Wednesday, August 31
A moment of silence for those in peril
Things are no better over in Iraq, where the entire country is dealing with daily crises. Yesterday, some 600 people were killed in a stampede after rumors of a suicide bomber broke a huge crowd on a bridge into a panic. Thousands of other innocent civilians have died during the campaign to establish democracy in Iraq. Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brave military personnel in Iraq and the many innocent citizens of Iraq that are living in a war zone.
--PB and AW--
Tuesday, August 30
ATL College Pick Em League
--PB and AW--
ATL Roundtable: Is cheating worth the risk?
I have a friend who heard from reputable sources that Nick Saban was dirty at LSU, and that he left before the NCAA came down on the program. The same thing just happened at South Carolina, where Lou Holtz quit before they got on probation. Now other coaches are cleaning up their mess. If what I heard about LSU is true, it means both Saban and Hotlz were willing to cheat to win. One succeeded, one did not.
If you knew there was a 50/50 chance of success, would you want your school (in this case, UT), to do “whatever it takes” to try to win it all? By 50/50, there’s a 50% chance you win a national championship within four years, but there is also a 50% chance you will be busted and put on probation, win or lose.
If you ask me, I say go for it. National championships are forever, and if you get busted people will forget. The UT baseball team was put on probation three or four years ago, but no one cares because they won a pair of national championships and went to Omaha four times. If we’re cheating, we certainly have something to show for it.
If we want to win, we have to do what everyone else is doing. Probation is reserved for really, really egregious offenses. I mean, did Colorado even get put on probation? I honestly cannot remember, and I don’t think we’d do anything that bad, with rape and all.
Forget the high road. Let’s make some money for the school, expand DKR to 100,000, and get Mack Brown on the cover of Sports Illustrated with Vince Young. It would be a sight to see. We deserve it. We’re long-suffering fans. We’re almost Charlie Brown, really. Every year we actually think we’re going to beat OU, and then Bob Stoops pulls the football.
Well this year, I want to kick that bastard’s ass. And if I have to risk a coin flip for probation, I say go for it. I’m sure LSU fans agree. Think about the lifelong memories some LSU fans had from watching the Tigers win the national championship in the Sugar Bowl, an hour from campus! I didn’t go to the Rose Bowl last year, but if the Horns go this year I’ll be there, and I cannot even put a price on how great it would be to see Texas beat USC in their home stadium, to deny the three-peat and be labeled as best college team ever, while giving us out first football championship in nearly 40 years.
It would be perfect and worth the risk.
Um, no. Hell no. I’ve heard a lot of ideas over the years from you, Travis—most of them good. But this ranks as the worst. I can be a hyper-critical fan and I’m pretty tough on the Texas coaches, but one thing I absolutely love about Mack Brown and the Texas program is how clean, honest, and dignified he and the program are.
Honestly, the only thing that saves me from total humiliation regarding our five straight losses to Oklahoma is the fact that their players can barely read and are destined for jail if they don’t make it in the NFL. I absolutely love that Mack Brown fields a nationally elite program with reputable young men with good character, makes every effort to graduate as many of his players as he can, and has a very low tolerance for players with shady character. That he develops young men with good character while also developing a nationally competitive football team is perhaps Mack Brown’s greatest achievement, and a great source of pride for me personally and the university as a whole.
I’m as big a sports junkie as you’ll ever meet. I cried in 2002 when my Giants lost in seven games in the World Series. I worship Barry Bonds, the greatest hitter any of us have ever seen. And it pains me constantly as my hero gets trashed by fans and the media because of his questionable dealings with steroids. You think that people don’t care about cheating? Ask Rafael Palmeiro if he thinks the juice was worth it.
They say that flags fly forever. But even for us die-hards, some things have to be more important. Cheating is not the answer.
I couldn’t agree more with Bean, or disagree more with Travis. The cost of cheating is just too high. At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker, We’re Texas. We are not Colorado with rape scandals. We are not Ohio State with players who get paychecks and cars. We are not Baylor basketball or SMU football or any of the other countless programs who got caught for not playing by the rules.
Bean is right. We are a football team and a university that holds itself to a higher standard. There is nothing wrong with good character and there is absolutely nothing wrong with good character combined with solid athletics. I will say it again—Mack Brown may not be the best tactical football coach in the nation, but he does things the right way. I have no doubts about his integrity or character. I have no doubts that Moms all across this country believe him when he promises to take care of their sons. He is fallible for other reasons, but certainly not for his character. And I believe completely that there is probably not one player or coach with the football team would answer yes to this question. Some would think about it, but none would go for it.
Not to get too philosophical, but this is a very slippery slope. If we cheat this much, maybe just a little, maybe a check here or a car there, how can we be assured that other universities haven’t gone a step further? How could we call them cheaters if they get caught? How could we feel superior if we were to win a national championship? Did other teams cheat as much as we did? Did they cheat less? Was the season fair? Why should there be any rules at all, at that point?
Cheating allows for too many questions with no justifiable answers. Cheating forces you to beg for respect. Winning the right way commands respect and produces actual admiration. We do deserve success and national championships for no other reason than we are doing it the right way.
Monday, August 29
Friday, August 26
ATL Roundtable: Texas passing attack
We’re introducing something new here at All Things Longhorn: the ATL Roundtable, where we’ll be breaking down an interesting topic three ways, between ATL’s two regular authors—Peter Bean and Andrew Wiggins—as well as Travis Richmond, former editor of the sports page at the university's daily newspaper, The Daily Texan, and an avid Longhorn fan as well. These roundtables are meant to spark discussion, and we strongly encourage readers to jump in the fray at the end of the posting in the comment section.
Today's Topic: How effective will the Texas passing attack be this year?
Let’s start with some stats, gentlemen. Here are Vince Young’s statistical passing totals:
2003, freshman: 84-143 (58.7% completion), 1155 yards, 6 TD, 7 INT, 96.2 yards per game, QB Rating 130.6
2004, sophomore: 148-250 (59.2%), 1849 yards, 12 TD, 11 INT, 154.1 ypg, QB Rating 128.4
And now, for comparison, another African-American Big 12 quarterback who can run as well as pass, Reggie McNeal:
2002, freshman: 24-45 (53.3%), 456 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT, 57 ypg, QB Rating 169.1
2003, sophomore: 113-221 (51.1%), 1782 yards, 8 TD, 7 INT, 148.5 ypg, QB Rating 124.5
2004, junior: 200-344 (58.1%), 2791 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT, 232 ypg, QB Rating 137.4
What can we make of this? We can pretty much ignore McNeal’s freshman year, as he only played for limited minutes, and didn’t even appear in three games. So, let’s compare McNeal’s sophomore-junior campaigns against Young’s freshman-sophomore seasons and see what we can learn.
In McNeal’s first full year as a starter, he was solid, but far from a strong passing quarterback. Only one more touchdown than interception, a mediocre completion percentage, and an unspectacular quarterback rating. Fast forward a year to McNeal’s junior year and we see a huge improvement. McNeal was very good last year, with a strong completion percentage, quarterback rating, and TD-INT ratio. The Aggies clearly trusted him to pass more, too, as evidenced by the 56% increase in passing attempts.
Basically, after a freshman year in which he was learning the college game, McNeal had a rough sophomore year and a breakout junior year. And let’s not forget: after McNeal’s 2003, plenty of people were clamoring about how he couldn’t pass and was too one-dimensional.
Sound familiar? It should. Vince Young, with the benefit of a redshirt year upon arriving in Austin, had a productive-but-rough freshman year and an improved, but not spectacular, sophomore year. Is there reason to think Young can break out in the way that McNeal did?
In my mind, I think we’re going to see significant improvement in the Texas passing game and Vince Young this year. Last year’s receiving “core” was pathetic. As one of our more poetic readers pointed out in the comment section, “Limas Sweed fucking sucks!” Well, he certainly sucked last year. But he’s still big and talented. The tight ends are solid. And, like McNeal in 2004, I think we’ll see Young have a much improved year passing the ball. I don’t think we’re going to see numbers that, taken without consideration for his running, would blow anyone away. But I think you’ll see fewer interceptions, more touchdowns, and more deep balls. I’m not expecting Peyton Manning here, but something closer to Reggie McNeal of last year would be just fine.
And lest we give McNeal too much credit here, let’s not forget who the better runner is. In Young’s first two years he ran for 998 yards and 11 TD (2003) and 1079 yards and 14 TD (2004). McNeal can’t touch that. He ran for 370 yards and 4 TD (2003) and 718 yards and 8 TD (2004). Give me Young any day of the week.
Don’t call me an Aggie, but McNeal for Young is more than worth considering. In his first two years at UT, Young was a run first, pass second quarterback. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Texas won a BCS bowl (during which Young was spectacular) for the first time in team history and has beaten everyone but OU since Young took over.
We hear week after week how difficult it is to defend against Young. But we must remember that the last two years Young has had Cedric Benson at his side. This year that will not be the case. Texas has successfully gotten away with running until it can’t run anymore before even considering passing. I don’t think this is going to work again this season without Benson. Romance Taylor and Selvin Young have extremely big shoes to fill. Unless they provide a second serious run threat, Young and the Texas offense will be in trouble.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that they do. Are we now to assume that OSU, OU, and A&M won’t be able to scheme a defense to stop the run enough on first and second to force third and long. Third and long is the demise of all offenses but will be even more so with Texas without a legitimate passing threat from Young. I agree with Bean that we may see better years from our young wideouts but unless Young develops into a more accurate, more consistent passer, it won’t matter who is running the routes.
Technique is why I will place Reggie McNeal slightly above VY. Young is probably a better athlete and is certainly better at making defenses miss with the ball in his hand. McNeal is without a doubt a better passer, though. He has the technique, arm strength, and confidence to make the throws necessary to run a quality offense. In my opinion, Young may have the arm strength but in no way does he have the technique or confidence to become a quality passer. I predict both McNeal and Young will have outstanding years and both will show improvement from their last two. McNeal will improve his accuracy while continue to come up big in big games. Unless Young has improved his mechanics in the off season to allow him to throw the ball over his shoulder and down the field with strength, he will remain simply a great running quarterback.
Reggie McNeal is a good quarterback. Vince Young is an unstoppable player. Now you tell me which one you would rather have. It’s college football. You take the best player and build around him. If you’re USC and you lose Matt Leinert, you’d want the better passer. But if you are Virginia Tech and the offense is going to the Michael Vick show, you want the unstoppable player because on every play he is the number one option.
Texas this year will be the Vince Young show. That’s fine with me, because I think he is the most exciting player in college football, and when you have the number one guy, you showcase him. There was no doubt what the Atlanta Falcons were going to do after they traded for the No. 1 pick to draft Vick. It was going to be his show.
Now with Benson gone and no established receivers, it’s got to be the Vince Young show. The coaches knew this last year and they started making plans for it. The idea was cemented when Young took over the Rose Bowl. What we saw was not the original game plan. Cedric Benson got hurt on the first series, and from there the playbook went out the window. We should have lost that game, and the coaches basically knew it. Without Benson, our offense had no one to pound the ball with. So the coaches just let Vince “wing it” out there. It was like a video game. And most importantly, it worked.
Here’s something I never thought I’d say: that Rose Bowl may end up being one of the most important games in Texas football history, and not for what it accomplished but what it may lead to. If we open the offense up this year, it will be because the coaches found out on accident that it would work, and that Vince was that damn good.
But if we see the same old bullshit, with Vince playing in handcuffs, we’ll have two losses by the middle of October.
We’ll know very soon. If you see wild and crazy Texas, almost streetball style, in the opener, this could be the year. If I see Selvin Young get 20 carries and Vince is running for less than 100 yards, I am going to be pissed because it will mean our coaches don’t have the balls to let the man play.
Young is the Heisman favorite by a mile at this point, believe me. Everyone around the country saw the Rose Bowl, and no one wants a repeat winner in Leinart. Vince also has the two giant showcase games early to solidify his role as favorite. We’ll know very early on whether Mack Brown is smart enough, and ballsy enough, to let the Vince Young show take the stage.
Thursday, August 25
Smile! You're on Mack Brown TV!
Maybe it’s my glass half empty attitude that makes me dislike him. Or maybe it’s his eternal optimism year after year after limited off season changes. Mack Brown and staff have been nothing but successful since they arrived. But success is not what Horns fans demand. True fans demand ultimate success: conference championships, BCS wins, and eventually national championships. Mack is a great recruiter, a great motivator, and a great person. He is honest, caring, motivated, and dedicated. I am still waiting to write and see that he is talented enough to take Texas to the next level. Once again at ATL, talk and articles are cheap; we measure success with results. I hope we get them this season in Columbus, in Dallas, and in College Station.
Hippie former football star back on field
Wednesday, August 24
Basketball team set to compete in Guardians Classic
This is a nice early season test for the Horns, assuming that the four regional hosts all make it to the second weekend. All four reigonal hosts made the NCAA tournament last year and will return competitive teams this year.
Battle of the acronyms
Tuesday, August 23
How Sweed it would be
That’s all going to change this year, Sweed says. Sweed, who chose to wear Roy Williams’ #4 jersey, has worked on being more physical, running crisper routes, and being more assertive on the field. He even spent time this summer working with Roy Williams himself, learning some “tricks of the trade.”
The motto around here at All Things Longhorn is “talk is cheap,” but in this case, I’m desperately hoping that this is true. Texas will not run the table if it can’t open up the field and complete some long passes, and apparently, Sweed’s our best shot to do so. Forget the questions surrounding Vince Young’s passing ability. Whether they are legitimate or not is another debate, but last year he had nobody to throw to. Tony Jeffrey made one enormously important catch, Sweed was a ghost, and that’s about all there was to speak of. Texas had a strong enough defense last year; what they didn’t have was a passing attack. Bob Stoops knew it, spent a lot of energy keeping Benson from going wild, and shut out the Horns. Believe me, he’ll do it again if we remain unable to stretch the field with some passing.
You’re going to hear a lot of discussion about the running backs and replacing Cedric Benson. Trust me, it’s not nearly as important as getting a real passing game going. Texas football is like the Denver Broncos: it doesn’t matter that much who’s doing the running. (And between Vince Young, Selvin Young, and Ramonce Taylor, there will be plenty of rushing yards.) It matters far more that Texas establishes a legitimate passing threat.
I’m not the only one who seems to realize this, of course. Greg Davis is talking a lot about how Texas will in fact be stretching the field with deeper throws this year. It’s about time, Greg. I almost vomited in Simms, Williams, and B.J. Johnson’s senior year when Davis kept calling those plays with the ridiculous horizontal passes that went nowhere. It’s so easy to gameplan against it’s not funny. Let’s hope Davis has evolved enough to understand how crucial it is in the college game to be able to pass the ball. And let’s hope Limas Sweed is indeed ready to catch it.
Welcome back, Tucker
We all know football season is right around the corner: for those of you who need the visual reinforcement, we've even got a countdown at the top of this page. But today, Texas received excellent news regarding this year’s basketball squad. P.J. Tucker is now eligible. For those of you who don’t remember, Tucker was declared academically ineligible for the spring semester last season. Tucker’s absence, coupled with an injured LaMarcus Aldridge, caused the Horns to skid into March and exit the tourney in the first round. I’ve said this before: Texas is a Final Four team with Tucker, Aldridge, Gibson, and Buckman.
The scoop on Ohio State
And on that note, let me direct you guys to an Ohio State blog that I've come across after its author contacted me via email. We're all very anxious about the game, and this is a great site to check in on for news on the Buckeyes as the game approaches. You can check out Buckeye Commentary at www.buckeyecommentary.com I've added a permanent link to the site on the left column of this blog.
The ATL Preseason Top 25
Nonetheless, when I was invited to join this poll, I thought it would be fun and joined in. I cast my preseason ballot today, and it’s time to unveil it for the readers here. (See my ballot here.)As you can see, I checked Texas in at #4. Can we run the table and get to the Rose Bowl? Sure we can. We’ve always got the talent to run the table. Will we win at Ohio State, in Dallas against OU, and at Texas A&M? Maybe, but I doubt it. I see Texas losing one of those games and going 11-1. Is that enough to get us in the Rose Bowl? In some years, it can be.
If Texas does manage to run the table, it would be difficult to imagine that we wouldn’t be the BCS #1 team. Even if USC goes undefeated, their schedule is a walk in the Pac 10, err… park… compared to the tough schedule the Horns face. The computers will favor Texas handily, and the standards for USC are going to be so high that even close wins may be viewed by some virtually as losses. If Texas runs the table, mark my words, they will be the BCS #1 team heading in to the Rose Bowl.
But before we start counting our chickens, let’s take off the rose tinted glasses and be realistic. Mack Brown gets outcoached by the best on a regular basis. Greg Davis is still calling the plays. And we face three very, very good teams away from home. Texas’ year to run the table was last year, folks. It was an easy schedule and we missed a grand opportunity. I’ll reserve further judgment until we see Texas play at Ohio State, but this blogger is skeptical that we can win ‘em all. Of course, if we do, I’ll be on the first plane to Pasadena. You got a couch ready for me, Windler?
Preseason Top 25
1) Southern Cal
5) Louisiana State
8) Ohio State
11) Boise State
13) Virginia Tech
14) Miami (Florida)
15) Texas A&M
18) Florida State
22) Fresno State
23) Texas Tech
24) Arizona State
25) Penn State
Monday, August 22
Brought to you by the number '2'
Brown optimistic about defense
Okay, Brown's optimistic. What's new? I'm happy to hear that the Horns will be more comfortable with the defense at the start of the year now that it's not new, but, uh, Mack... weren't the players pretty familiar with the defense last year when we had trouble with that team from Michigan? I remain optimistic about this team, but cautiously so. Talk, after all, is cheap, cheap, cheap. I'll wait and see how the Horns look in two weeks.
Tuesday, August 16
Where is the Jitterbug from?
So, let's get an open thread going here. First off: where does Jitterbug go to school? Cast your votes in the Comments section below.
A) Texas A&M (The poor sentence structure, the hazy arguments, the deep resentment and bitterness all suggest a 5th grade reading and writing level and a frustration from a decade of irrelevance)
B) Oklahoma State (Some might argue that 5th grade is too charitable. In that case, perhaps you'll want to vote him a Cowboy.)
C) Oklahoma (His second post may just be a smoke screen. Note the insertion of Peterson cock into mouth. He's not fooling me!)
D) Notre Dame (There's something about these comments that suggests this guy's favorite team provides nothing of value to root for, so he's taken up the hobby of bashing other teams. Notre Dame certainly fits that bill.)
E) Boston Red Sox (Now that Sox fans can't cry about their team and the Yankees, they've got to find something to gripe about. Why not Texas? I'm pretty sure New Englanders don't like our state much, anyway.)
F) Other (Nominate your own school! Where is Jitterbug from, and why does he feel the need to bash Texas?)
That's all the posting from me for a week, boys and girls. I'm off to Detroit until next Monday, but I'll eagerly look forward to seeing the results of our little poll...
Brown closes football practices from public
Brown offered the injury smoke screen to shield what are probably his true intentions: to mask what the Longhorns intend to do this season. So why the change this year? The most reasonable explanation is that the Horns have a pretty damn meaningful game early in the schedule—they travel to Columbus, Ohio on September 10th to face Ohio State in just the second game of the year. That’s a change from years past, where the toughest pre-Oklahoma opponent was, at best, Arkansas.
So while you’ll hear Mack Brown talk about not wanting his players’ parents to hear about their injuries on the internet before hearing about it from the players and coaches, just wink and nod. It’s never quite that simple.
Thursday, August 11
Fans beware of preseason hype
Talk about respect. Looks like people feel like this is Texas’ best team in some time. Sure, we’re usually in the top five to ten, but number two? Hmm… what changed? After all, we lost one of the best running backs in the country and the best defensive player in the country?
Two things happened last January that changed the perception of the Longhorns. First, at the Rose Bowl, Texas (and by extension, Mack Brown) won a big game. A really big game. And second, a couple days later, Oklahoma got absolutely pounded by USC. They also lost their Heisman winning quarterback. Oh, and we didn’t. Vince Young had a pretty good Rose Bowl.
So, to recap: Texas wins a big game and has an exciting, improving quarterback. Oklahoma loses a big game and its big time quarterback. This, then, is the year that Texas beats OU, right? Apparently, the coaches who vote think so.
But as Lee Corso always says, “Not so fast, my friends.” What about Vegas? As I mentioned earlier in this blog, Vegas doesn’t even have Texas as favored to win the Big 12! OU checks in as the favorite to win the Big 12 at 7/5. Texas is an underdog, at 8/5. Who do you trust more? The coaches voting in the USA Today Poll, or the Vegas oddsmakers?
Forget all that for a moment, though. The real matchup problem in this game is not New OU Quarterback vs. Vince Young. It’s Mack Brown vs. Bob Stoops. The Mack Attack is 0-5 against Stoops in this century, lest we get too excited about our chances this year. And last I checked, Greg Davis is still calling the plays for the offense.
In case the coaching mismatch isn’t enough, let’s not forget that it wasn’t Jason White who bludgeoned the Longhorns last year—it was that freshman running back… Adrian Peterson. And he’s still wearing Oklahoma maroon. Texas, meanwhile, is still sorting through its running game options (besides Vince, of course).
It’s far too early to break this game down too much, and there’s so much that’s going to happen between now and then. I just caution you now, Longhorn fans: temper your expectations. Be reasonable. Watch closely. And for God’s sake, don’t look any further than Columbus, Ohio. On September 10th, we’ll get plenty of answers.
Texas loaded with 'A' grade talent
Maybe a name change is what we need...