first three games. We have had packages and our best pass rushers have been on the field, so we really have not been out there against a quality running attack, where they are just going to line up and run downhill. This bunch is going to line up and run at you, and then they will have the option schemes to get outside. They’ll have counters. They’ll have misdirections. They’ll have bootlegs. They’ll do a lot of different things that will affect our linebackers and our interior guys, so this will be the first time that they have had a test.
On if the Big 12 can remain as strong after the departure of Colorado and Nebraska: I do not know. When we got here, Nebraska and Colorado were both great, and then it drifted a little bit, and now Nebraska is coming back and Colorado is still struggling. So I do not think that a team or two teams change the strength of your league overall because it is just like trying to evaluate, in my mind, who has the best league each year. It changes. I really think that we have a chance to be a great league and continue to be what we have been over the past few years, but we need some teams to step up.
On DE Dravannti Johnson: Dravannti has done really well. He had a tough transition because he was a defensive end in high school and played linebacker the last year, and we tried to get him to play defensive end and he just was not ready to do all of those things, so he redshirted. Then when we moved him back to linebacker, he just really got it. He is better at the SAM backer, and we bring him more, so it is more like a defensive end position, and we can put him in a down position rush now because that was his normal position. So we think he can play defensive end without question, because that is where his history has been, but he is learning how to play linebacker. He will have a bigger role on Saturday because they will be running right at him some, too. And he has been in a passing game where he can either drop or blitz, and he is going to have to take on big tight ends and tackles now.
On head injuries and targeting rules: I talked to the officials on the sideline the other night about Blake Gideon’s hit, and I cannot comment on it because it is an official’s call, but I do think that we all are more aware of head injuries, and that is really important and that’s good. I do think that it is fair for the Safeguards Committee to have come out and talked about head injuries because no one wants a young guy to have serious problems now or later, and some of the research is not good for later. What I also think is that we cannot get to a point—and I am not talking about our game—where there is not contact [and] tough hits in football games, because if we keep people from hitting in this area [chest], then all of a sudden they are going to start going for the knees, and we will have more injuries like Blaine Irby’s. So we have to be smart and work through this thing in college, high school, and pro football, but at the same time, I don’t think that we can panic to a point where we say do not hit a guy. I said in the first targeting call on Blake Gideon, I thought that he was actually coming at the chest and the young guy was diving forward, and he kept coming and hit him head to head, and he didn’t mean to. It is a very difficult thing when you have two guys going full speed against each other and trying to make sure that you do not hit a head. If you hit a quarterback helmet to helmet, what do you do next if a young guy gets three penalties? Do you start teaching him to go at the waist and then all of a sudden he ends up at the knees, and we do not want people taking quarterback’s knees out. I do think that it is a very, very difficult thing to try to look at, to try to control, and to try to officiate or coach. We have more awareness about head injuries now in our preseason and in spring practice. The trainers go through and talk and show guys the injuries and what can happen if you do not tackle and run properly [by] keeping your head up. At the same time, we have our coaches go through a specialty meeting on tackling and blocking with your head up before we ever put pads on, and those are things that people have not done before. So we are definitely creating more of an awareness on the severity of those injuries and trying to make sure that we do not have one.
On RB D.J. Monroe and the attempt to play him at wide receiver: He had never played out there, and it is just new. We played him at running back on scout team, and the things that you have to look at with D.J.—he is the most publicized third-team player that I have ever seen. It is unbelievable as the legend grows, but he is a nice young man. He is trying. He is very small, so you have to figure out what to do with him in protection. He is not going to be out on short yardage and goal line because he is too small, and he has not played running back for us. He was on the scout team, so he wasn’t in a position where he has learned the schemes and all of those type things. We tried him outside, and it is just very, very difficult. He is not a deep wide receiver. He is not a guy that runs great routes and catches the ball great downfield, so we do feel like it will be easier to get him in the game some at running back than it was at wide receiver, and that is not what we anticipated. His body type is a wide receiver; his skill set is more of a running back. He does not want to play defense. I talked to him about playing corner because he was a great corner in high school, and he was a great corner in the all-star all-American game, and he does not want to play it. He just said, “I want to be an offensive player.” We have tried to get him on every special team, and right now he is only on one, so we are working to use his speed, but it is just not as simple to flip a switch and say, “Okay, go.” I do think that Tre’ Newton is really good. He has not been able to play. Fozzy [Whittaker] is playing really well for us right now. He just has to stay healthy. We have to try to get Cody [Johnson] back to where he has his speed back. I think he has lost a step.
On QB Garrett Gilbert after the win in Lubbock: I would say that he got really aggressive with the offensive line and offensive players, but somebody will think that they are all going to transfer [said jokingly], so I would not say that. And he had to yell to get their attention. I like the fact that his demeanor was really, really good when he came off [the field] with the interceptions. Its like mine. Did he like it? No, but he did not go in the tank, and he did not get his head down, and he did not start blaming somebody else. He is the best at putting the blame on him[self]. In fact, we have to be careful. He will say every time that he did not do something right, and that is a great credit to him and will make him a better leader. Late in that ballgame, we had just scored and he came off the field and was high-fiving them all, pushing them, and laughing with them. I think that it was the little bootleg on the goal line, where he hit Barrett Matthews, but he was high fiving everyone and very emotional, and I think the more confidence he gets the better it will be. I thought that he practiced better on Tuesday. Players will bring so much confidence out of coming back from Lubbock and winning because they know how hard that is, and they know they did not play as well on offense as they needed to or could have. They know we played well enough to win, but they can see that we are close to being really good on offense. We have to do better things, and he is a big part of that. But I thought that he was sharper in practice, had more confidence, and was moving people around more yesterday than he was last Tuesday because that was the first really tough road trip that he has had. I believe that our schedule sets up really well for this team at this point. We had two games that we were supposed to win - and we did - and we got to improve a lot of things. We had two road trips—one of them that was full of all of our fans and one of them which was very aggressive against us, where everyone in this league has had trouble winning. They have experienced a lot of things for three games, so I really feel like now with UCLA, national opponent, [and] a lot better running game that is different than we have seen will really help us this week to get ready for the rest of the conference schedule.
On whether he embraces the praise the Longhorn defense is receiving: I do embrace it. I think it is great. I do not think that you are ever as good after the third game because you have not proved it for 12 or 14 games. I think that there are still some questions marks, and Saturday night, if we can see them do the same thing against a running team that they have done against passing or option tight teams, then we will really know. This bunch is going to be really physical, so I think the jury is out until we see if we can stop the run. If you cannot stop the run against UCLA, you get beat, and they are going to try to run it. They are just going to line up and try to mash us and keep the ball. So we will all be watching very closely on Saturday afternoon.
On playing UCLA this week and not looking ahead to the OU game: When we first got here - after you lose to OU a number of times - that got to be the obsession, so nothing else was talked about. At the first game, we are leaving the field, and they [the fans] are talking about beating OU. I think that our fan base has learned that OU is not the only game. It is a very important game, but we have to beat UCLA to get where we want to get, and at one point, we were not going to get there anyway. So they wanted to win three games during the year, and then some others were kind of important, but right now we would like to win all of them, so I have heard very little OU talk this week. I think that is really healthy, and it means that we are doing better as a group—the coaches, the fans, and the administrators. I think that with UCLA winning [it is good], and they look so good on film. They have great athletes. Our players know [UCLA Head Coach] Rick Neuheisel and [UCLA Offensive Coordinator] Norm Chow and what Rick did at Colorado, so I really think that UCLA has gotten our attention across the board from what I can see at practice and what I hear from our fans. The guys have told me that it is one of the hardest tickets that we have had around here for years, so that is exciting. I think that it will be a real exciting Saturday.
On OG Tray Allen and OT Luke Poehlmann’s injuries: Right now, Tray will not play this week or next week. I think that they will reevaluate him at [the] open date. He has been set back some. It just has not been as easy and as quick as we had hoped or wanted, so at some point we have to make the decision because with a broken bone in your foot - even when they let him come back to practice - he is going to have to get back in shape because he has been limited. So I am concerned about it. I do not know that we will have him. We will have to wait and see, but I know that it will not be for OU. So he has at least two more weeks, and that puts you at six. So then when you start talking about 12, does it take him three weeks to get back to where he could play? So I do not know. I am not getting good answers right now, and of course Luke [Poehlmann] is out for the year. Luke might get back for a little bit of spring practice, and if he does not, they think that he will be able to play next fall. We are really thin with experienced offensive linemen, so we need Luke back as well. What we will do is, obviously, do what the doctors tell us to do with Tray. If he does redshirt, it give us an older guy next year to help with the offensive line, but as of right now, I am not planning on it soon.