Hear me out
Texas football kicks off: Start of fall practice brings questions with noanswers, nothing is certain
Let the countdown begin to September 3rd, the day Mack Brown begins repairing the fragile psyche of his Longhorn Nation.
It would be easy to let 2010 be remembered for what almost was on January 7th when Garrett Gilbert nearly brought back a Texas football team against Alabama, while mourning the loss of it's greatest player in the modern era; rather than the melt-down that put the 2010 season out of its 5-7 misery on Thanksgiving day.
You can find more than enough details on last year's football team with a simple "Texas melt-down" google search (hint: ignore stories about the drought). Let's just agree on the positive, the bar is set a little lower this year than last, as Texas enters with a very generous #24 ranking from the USA Today / Coaches Poll.
"Where do they have us?," he asked. "Number 24," someone responded. "Boy, that's high," said Brown, "that's way up there."
In his his first fall press conference, Mack Brown feigned ignorance about the ranking, "Where do they have us?," he asked. "Number 24," someone responded. "Boy, that's high," said Brown, "that's way up there." Brown truly appeared to not know (of course he knew, he's Mack freaking Brown for goodness sakes) and he probably can't be blamed for not paying attention to something so meaningless to everyone but the most dedicated fan.
"I don't care," Brown added, "you wanna be high enough so if you win enough games you have a chance to get up there [and play for a championship], and that's high enough to do that."
Well, he's exactly right. In 2003 LSU started out at #24, and — wait for it — won the BCS National Championship. Hope springs eternal.
That goal should not be in any fan's wildest imagination.
This Texas football team started practice Friday on trial, facing more questions than from a prosecutor at a murder trial. And as the accused at that trial, there are not many answers. Brown worked hard to put an honest, not sugar-coated spin on what this season might bring. He seems genuinely humbled by the experience, the fall off the cliff, last year. There is much to be gained by greatly under-promising and hoping to over-deliver on lowered expectations.
Next week I will begin a series of stories looking at the team close-up. On Monday — The Offense, Tuesday — The Defense, Wednesday — The Coaches, Thursday — The Schedule, Friday — The Prognostication.
For today, a little more context for those who would like to sound like they know what they're talking about next time they're sitting at a bar next to a Texas fan; from a reporter who has been following this team for 32 years.
This Texas team doesn't know who will play quarterback, running back, offensive line, defensive line (except for star-to-be tackle Kheeston Randall) or cornerback. That's bad, the jury shifts uncomfortably in their chairs.
This Texas team plays kids who were ranked at or near the best in the country at their positions in high school. That's good, they're talented; the jury smiles. "How quick can the young guys learn?," asked Brown of himself. "The freshmen will get a hard look in the next 10 days."
This Texas team has coaches who have worked together for all of 7 months. Bryan Harsin, Stacey Searles, Darrell Wyatt, Manny Diaz, Bo Davis, Bennie Wylie, all are first year coaches at Texas. That's more than half of the coaching staff. They barely know each other's names let alone what each would do if down 6 points, on 3rd and 5, with a minute left in the game. That's bad; the jury looks carefully at the defense attorney.
This Texas team is still led by Mack Brown, along with the person I believe will succeed Brown (you heard it here first folks), former Longhorn star QB Major Applewhite. That's good. Applewhite is great for Garrett Gilbert (much more on him Monday) and has experience as a winner. Mack Brown is simply one of the smartest head coaches in the country.
This Texas team must regain the trust of its fans (you, the jury). Mack Brown is close to losing them. A year ago it was unimaginable to think Mack Brown's job could ever be in jepardy. More than 4 losses this year, and it is.
We can take this kind of look now, before practice has started because, well, practice is meaningless to us. All practices are closed to the public and to the press. Mack Brown and his new team of coaches "have too much work to do" said Brown, and no, they do not need nosey reporters hanging on every curse word uttered on the practice field.
This is not a column meant to be the end-all, be-all to Longhorn football coverage. There are far smarter, more detailed reporters than I covering covering the UT athletics department for the die-hard fan. No, your humble servant bleeds orange as a Longhorn alum and college football fan. He writes this column for fans; those who want to know about the team and the game, but don't necessarily need to know how much the second string guard can bench press or what high school sophmore will tear up the gridiron in 2015.
I hope you enjoy it. If you don't, you know where to find me.