Big 12: Eddie Jones

Texas spring wrap

May, 6, 2011

2010 overall record: 5-7

2010 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters: Offense (8), Defense (6) P/K (1)

Top returners: RB Fozzy Whittaker, LB Keenan Robinson, LB Emmanuel Acho, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, WR Mike Davis, RB Cody Johnson

Key losses: DE Sam Acho, DC Will Muschamp, CB Curtis Brown, CB Aaron Williams, CB Chykie Brown, DL Eddie Jones, OL Kyle Hix, WR James Kirkendoll

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Cody Johnson* (592 yards)

Passing: Garrett Gilbert* (2,744 yards)

Receiving: James Kirkendoll (707 yards)

Tackles: Keenan Robinson* (106)

Sacks: Sam Acho (8)

Interceptions: Keenan Robinson* (2)

Three spring answers

1. Offseason mission accomplished. Mack Brown hired five new coaches and a new strength coach, Benny Wylie. The players have taken to the younger blood on the sidelines, mostly up-and-comers who have plenty to prove and plenty of energy. Brown lauded the team’s effort in the offseason program, too. Whether or not it pays off on the field immediately, Brown made great hires that his players have bought into.

2. Right place, right time for Okafor. Defensive end Alex Okafor was a defensive tackle last year and figured he’d stay there this year. But days before spring practice, he moved to defensive end and had one of the best springs on the team, capping it with five sacks in the spring game.

3. Recruiting pipelines are still full. Despite all the unrest with the coaching staff and last year’s on-field struggles, Texas hasn’t seen the effects on the recruiting trail. It retained all but one recruit from its 2010 class (an he was an out-of-stater, albeit a five-star lineman) and its 2011 class is already one of the nation’s best.

Three fall questions

1. Is Texas back? There are tons of little questions (secondary, the entire offense), but they all add up to this one. The Longhorns have more money than anyone else. Recruiting is easier for them than perhaps any school in the country. They have a tradition of success. Seasons like last year aren’t supposed to happen at Texas. Was last year a hiccup, or a significant hurdle?

2. What about the QBs? Texas has one of the most jumbled messes in the league at quarterback. Garrett Gilbert started all 12 games last year, but he was unimpressive and threw 17 picks to 10 TDs. The competition was reopened under new OC Bryan Harsin, but after the spring, none of Texas three quarterbacks had separated themselves, and Case McCoy was the most impressive passer in the spring game. Anything could happen this fall. No one is a front runner.

3. Is Malcolm Brown the future or present? We’ve seen impressive freshman running backs in this league before, and the opportunity will be there for Brown if he’s good enough to seize it. Texas has Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson, but both are seniors and neither has proven to be a reliable every-down threat. What’s in store for the nation’s top running back in the 2011 class?

Spring superlatives: Texas

April, 21, 2011
The eighth in our series looking at the strongest and weakest position for each team in the Big 12: The Texas Longhorns.

Strongest position: Pass-rushers

Key returnees: Keenan Robinson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Acho

Key losses: Sam Acho, Eddie Jones

Analysis: Sam Acho was the best of the bunch last year, but Texas is loaded with young talent up front that can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are budding stars who both were in the backfield plenty last year, and Jeffcoat showed potential to be the best defensive end in the league last year before being slowed by an ankle injury.

He should be much better this year and likely the most disruptive pass-rusher on the team.

Okafor, though, switched to defensive end from defensive tackle and drew rave reviews all spring, capping it with a five-sack performance in a spring game. Yes, it's a spring game, but still. He was impressive and constantly disruptive. Texas has a young secondary and a developing offense, but if the Longhorns bounce back in 2011, the front seven will be a big reason why.

Weakest position: Skill positions

Key returnees: WR Mike Davis, QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Fozzy Whittaker, RB Cody Johnson

Key losses: WR James Kirkendoll, WR John Chiles, RB Tre' Newton

Analysis: Texas has a lot of work to do here, but may rely on new faces heavily next year. Gilbert didn't show much last year, but he didn't have much help, either. He now has to win his job back, and there's no guarantee that will happen.

At running back, Whittaker and Johnson haven't shown much game-breaking ability or consistency, and they'll be seniors this year. Running back D.J. Monroe is the biggest home-run threat of the group, but a lack of playbook knowledge and pass-blocking acumen kept him off the field last year. In its spring game, though, Texas showed a strong intent to get him the ball in space. When that happens, he can make plays. Freshman running back Malcolm Brown also brings loads of expectations with him to fall camp.

Davis could blossom into a star this year at receiver, but he needs help from his quarterback. Darius White looked good at the spring game, but Texas also needs receivers like DeSean Hales and Marquise Goodwin to be more consistent. Malcolm Williams didn't do it, and as a senior this year, Texas' biggest target looks like he'll spend more time at H-back than he will at receiver.

More spring superlatives:

Roundup: Huskers signee, ROYs, Potts

February, 7, 2011
Charles Jackson's father, Rick Parker, went on Omaha radio on Friday to clarify his son's comments in the Omaha World-Herald.

“He’s excited about being able to show his new coach or whoever they fill the position with what type of player he is,” Parker said. “He wants to basically come out there and be a member of the Blackshirts and throw some bones around.”

Jackson, an ESPNU 150 signee and the Huskers' only cornerback in the class, expressed some unhappiness at not being told his position coach, Marvin Sanders, had an uncertain future before signing with the Huskers on Wednesday.

“I think they should've told me before I signed,” Jackson told the Omaha paper on Thursday night. “I didn't have any idea. They broke the guy code.”

Jackson's father said he was contacted by coach Bo Pelini after the paper spoke with his son earlier in the evening. Jackson also said he probably still would have signed with Nebraska had he been told about Sanders' departure before he signed his letter of intent.

I don't think any of this news ever jeopardized Jackson's future at Nebraska, but he's certainly got a complaint that he at least wasn't given a heavy hint that his future coach's job was in jeopardy. Sanders had been off the road recruiting for several weeks, but Jackson himself said he didn't have any idea he would be leaving.

Was it the best idea to air those grievances publicly? Probably not. But it's easy to see why he's at least slightly perturbed when a fan of another program breaks the news to him via Facebook, and not a member of Nebraska's coaching staff.

Ndamukong Suh was the Big 12's best player in 2009. Sam Bradford was its best player in 2008.

Both were the best players in their 2010 rookie class.

The NFL honored Suh and Bradford as respective defensive and offensive rookies of the year.

Suh, already an AP All-Pro and a Pro Bowl starter at defensive tackle (though an injury kept him from playing), earned 48 of the 50 votes for rookie of the year.

“I was fortunate to be able to grasp my role in our scheme and to flourish in it,” Suh said. “I'm just going to keep working hard to improve because I'll never be satisfied.”

Suh finished with 66 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. His 10 sacks were the most among interior linemen.

Bradford, meanwhile, set NFL rookie records for pass completions (354) and attempts (590) and only Peyton Manning topped Bradford's 3,512 yards in his rookie year.

He threw 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

"It means a lot to me when you look at this award and see who has won it in the past." Bradford said. "It reflects what we were able to do as a team this year."

Yet another college all-star game took place on Saturday, the NFLPA All-Star game, formerly known as the Texas vs. The Nation game.

Two Texas products, of course, helped Team Texas beat Team Nation 13-7.

Former Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts led his offense on scoring drives the first two times he played, earning offensive MVP honors for his 9-of-15 passing performance for 105 yards.

Texas defensive lineman Eddie Jones won the game for Team Texas, however, when he stuffed former Miami running back Damien Berry at the 1-yard line with less than a minute to play.

Potts is an interesting case in regards to his NFL future. Tech quarterbacks have had marginal success at best in the NFL, but surely he has to impress a few people with a performance like that.

You'll see the "system" tag thrown on Red Raiders quarterbacks almost reflexively, but don't forget, Potts beat some decent quarterbacks in the passing accuracy competition at the Manning Passing camp before the season. What does that mean when it comes to his NFL future? I guess we'll find out in the next few months. His arm strength and mechanics are far from elite, he wasn't invited to the scouting combine and looks unlikely to be drafted, but I'd be surprised if someone didn't invite him to a minicamp after the draft and gave him a solid look.

Thoughts on a history of top-flight recruits

February, 4, 2011
On Wednesday, we wrapped up our look back at the last five years of ESPNU 150 recruits that signed with Big 12 teams.

Here's a quick refresher course on every Big 12 ESPNU 150 signee:
I learned a lot in looking back on these classes, and the spectrum of results was fascinating. Here are a few thoughts:
  • There wasn't a Heisman Trophy winner among the bunch -- Oklahoma's Sam Bradford was a three-star recruit -- but there were plenty of All-Americans and All-Big 12 talents, as well as a few draft picks. It's interesting to note that the 2010 class was the only one in which more than one Big 12 Freshman of the Year came to campus as an elite recruit. Oklahoma State linebacker Shaun Lewis and Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson shared the defensive honors last season.
  • I'll count probable draft picks, but here's how many NFL draft picks emerged from each class. Obviously, the most recent classes won't be included, and it tapers off quite a bit as you reach the '08 class, which will have a few more drafted eventually. Any players after the 2008 class are ineligible for the draft.
  • 2006: 8
  • 2007: 3 (Dez Bryant, Sam Acho, Curtis Brown)
  • 2008: 1 (Blaine Gabbert)
  • Additionally, I don't have a ton to say about the 09-11 classes because, well, at this point, you can't have much to say. Oklahoma or Texas don't have too many four-year, or even three-year starters at too many positions. It's still very, very early to pass judgment on those guys.
  • Obviously there's still time, but the 2008 class looking back was pretty weak in comparison to those around it. It's easily the worst of the four classes, not including 2011. Two of the top five recruits have transferred. The other three in that group have yet to make significant contributions. Players like Jon Major, Cyrus Gray, Emmanuel Acho, Kendall Wright and Landry Jones join Gabbert as some of the best in the class, but guys like Jameel Owens, Kye Staley, Lynn Katoa and Justin Johnson aren't even with the teams they've signed anymore. Plenty of others haven't come close to the projected impact others would hope.
  • Compare that to the accomplished 2006 class, which was loaded at the top of the board. DeMarco Murray, Sergio Kindle, Jevan Snead, Gerald McCoy and Eddie Jones won't make anybody say, "Who?" That's a strong top 5. Mike Goodson, Jeremy Beal, Josh Freeman, and Jermaine Gresham could all have solid NFL careers, too. In my book, this is the class others will have to live up to.
  • One quick thought: Are Jevan Snead and Josh Freeman's careers the inverses of each other?
  • I'll give a full breakdown of the team totals later on next week, but I was shocked at how few Nebraska reeled in. From 2006-10, they had just three. S Rickey Thenarse signed in '06, OT Baker Steinkuhler signed in '08 and OG Andrew Rodriguez signed in '10. Steinkuhler, of course, has moved to defensive tackle since. For a team that's won the North the past two seasons and at times looked like a national title contender in 2010, that's a pretty solid endorsement of Bo Pelini's coaching. He's won 29 games in his first three seasons, and his nationally-ranked class in 2011 signed four ESPNU 150 recruits alone. For all you non-mathematicians out there, that's more than 06-10 combined. That has to give Nebraska fans a whole lot of confidence about the program moving forward, even if three of those four signees are from Texas, where Nebraska may struggle to recruit after its move to the Big Ten. That, however, is a whole different post and discussion.
  • As an overview of all this, I can't stand it when people decry the recruiting rankings system all together, declaring it worthless. It's not. I also can't stand it when others contend the rankings mean everything. They don't. The truth is right where it usually is: somewhere in the middle. Cite all the two-star recruits you want. I can come back with 10 more that showed in their college careers why they were two-star recruits. You can build a successful program on three and four-star signees, but the facts are this: if you keep reeling in top-level recruits, you've got a much, much greater chance of having big success. Bottom line, that's the truth. You'll encounter some busts among the five-stars. You'll encounter some gems in the two-stars. But recruiting rankings mean something, just not as much or as little as people like to think sometimes.
ESPN the Magazine had a fascinating feature looking back at the past 25 No. 1 high school recruits, where they are now and what the ranking meant to them. With apologies to Vince Young, there aren't a ton of Big 12 talents on the list, but there have been plenty of great recruits to come through the Big 12. We took a look on Thursday at how the All-Big 12 team stacked up as recruits, and you saw quite a mixed bag.

Well, it's the same for the recruits who came to campus with high rankings and high profiles. Going back to 2006, here's how every Big 12 commit from the ESPNU 150 turned out. We'll look at 2006 in this post before eventually reaching 2010 and the current class, 2011, by signing day.


No. 6: DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma. Murray set the school records for touchdowns (64) and all-purpose yards (6,498) as a Sooner. He's projected to be drafted on the first day of this year's NFL Draft.

No. 7: Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas. Kindle was a finalist for the Butkus and Hendricks Awards and was a two-time All-Big 12 performer with 176 career tackles. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round last year's NFL Draft, but missed his rookie season after fracturing his skull in a fall on the stairs at his home.

No. 13: Jevan Snead, QB, Texas. Lost a quarterback battle to Colt McCoy following the 2005 season. Played sparingly as a freshman before transferring to Ole Miss. Went undrafted in 2010. Now plays for Arena League's Tampa Bay Storm.

No. 21: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma. McCoy was a Lombardi finalist, a three-time All-Big 12 performer, a two-time All-American who left Oklahoma after his junior season and was selected No. 3 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2010 NFL Draft.

No. 22: Eddie Jones, DE, Texas. Jones just finished his career at Texas with an All-Big 12 honorable mention year in 2010. Finished his career with 111 tackles and 13.5 sacks.

No. 34: J'Marcus Webb, OT, Texas. Webb played one year at Texas before transferring to Navarro College and eventually West Texas A&M. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 draft and spent the season with the Chicago Bears.

No. 36: Adron Tennell, WR, Oklahoma. Tennell finished his four-year career at Oklahoma with 40 catches, 505 yards and five touchdowns.

No. 42: Dustin Earnest, LB, Texas. Earnest finished his career in 2010 with 84 tackles and a sack for the Longhorns.

No. 45: Mike Goodson, RB, Texas A&M. Goodson was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2006 with his career high 847 yards. He finished with 1,966 yards and 13 TDs in three seasons before being drafted in the fourth round by the Carolina Panthers.

No. 67: Phillip Payne, WR, Texas. Caught his first career pass in 2009, his third year at UT, before transferring after the season.

No. 75: Derek Burton, DE, Oklahoma State. Started 15 games in four years for the Cowboys, recording 67 career tackles.

No. 82: Ben Alexander, DT, Texas. Made four career starts, with 51 tackles and half a sack in 38 career appearances.

No. 104: Terrance Anderson, CB, Oklahoma State. Made 96 tackles in four years with the Cowboys. Had four career interceptions.

No. 110: Jonathan Nelson, CB, Oklahoma. Started all 14 games in 2010 for the Sooners after earning All-Big 12 honorable mention as a junior in 2009. Finished career with 155 tackles and five interceptions.

No. 111: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma. Caught 111 passes for 1,629 yards and 26 touchdowns in three seasons, including an All-American season in 2008. Missed all of 2009 with knee injury. Drafted No. 21 overall in the 2010 draft by Cincinnati Bengals.

No. 137: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma. Had 224 tackles, 58.5 tackles for loss, and 29 sacks in four seasons, including three All-Big 12 seasons, an All-American season and was a Hendricks Award finalist in 2009. Projects as middle-round pick in 2011 NFL Draft.

No. 141: Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State. Threw for 8,078 yards and 44 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in 35 career games. Also ran for 404 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. Drafted No. 17 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Video: Texas DE Eddie Jones

October, 16, 2010

Ivan Maisel talks with Texas defensive tackle Eddie Jones about shutting down Nebraska.

Freshman mistake buries Texas

October, 2, 2010
DALLAS -- Texas had forced Oklahoma into its fifth consecutive punt after forcing an incompletion on 3rd-and-20. But freshman defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat got in a late shove and gave Oklahoma a first down.

Two plays later, Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray tightroped along the Oklahoma sideline before diving over the pylon for a 20-yard touchdown -- his second of the game -- that put Oklahoma up 28-10 early in the fourth quarter.

For the second time this half, a mistake on the defensive line came with a big cost to Texas.

Jeffcoat forced a fumble while sacking Landry Jones and the Longhorns recovered deep inside Oklahoma territory, but an offside penalty by Eddie Jones erased it.

Texas was already the underdog in this game. Mistakes like that have kept the Longhorns from mounting a charge in the second half, and allowed Oklahoma to further distance itself.

Considering Texas has put up just 10 points in the game's first three quarters, erasing an 18-point deficit in the game's final 12 minutes looks unlikely.

Fake punt leads to points for Texas

October, 2, 2010
DALLAS -- Texas got it's second-best play of the day when it needed it most.

On the first play after Texas' fake punt at midfield, Garrett Gilbert hooked up with James Kirkendoll for a 44-yard gain to get Texas inside the 10-yard line.

Justin Tucker finished the drive with a 22-yard field goal to bring Texas to within 21-10.

It wasn't ideal, and the two-possession game means the Longhorns still need plenty of defensive stops. But Texas finally sustained a drive -- 13 plays for 71 yards. That's steadier than any drive Texas had in the first half, after scoring its only other points on a 60-yard touchdown by D.J. Monroe.

And how did the Longhorns do it? With Gilbert's arm.

Texas called just one run play -- excluding the fake punt -- on the drive and called 10 passes.

Penalties also continue to plague the Longhorns. On third down, they forced and recovered a fumble after sacking Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, but they let the drive continue after Eddie Jones was flagged for being offside.

Oklahoma running back Mossis Madu converted the first down with a run on the next play.

Big 12 Stock Watch: Week 5

September, 29, 2010
You shouldn't be surprised that I've run out of lighthearted financial humor four weeks into the season. Let's get to it.

Rising: First-year starting linebackers

The conference's top two tacklers are both first-year starters at their positions. After making 19 stops against South Dakota State, Nebraska's Lavonte David has taken the lead with 44 tackles for the Huskers, three ahead of No. 2, Iowa State's A.J. Klein. Klein and David are the only two players in the conference averaging more than 10 tackles per game.

Falling: Texas' rush defense

It's one of the (several) reasons the Longhorns lost to UCLA, but Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow's pistol formation shredded the nation's best rush defense for 264 yards -- 303 without sacks. It kept the Longhorns' pass rush from becoming a big factor and kept Garrett Gilbert and the Texas offense on the sidelines. Now, Texas ranks 20th in rush defense. Oklahoma will try to take advantage of that on Saturday, but Texas defensive linemen Sam Acho, Kheeston Randall and Eddie Jones have combined for 18 tackles for loss through four games.

Rising: Baylor kicker Aaron Jones

They call the 6-foot-2, 175-pound walk-on "Stork." But the Stork has been delivering through four games this season. He's made 8-of-10 attempts, including 3-of-4 against Rice in his first game on the road. His eight field goals are tied with Missouri's Grant Ressel for the conference lead and sixth nationally, though he did miss from 26 yards on Saturday. He's also made all 12 PATs on the year.

Falling: Nebraska's rush defense

Last year, the Huskers surrendered a league-low seven rushing touchdowns -- fifth-fewest nationally -- and ranked fourth nationally in yards per carry, at 2.78. So far this year, Washington has run for 175 yards, Western Kentucky ran for 179 yards and FCS South Dakota State ran for 141 yards on Saturday. Last year, only six teams topped 100 yards against the Huskers, but it took time for the Blackshirts to hit their stride last season, too. They gave up 100 yards to three of their first four opponents in 2009. They'll need to pick it up again to make a run at a Big 12 title. Only Kansas State and Colorado reached 100 total yards rushing in Nebraska's final seven games.

Rising: Texas turnovers/Falling: Oklahoma turnovers

Need a telling stat for Saturday's Red River game? Oklahoma has the conference's best turnover margin, at plus-8. That's good for No. 4 nationally. Texas, meanwhile, is at minus-3, which is 92nd nationally. Oklahoma has intercepted six passes and recovered six fumbles, while losing just one fumble and throwing three interceptions. Texas has recovered four fumbles and has three interceptions. On offense, it has lost six fumbles and thrown four interceptions.

To combat those interceptions, Gilbert has thrown four touchdowns. Oklahoma's Landry Jones has thrown nine, second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden.
LUBBOCK, Texas -- So Texas wants to run the ball. It didn't in Saturday's 24-14 win over Texas Tech, carrying the ball 32 times with its top two backs, Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson, for an average of 2.8 yards a carry. Johnson carried the ball 17 times and his longest run went for five yards.

Texas wants to take care of the ball, too. Who doesn't? Texas didn't on Saturday, losing the turnover battle, 4-3.

The Longhorns offense isn't championship caliber. At least yet.

But Texas' defense is. And as long as that's the case, championship-caliber play from the offense isn't necessary for a win. Even in one of the toughest venues in the Big 12 against a talented, experienced Texas Tech team more than capable of upsetting the No. 6 Longhorns.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJackson Jeffcoat (44) and the Texas defense limited Texas Tech to just 144 yards of offense.
"Tonight we were pretty dominating," Texas coach Mack Brown said of his defense.

It dominated Texas Tech's passing game, limiting Taylor Potts to just 158 yards on 21-of-35 passing and precipitated a third-quarter QB change to Steven Sheffield for a series. Previously, Potts topped 290 yards in both starts and threw seven touchdowns without an interception.

It dominated the running game, giving up one 25-yard run to Baron Batch, but limiting Batch and backup Eric Stephens to just 19 yards on their other 11 carries.

Pop all that in a calculator, subtract some yardage for Texas' four sacks and a 21-yard loss on a snap over Potts' head on the first play from scrimmage, and it's 144 yards. The last team to hold Texas Tech under 150 yards? Miami. In 1990.

"They did unbelievable all night long," said quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-36 passing. His second touchdown to tight end Barrett Matthews all but sealed the game. All three of his interceptions were tipped balls.

"They were able to get off the field and get us back on there," Gilbert said of the defense.

They did it with a luxury few can afford to lean on: a four-man rush. Texas played 10 defensive linemen on Saturday by coordinator Will Muschamp's count, and its starting front of Sam Acho, Kheeston Randall, Eddie Jones and Tyrell Higgins kept Potts on the run and eliminated the running game.

It all came against an offense that returned seven starters from a unit that ranked fourth nationally in total offense last season.

"We couldn't slow their front down," said Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, who fell to 4-1 when coaching on his birthday. Today was No. 56. "They just turned loose on us in the second half."

Add sophomore Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, a true freshman playing in his first conference game, to the mix, and Texas' depth on the front line makes Tuberville's take unsurprising.

"He really understands flipping his hips in the rush and using his hands in the rush," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said of his freshman, who ranked among the best in his 2010 class nationally. Jeffcoat had a hand in a pair of sacks and also recovered a fumble on his first play when Texas Tech center Justin Keown snapped the ball over Potts' head inside Texas Tech's 10-yard line.

"Obviously, he's been tutored pretty well. Coming into camp he was well beyond his years because of that. He's certainly given us a lot of juice on the edge."

That push up front made an easy night for the seven dropping back, including a secondary full of NFL talent. They picked off three passes and frustrated the Texas Tech offense for most of the night. Most poetic were interceptions by Curtis Brown and Blake Gideon. Goats two years ago on the same field, they left as winners, key pieces of a defense that will rank among college football's most dominant by year's end.

Brown stood up in the postgame locker room and told his teammates he "felt as good tonight as I felt bad then."

"The happiest time for a player, a coach or a head coach's life is when you whip somebody, a rival in a tough place on the road in a tough game and you can be in that dressing room satisfied, and go back and get on that plane together," Mack Brown said. "You understand you did something a lot of people don't do out here."

The reason for those feelings Brown and his players experienced on Saturday night is simple: defense.

And best of all? Everyone on Texas' sideline saw a dominating performance, but they also saw a defense that could provide more.

"We played well, but there's still a lot of work we need to do to get to that top level," Acho said, looking back on Potts' fade route to Lyle Leong in the end zone for the Red Raiders only offensive score and Batch's 25-yard scamper. "We played very well, we're very excited about what we did, but we know there's a couple areas of improvement."

Texas spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
2009 overall record: 13-1

2009 conference record: 8-0

Returning starters: Offense (6), Defense(7) P/K (1)

Top returners: CB Chykie Brown, CB Aaron Williams, S Blake Gideon, WR James Kirkendoll, RB Tre’ Newton, DE Sam Acho, DT Eddie Jones, DT Kheeston Randall

Key losses: QB Colt McCoy, WR Jordan Shipley, DE Sergio Kindle, S Earl Thomas, DT Lamarr Houston, OL Adam Ulatowski, OL Charlie Tanner, LB Roddrick Muckelroy, WR Dan Buckner (transfer)

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Tre’ Newton* (552 yards)

Passing: Colt McCoy (3,521 yards)

Receiving: Jordan Shipley (1,485 yards)

Tackles: Roddrick Muckelroy (84)

Sacks: Sam Acho* (7)

Interceptions: Earl Thomas (8)

Three spring answers

1. Check out the new style. Texas is going under center. And while offensive coordinator Greg Davis warns the style change isn’t as radical as some believe, it’s still a departure from the spread attack under the accurate Colt McCoy, which was a departure from the zone read scheme under the athletic Vince Young. If the running game materializes, everything else will come easier for the Longhorns.

2. National Championship was no fluke. The hype surrounding Garrett Gilbert’s impending ascension to starter this spring was expanded tenfold by his performance in the national championship game after McCoy was sidelined with a shoulder injury. This spring, as best he could, he validated that hype. He’s taken control of the team, and performed solidly all spring, capped off by an impressive 10-of-13 for 165 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game.

3. Secondary strengths. After this spring, Mack Brown believes his secondary has three NFL-bound defensive backs in Chykie Brown, Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams. They could terrorize Big 12 quarterbacks this season, even though they lost safety and first-round pick Earl Thomas to the NFL last season.

Three fall questions

1. Will the broken record fix itself? The past couple springs have been all about establishing the running game in Austin. The past two falls have come and gone without a solid, consistent runner for Texas. This year, Tre’ Newton and Fozzy Whittaker have separated from a talented group of running backs as the featured runners in the offense heading into fall. If they’re not productive, we’ll be right back here again next spring.

2. What receivers will fit where? Other than Jordan Shipley, no Texas receiver could be counted on for Colt McCoy. Now, players like Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll, DeSean Hales, Marquise Goodwin and John Chiles will try to change that. But when fall comes, so does the nation’s best receiving class. Texas signed two of the top three receivers and three of the top 11, as well as ATH Demarco Cobbs, who could also play receiver. Mike Davis, Darius White and Chris Jones will be nipping at the heels of any older receivers who slip up in preseason camp.

3. Will the dominance over Oklahoma continue? The Red River Rivalry has favored the south side, Texas, in four of the past five seasons. As usual, the Sooners and Longhorns will meet again at the Cotton Bowl in October, and Oklahoma will be hungry to reverse their fortunes against the burnt orange. How Texas responds will have a big impact on the South race, even though a victory in the 2008 game didn’t put the Longhorns into the Big 12 title game.

A few notes from Austin

April, 1, 2010
I suppose the title is somewhat misleading, since I'm actually in College Station today, but nonetheless, here's a few things from my visit to Austin Wednesday.

  • The team's energy is, of course, reaching a crescendo with the spring game on Sunday. The players said having past Longhorns like Quan Cosby on campus for pro day only accentuated that. Hardly a distraction, but seeing guys who are where they want to be injected some energy into Wednesday's practice.
  • Mack Brown feels pretty good about accomplishing his three big points for the spring. Among those:
  • Getting the punt return/block game back where it was in past years. Brown's really emphasizing that in the spring, and working defensive backs Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown, as well as receiver James Kirkendoll as returners. If the season began today, Williams would be the return man, and since they do, you know, have a game (kind of) on Sunday, look for Williams to get plenty of time back returning punts.
  • Re-establishing the offense. Much has been made of the Longhorns' move under center, but the style change is almost as big of an issue as the personnel changes Texas has undergone this spring. Brown doesn't know just yet exactly whom he wants to feature in the offense, but a big game on Sunday with plenty of eyes watching could give a receiver or running back a leg up heading into the fall. I'll have plenty more on that tomorrow, when we'll feature Texas on the blog.
  • Replenishing the defensive line. It really is remarkable how much talent has come through the defensive line at Texas in just the past couple of seasons. Kheeston Randall, Sam Acho and Eddie Jones will try to make the most of their time this season, but Roy Miller, Henry Melton and Brian Orakpo are all in the NFL. Sergio Kindle and Lamarr Houston should join them very soon.
  • Texas plans on making a conscious effort to prepare to be ... prepared if it loses a key player like it lost Colt McCoy in the national championship game. You'd expect the entire team to be kind of shaken when it loses a leader like that in that type of situation, and the Longhorns' play in the first half suggested that was the case. Brown's not looking for a repeat of that in any game in 2010.
  • Brown compared this team to his 2008 team, acknowledging that with all of the question marks, expectations will be lowered. Not that there isn't plenty of potential on both sides of the ball, but most of that potential is unproven. "This year, there’s so many unknowns, we’re not taking anything for granted," Brown said. "We’re making sure that we’re covering every little detail." In 2008, those question marks were answered to the tune of a BCS bowl win and just one loss.

Big 12 position battles to watch

February, 12, 2010
There will be plenty of turnover in the Big 12 this coming season.

Texas has to replace quarterback Colt McCoy and star receiver Jordan Shipley. Oklahoma loses 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham, who didn't play much at all last season, and Oklahoma State said goodbye to quarterback Zac Robinson and receiver Dez Bryant.

With spring practice right around the corner, here's a look at five position battles to watch in the Big 12 this spring:

1. Oklahoma State quarterback

Robinson leaves after breaking most of the school's passing records. He'll probably be replaced by 26-year-old junior Brandon Weeden, who was a second-round draft choice of the New York Yankees in the 2002 amateur baseball draft. Weeden played well at times last season, when he filled in while Robinson was hurt. If Weeden can grasp new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's spread offense quickly, he should hold off heralded incoming freshman Nathan Sorensen during fall camp.

2. Texas defensive line

The bad news for Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp: star defensive end Sergio Kindle and tackle Lamarr Houston departed for the NFL draft. The good news: ends Sam Acho and Eddie Jones, who combined for 15 sacks in 2009, are both coming back. Jones might be the leading candidate to replace Kindle, but he'll have to hold off Russell Carter and promising sophomore Alex Okafor. Replacing Houston's productivity might be more problematic. Sophomore Calvin Howell, who had four tackles and one sack in 2009, was the No. 2 tackle at season's end.

3. Oklahoma offensive line

The Sooners were banged up on the offensive line last season, which contributed to their unexpected slide to 8-5. Now, OU coach Bob Stoops has to replace left tackle Trent Williams, right guard Brian Simmons and center/tight end Brody Eldridge. Will the Sooners stick with their starting tackles against Stanford in the Sun Bowl? Converted tight end Eric Mensik and rising senior Cory Brandon started against the Cardinal. Junior Jarvis Jones, who split time between guard and tackle last season, is recovering from a broken heel and might not be ready for the start of spring practice. Junior Donald Stephenson, who was suspended all of last season, might be the wild card. Junior Stephen Good and senior Tavaris Jeffries have to get better in the interior line if OU is going to improve up front in 2010.

4. Kansas quarterback

Todd Reesing, who broke about every passing mark in the Kansas record book, is gone after starting the last three seasons. Sophomore Cale Pick might remind new coach Turner Gill of his playing days at Nebraska. Pick averaged 11.9 yards per rushing attempt in seven games last season, while throwing only five passes. Pick will have to hold off junior college transfer Quinn Mecham, who enrolled in classes in January. Mecham threw for 3,091 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions at Snow College in Utah last season.

5. Nebraska defensive line

How do you replace one of the best defensive tackles in school history? That's the dilemma Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini will face when his team opens spring practice. All-American Ndumakong Suh is gone, along with senior defensive end Barry Turner. The good news for Nebraska is that it played several young players on the defensive line last season. Starting tackle Jared Crick had 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss and was a star in his own right. Sophomore Baker Steinkuhler and junior Terrence Moore will battle for the other tackle spot. Sophomore Cameron Meredith, who had five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in limited time last season, is the top candidate to replace Turner on the edge.

Texas recruiting capsule

February, 4, 2010
Texas Longhorns

Total class: 25

ESPN 150: 15

By position: WR 5, DE 3, DT 3, OLB 3, ATH 2, QB 2, CB 2, G 1, RB 1, C 1, S 1, K 1.

By state: Texas 22, Ohio 1, Oklahoma 1, Louisiana 1.

Already enrolled in school: 3.

The big ones: Jackson Jeffcoat, the nation’s top player at his position and No. 2 player overall, is a dominant speed rusher who should only get better as he fills out. Jordan Hicks, the nation’s top outside linebacker and No. 4 player overall, shows the kind of burst and tackling ability that leads me to think he could win a college Butkus Award to go along with the high school version he picked up last season.

Sleeper: DE Greg Daniels might get lost amongst all of the publicity surrounding Jeffcoat, Hicks and the others on the defense. But he’s a strong, active pass rusher who should challenge for playing time while with the Longhorns.

Needs met: With Sergio Kindle departing and Eddie Jones and Sam Acho both entering their senior seasons, the Longhorns needed defensive ends. They addressed the deficiency by attracting three of the nation’s top 23 defensive ends. Texas coaches were specific about their offensive line needs and attracted Army All-Americans in center Dominic Espinosa and guard Trey Hopkins. And with Garrett Gilbert seemingly entrenched as the starting quarterback, the Longhorns attracted Case McCoy and Connor Wood to battle for depth at the position. Both graduated from high school early and will begin practice with the Longhorns later this month.

Analysis: Texas won the mythical Big 12 recruiting title with a typical strong early spurt and two monster late additions in Jeffcoat and Hicks. It should give Will Muschamp a lot of defensive building blocks to tinker with for the next several seasons. Help was needed at wide receiver and the Longhorns addressed those needs with five players, including potential standouts Mike Davis and Darius White. And look for Demarco Cobbs to challenge for playing time at running back. All of these elements help to make it one of Mack Brown’s top two recruiting classes, ranking with his 2002 class for his very best group.

What Mack Brown said: “I've been asked over the last couple of days, 'Is this the best class that we've ever had?' We feel like it definitely has the potential to be because from top to bottom it covers every position and that's a very difficult thing to do." … On Texas' consistent recruiting success: “Obviously, we had 25 official visits and we got 25 kids. We're not into offering guys that we don't want. We're really not into recruiting guys that don't have interest.”

Scouts Inc. grade/rankings: A-plus, first in Big 12.

Big 12 mailbag: Would Texas ever move to the Big Ten?

February, 2, 2010
Happy day before National Signing Day.

I couldn’t jump into the recruiting hubbub, however, without taking care of some Tuesday afternoon correspondence.

Here goes.

Richard Sylvester from Houston writes: Tim, love your blog. Thanks for all of the diligent hard work you’re cranking out day after day. I read it every morning and throughout the day.

My question is whether you’ve been reading an excellent set of posts from Frank the Tank’s Slant about a potential move by Texas to the Big Ten. It lays out several well-researched reasons why the ultimate big fish out there – bigger than Missouri, bigger than Syracuse and way bigger than Notre Dame – is Texas.

Could you envision a scenario where the Longhorns would ever leave the Big 12 behind and jump to the Big Ten?

Tim Griffin; I have been reading Frank’s interesting posts on the subject. And he raises some interesting points about how much money the Longhorns could ultimately make by joining the Big Ten in one of his most recent missives.

Obviously, the Big Ten is one of the most tradition-rich conferences in the nation, if not the most. Adding Texas would give them, like Frank writes the ultimate free agent in terms of college sports.

Texas matches the research qualities that members of the Big Ten’s academia would demand when a new conference partner would be added.

And it would deliver a huge potential market for the fledgling Big Ten cable television network if the state of Texas would be added. Some estimates are that the population for the states in the Big 12 would account for more than 90 million people if Texas was added to the Big Ten.

It would also conservatively mean the Longhorns would make at least $10 million in new athletic revenue because of the new revenue sources the Big Ten’s whopping television network provides, compared with the Big 12's current deal.

But whether they would leave the traditional rivals from the Southwest Conference and the new ones from the Big 12 is debatable. The travel costs would be huge in all sports and the Longhorns would be jumping into a cauldron of potential new opponents like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa among others.

Texas would have to agree to a revenue sharing deal in place in the Big Ten that is different from the Big 12’s where the teams that appear in the most television games and make the most NCAA basketball tournament appearances earn more money.

And remember how the Texas Legislature became involved with news leaked that Texas was leaving for the Big 12 Conference. It basically paved the way for Baylor and Texas Tech to tag along with Texas and Texas A&M. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Texas announced it wanted to go to the Big Ten by itself.

The Big 12 has been good for Texas. Virtually every sports program is at a level where the Longhorns can legitimately contend for a national championship. It has an intriguing mix of local and regional rivals.

It makes for some fanciful thinking and has a lot of interesting points to think about Texas leaving the Big 12. But I just don’t see it happening – at least at this time -- because of so many obstacles that would exist in the move.

Meni of Manchester, N.H., writes: In regards to the link you had yesterday about the Oklahoma players who were likely first-round selections in the Class of 2011, the guy in College Football News listed Travis Lewis, DeMarco Murray, Quinton Carter and Dominique Franks on his list. I thought Franks declared for the NFL draft, didn’t he?

Tim Griffin: Meni, you are correct. Franks declared for the draft shortly before the deadline. Most draft analysts have him going in the third or fourth round. He’s a very determined player and I think his speed should help him make an NFL squad as a special-teams player, making him an intriguing sleeper pick.

Steve Sutton from Ozona, Texas, writes: Tim: Interesting story about players who exceeded recruiting expectations, showing how uncertain the recruiting process is. I was wondering if you might elaborate on some of the more celebrated misses during the time of your survey.

Tim Griffin: Steve, I hope I was able to showcase how inexact recruiting can actually be. But I think the player in the most celebrated Big 12 player in recent seasons who has failed to live up to expectations was Colorado running back Darrell Scott, who was the No. 2 running back in the nation in 2008 and had an 89 ranking by ESPNU. He played with the Buffaloes during his freshman season before leaving the team midway through the season in 2009. His next playing situation is unknown at this time.

Of course, the player ranked ahead of him at running back has been a bust as well. Jermie Calhoun of Oklahoma was the No. 1 running back in the 2008 class, but redshirted and then gained only 220 yards and scored a touchdown in his redshirt season. Calhoun had trouble getting a chance at playing time behind Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray last season. It will be interesting if he develops and gets more of a chance for a playing time in 2010 after Brown’s graduation.

Another player who hasn’t lived up to expectations has been Texas defensive end Eddie Jones, who had an 88 ranking and was the No. 2 defensive end in the nation in the 2006 class. He hasn’t started a game at Texas in his first three seasons, although he showed some flashes as a situational pass rusher with five sacks and seven tackles for losses in 2009.

Pete from Omaha, Neb., writes: Tim, great blog, I love reading every day. I noticed that ESPN Sports Nation did a poll that asked if recruiting or game planning was more important for a coach to succeed. The vote showed that most fans think recruiting is more important.

But I disagree.

Bill Callahan and Charlie Weis were great recruiters, but did they ultimately succeed? What about John Blake? Nope. Game planning is what wins. Take Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Bo Pelini at Nebraska and Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. All of them are good recruiters, but they never attract top-five classes. Yet they have their programs at a consistent level. What’s your take on the issue?

Tim Griffin: Pete, you raise an interesting question. I think you ultimately have to have a combination of both, but I would lean to game planning as being just as important as recruiting in developing a contending program.

Like you mentioned, coaches like Pelini and Ferentz get good players, but they take them to high competitive levels thanks to their teaching and game planning.

The old recruiting adage has always described college football as “not being about the Xs and Os, but about the Jimmys and the Joes.”

But I think that’s changing as there’s more parity across the nation. When good coaches get good players, that’s when programs the foundations for really good programs start being built.

Cecil Wilson of Plano, Texas, writes: With recruiting coming to an end, I just noticed that Texas did not get a commitment from a tight end. Looking at the Longhorns’ roster, they have several, but I have not seen or heard of any of them, except for Blaine Irby. What do you think the Horns will do about this position in the upcoming season? With a new quarterback, either Garrett Gilbert or Case McCoy, they are going to need all the options they can have. Thank you for all your hard work. Hook 'Em.

Tim Griffin: The tight end hasn’t been a position of much relevancy for the Longhorns since Jermichael Finley left after the 2007 season. Irby was injured early in the 2008 season and didn’t play last season.

That left the Longhorns utilizing four-receiver sets in many occasions for many occasions. Greg Smith, a 260-pounder was the primary blocking tight end for most of the season. He was backed up by Ahmard Howard. Wide receiver Dan Buckner emerged at the flex tight end spot early in the season, but struggled getting the ball late in the season and has elected to transfer to Arizona.

The status of Irby is unknown at this time as he recovers from his injury. I look for D.J. Grant to have the best shot of emerging during spring practice. Grant was declared academically ineligible at the start of the season, but should be ready to go.

The tight end position will be of vital importance as Gilbert uses it for checkdown receptions. The question will be who will ultimately be catching passes from that position.

Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. I’ll check back again on Friday.



Saturday, 12/27
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12