Posted on: February 25, 2011 12:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Last week in the blog's Spring Practice Primer on the Texas Longhorns, I wrote that the most interesting thing to follow in Austin this spring will be whether or not Garrett Gilbert is able to hold on to his starting job. Which is still the case, it's just that it's going to be a lot harder for us to follow now.
The Longhorns began practice on Thursday, and Mack Brown says he plans on keeping all of the drill closed to the public. No fans, no media, just players and coaches.
"We've got to start over and we're rebuilding a foundation at every level: offense, defense, special teams, credibility, strength and conditioning, swagger, body language, chemistry, everything," Brown said.
"I don't want our players and our coaches trying to please other people to start practice. We've got a lot to do. I don't want media, I don't want people in the stands, I don't want autographs. Nothing right now. This is only about getting better."
Brown has closed practices in the past, but never all of them. I guess this is what happens when you have a losing season in Austin. The first time anybody will have a chance to get a glimpse of the Longhorns will be on April 3, when Texas has its spring game.
Posted on: February 24, 2011 4:38 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 5:36 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
It seems that new Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin was a wanted man this winter. With so many offensive coordinator jobs open at big schools, this doesn't come as much of a surprise considering the success that Harsin has had at Boise State . What is somewhat surprising is what Harsin passed up to take the job at Texas.
According to a story in the Austin American-Statesman , Harsin had just finished talking with Mack Brown about taking the job at Texas when his phone rang. It was Les Miles on the other end of the phone, and Miles was offering Harsin the same job at LSU . The difference was that LSU was offering a long-term deal with more money. All Harsin had from Texas at that point was a one-year deal for $625,000, and though Harsin accepted the offer, it was only an offer at that point. Harsin hadn't signed anything.
However, that did not keep Harsin from telling Miles no.
"LSU is a great school, and I really was flattered that coach Miles, who's an amazing coach, was interested in me," Harsin told The Statesman . "In any other situation, I would have talked about the offer with my family. I told him I'd already accepted a job at Texas, and I wouldn't feel right if I didn't honor that."
Given the amount of times we've all seen coaches go from job to job to take more money, it is somewhat refreshing to hear that one coach decided to do the honorable thing and stick to his word. It really is. Still, at the same time, I'm not sure that Harsin made the right choice here. I'm not saying that LSU is better than Texas or anything, but if you're getting a multi-year contract for even more money, don't you take that offer?
Maybe I'm just as greedy as the coaches, but if I'm thinking about my family, I'm taking the security that came with the LSU offer over the who knows about next season deal he took at Texas. After all, if the Longhorns have another down season, would anybody be surprised if Mack Brown and the entire staff is gone in 2012?
Posted on: February 24, 2011 2:01 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 2:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
So ... how much would you think a Big 12 championship and not-entirely-convincing Fiesta Bowl win over UConn is worth in today's open coaching market?
The answer according to those holding the purse strings at Oklahoma: a cool $1 million. That's the amount of the raise given to Bob Stoops after his Sooners' successful 2010 season, bringing his annual salary to en eye-popping $4.875 million before incentives or media appearance compensation.
So how much is $4.875 million, really? In 2010, only two other coaches crossed the $4.5 million threshold: Nick Saban and Mack Brown. After Stoops' bonuses and other extras, he'll almost certainly join Saban and Brown as the only coaches in the FBS to have cracked the $5 million mark. That seems like a hefty price tag for a coach who (unlike Saban or Brown) hasn't been to the national title game since 2004, but with programs like Notre Dame and Florida reportedly sniffing around the last couple of offseasons to see if Stoops could have been lured away, it might have been necessary to keep Stoops in Norman all the same.
That said, we don't know if the faculty in Norman are working under the same kind of wage controls that helped lead to the coaching salary outrage at Texas Tech, but we're betting there's been some eyebrows raised regardless.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:02 am
Edited on: February 23, 2011 8:54 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Texas which begins its spring practice on Thursday.
Spring Practice Question: Is Garrett Gilbert really in danger of losing the starting job?
Last month, Texas head coach Mack Brown declared the Texas quarterback position to be wide open. It seems that after a less than stellar performance from Garrett Gilbert in his first season as a starter, along with plenty of coaching turnover in Austin, Brown isn't ready to hand the job over to just anybody.
Of course, whether he truly meant it or not, we'll begin to find out on Thursday when the Longhorns begin spring practice.
If I had to lean in one direction, I'd believe Brown, but only with the understanding that the job is still Gilbert's to lose. Whether or not Gilbert was successful in 2010, he still has more experience than either Connor Wood or Case McCoy. The true wild card in all of this, however, is the addition of Bryan Harsin as Texas' co-offensive coordinator (Major Applewhite being the other co-coordinator, though something tells me Harsin wasn't brought in from Boise to defer to Applewhite).
Harsin comes from Boise State, and has no favorites amongst the quarterback trio. Gilbert may have started all 12 games for Texas last season, but he did so under Greg Davis and with Greg Davis' plays, so in that sense he's on the same ground floor that both Wood and McCoy are.
Still, this spring could be the deciding factor for Gilbert. If he can show a strong grasp of Harsin's offense over the next few weeks, he can begin to put the job on lockdown. If he struggles, then things will be a lot more interesting this fall, as both McCoy or Wood could wrestle the job away from him.
The most important thing that Gilbert will have to do to earn Harsin's trust, and make better decisions in the pocket. While Garrett was able to make enough plays with his arm and legs last season to tally 3,124 yards and 15 touchdowns, it was the 17 turnovers that most people will remember.
17 turnovers that had an awful lot to do with Texas finishing the season 5-7 and missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 1997. That cost John Mackovic his job as head coach in Austin, and though Mack survived, that fate may still befall Gilbert.
There is reason to believe that Gilbert will be able to cut down on the mistakes. First of all, he'll be a junior in 2011, and with a year of experience under his belt, he'll be a smarter player. Plus, there's some history to look at with quarterbacks under Harsin.
In 2008, as a freshman, Kellen Moore started every game for Boise State and threw 10 interceptions. Over the next two seasons, Moore only threw 9.
Another reason to believe that Gilbert will improve in 2011 is that his receiving corps will get better as well. Mike Davis -- who caught 47 passes as a freshman -- will be another year older, another year better, and his play could go a long way in improving the performance of his quarterback. Whether that quarterback is Gilbert, McCoy or Wood. If Malcolm Williams and Darius White can start to reach their potential, life will be a lot easier as well.
At the end of the day, I think Gilbert will leave spring practice as the team's starter, and he'll be under center when Texas opens its season against Rice on September 3. He may have had a bad season in 2011, but the truth of it is that he's just more talented than both McCoy or Wood. So unless he has a flat-out awful performance this spring, I just don't see him losing the gig.
Of course, I didn't see Texas going 2-6 in the Big 12 last season, either. So who knows what will happen?
Posted on: February 16, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 2:41 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Every summer I look forward to HBO's Hard Knocks series that follows an NFL team through training camp. It's just incredibly interesting to see life behind closed doors on with a NFL team. It's that appetite for such knowledge that has often had me wish HBO would do something similar with a college football team. ESPN and the Big Ten Network have done it before, but I'd prefer to see the show on a premium channel like HBO where there are less restrictions on what can be aired.
It would give all of us a better idea of what life is like for a college football player as he balances school with football, and we'd see the amount of work these kids put in every day. Plus, can you ever really have enough college football? It'd be an excellent way to bridge the gap between the seasons for college football fans, and you know it would be a ratings hit.
The problem may be finding a program and a coach who is willing to give such access to the media, but I believe we may have found one.
Lane Kiffin may say it's just a random thought, but I read that as "HEY, HBO! COME FILM US!!" Which would be fine with me, and it may be one of the first things Lane Kiffin has ever done that I thought was a good idea. Though if given my choice of which program I'd like to see profiled, I'm not sure USC would be my first choice.
I'd like to see a program that was working in a new head coach, or a huge program that was trying to bounce back from a down year. So, with both of those things in mind, I think a series featuring Texas would be the most interesting choice. You have Texas coming off of a down season, and a ton of coaching turnover on Mack Brown's staff. It'd be compelling television to see how the Longhorns prepare for a new season with the goal of getting back to the top of the new Big 12.
Which school would you like to see?
Posted on: February 15, 2011 10:47 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Mack Brown's wild ride of an offseason took another hairpin curve this past weekend.
We would explain, but the first three sentences of this Austin-American Statesman story do so so succinctly we'll let them do it:
On Jan. 17, Jerry Gray described returning to his alma mater to coach Texas ' defensive backs as "a dream come true."
Gray's decision leaves Brown to hire his seventh new coach of this offseason, and arrived just as Brown began overseeing the annual Longhorn "junior days" recruiting extravaganza. The timing could be better.
But as we wrote when news of Gray's potential interest in the Titan's defensive coordinating position first surfaced, things overall could definitely be worse. Brown's already had to make two far more critical hires this offseason in naming his two coordinators, and by nearly everyone's account he aced that exam with Manny Diaz and Bryan Harsin. If Gray's absence doesn't help at junior days, it's also better he departs now rather either before this past Signing Day or before his absence becomes a dealbreaker for any prospects in the class of 2012. And without the pressure of Signing Day, Brown may also be able to take more time and make a better selection for the open position than he would otherwise; it's not like there will be any shortage of candidates to work for a program who'll pay their position coaches the $425,000 salary Gray was due to receive.
So Brown will be all right. (As will Gray, who'll no doubt regret the "dream come true" comment but made the decision -- between being a college position coach and NFL coordinator, at more than double the paycheck -- that any coach in his position would.) But it's also only fair to say that in the wake of Gray's defection, what must already feel like the longest offseason of Brown's Texas tenure just got that much longer.
Posted on: February 7, 2011 6:31 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Mack Brown must have thought that surely, surely, his staffing overhaul was over after filling his tricky offensive line coaching position with Stacy Searels and watching Signing Day come and go. But now Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman is reporting that with Jeff Fisher out as the Tennessee Titans head coach and Mike Munchak in, the Longhorns may not be out of the woods just yet:
Munchak is considering Longhorns defensive backs coach Jerry Gray to be the Titans’ new defensive coordinator, the American-Statesman has learned.If Gray (pictured) does receive and accept the Titans' offer, it'll be quite the whiplash-inducing career move, having just taken his new job in Austin three weeks ago.
But there's no indication of an offer yet, much less an acceptance from Gray (though Gray -- who has never coached in the collegiate ranks before -- would almost have to consider such an offer, since moving from college position coach to NFL coordinator would represent a substantial jump). And even if Gray does bolt, with Signing Day passed, Brown would have the luxury of working with a much looser deadline to find a replacement.
So it's far from time for Longhorn fans to wish Gray a good-bye, and they won't lose any sleep if they do. But it's a lesson that even for the most powerful of college football programs -- and they don't come any more powerful than programs that have their own network -- recovery from a 5-7 season is never as smooth as they'd like.
Posted on: February 1, 2011 11:23 am
Edited on: February 1, 2011 11:24 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The "coach-in-waiting" blueprint seemed like such a good idea for a while there. Teams could offer recruits the promise of continuity, lock up a coveted assistant with a raise and the fanciest title available, and ease some of the leadership burden off of a (potentially) fading program patriarch, all in one fell swoop. What was not to love?
If you're Mack Brown, the same conflict between the current regime and its planned future one that made nearly every "coach-in-waiting" scheme over the past few years an overhyped failure. A "re-energized" Brown spoke on that topic and several others at a press conference yesterday, saying:
"The coach-in-waiting sends a message that I'm not in it for long," said Brown, whose contract runs through Dec. 31, 2016. "That's a bad message. That's not what we did it for. Now that Will [Muschamp]'s taken the Florida job, that question is out of the mix for the future ...Given how angry 'Horns backers became having to "put up with" Brown's 2010 effort (which he also took the time to blame on a massive 2009-induced hangover ), he may have wanted to have phrased that differently. But the point is the same: the 59-year-old Brown isn't planning on going anywhere, and clearly the "coach-in-waiting" method of gently nudging him towards the door is no longer an option.
Assuming Brown's near-total overhaul of the Texas coaching staff (and the 'Horns hungover attitude) pays dividends, that's probably good news for the fans in Austin. If not -- if 2011 and 2012 are anything at all like 2010 -- he may find there's a coach out there waiting after all, even if he's not on the Texas payroll.