Two leave before UT knows where it's going
03:43 PM CST on Thursday, December 7, 2006
It's been an eventful week on the Forty Acres. First, Gene Chizik decides to leave but stay in the Big 12 and try to compete with his old boss for Big 12 championships. Chizik gets his first chance next Oct. 13, when Texas visits Iowa State.
Chizik met with Iowa State officials on Texas' off-weekend in Dallas before the Texas A&M game and then again Saturday. Those close to Mack Brown deny that Chizik failed to keep Brown in the loop, possibly causing friction between the two.
Brown plans to take his time in considering a replacement. Alabama defensive coordinator and now Crimson Tide interim head coach Joe Kines, Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon and Washington Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray are possible candidates.
Kines has a history of coaching with offensive coordinator Greg Davis at Arkansas (1992) and Georgia (1995) and could be a sensible fit. Kines had the nation's No. 1 scoring defense on a 10-2 team in 2005 before the Crimson Tide fell to 6-6 this season.
Texas co-defensive coordinator Duane Akina could also be considered. One wonders if Akina will still be happy if he passed over for the job a third time.
On Tuesday, The Dallas Morning News broke the news that Texas would be headed to either the Gator or Alamo bowls because the Cotton had settled on the loser of the Big 12 title game – Oklahoma or Nebraska.
It will be the Gator if West Virginia loses at home to Rutgers on Saturday. It will be the Alamo if West Virginia wins.
The ACC opponent in the Gator would probably be Clemson, which lost three of its last four. The opponent in the Alamo is a 6-6 Iowa team that a certain someone affiliated with this newsletter picked to play West Virginia for the national title. How did that turn out?
On Wednesday, the Morning News broke the news that freshman backup quarterback Jevan Snead plans to transfer and that his availability for the bowl game would be in doubt.
A source close to Snead told me he is looking hard at TCU. Snead, a Parade All-American from Stephenville, wants to enroll in a new school in January so he can go through spring drills, the source said.
That would leave Colt McCoy and walk-on third-stringer Matt McCoy as the only QBs available for the bowl unless coaches pull the redshirt off of freshman Sherrod Harris, which seems doubtful.
Q: What happened against Texas A&M? How could we be 13-point favorites at home and lose? On Senior Day? For the Big 12 South title? It still makes no sense to me. Who should I be the most upset with?
BROWN: Even though the defense gave up 244 yards rushing and invaluable time off the clock, it only gave up 12 points. That should have been enough. But the league's No. 1-ranked scoring offense, averaging 39.5 ppg coming into the game, picked the wrong week to show no imagination. Contrast Texas with the Nebraska-Colorado game in Lincoln last Friday. Nebraska led only 21-14 early in the fourth quarter, but there was Bill Callahan calling trick play after trick play. Early in the game, Nebraska scored on a fake field goal. The Cornhuskers threw two halfback passes. Leading 23-14 and facing fourth-and-1 from the Colorado 40, Nebraska QB Zac Taylor attempted a hard count to draw Colorado offside. With time still left on the play clock, Taylor turned to his sideline and began walking with his hands up, as if to say it didn't work. Then Nebraska snapped the ball directly to RB Tierre Green, who ran seven yards for a first down. The drive led to a touchdown and seized the momentum as the Big Red won, 37-14. There was none of that from Texas against A&M. No spark, no momentum-inducing play. No statement from the Texas offense that said we are better than you and we're about to show you why. As a result, a sellout crowd that was desperate to get in the game, was unable to become the factor it should have been.
Q: It didn't seem that Colt McCoy's arm was 100 percent in the A&M game. Should he play in Texas' bowl?
BROWN: I talked to McCoy's dad, Brad, this week and he agrees with you, Jim. He thought Colt, who threw three interceptions, lacked arm strength and wondered if it was a lingering effect from a stinger suffered against Kansas State two weeks earlier. "I've coached him his whole life, and I just didn't think he had his best stuff," Brad McCoy said. "He's so accurate, and he doesn't throw short very often, and it seemed like his passes got shorter and shorter as the game wore on. That's just dad's opinion."
McCoy coached his son at Tuscola Jim Ned and is now the coach at Graham. He didn't fault the Texas doctors for clearing Colt to play.
"I told the team doctors that at the hospital," McCoy said. "I wanted them to know that from the family. We talked to Colt every day that week, and in his mind he was ready. He didn't feel like he was in pain at all. Maybe there was some strength issue. Colt never said that. He's a competitor. In that game, on that stage, he wanted to be there for his teammates. It's unfortunate that maybe he was a little weaker than he thought he was."
Colt took a couple helmet-jarring shots in the A&M game. A cheap shot by DT Kellen Heard, who blindsided McCoy as he was unbuckling his chinstrap, got Heard ejected. A second shot – by DE Michael Bennett – resulted in Bennett's helmet hitting McCoy's shoulder and facemask. McCoy's head bounced off the ground, and he was carted off the field with his head immobilized. Brad McCoy thought it deserved a flag, but he said Colt was feeling better in the days following the A&M game than he was in the days after the Kansas State game.
"In the hospital after the A&M game, he was more upset about how he played. He was killing himself for how he played. That was hurting him a lot more than the injury," Brad McCoy said.
All that being said, Brad McCoy thinks his son will be ready to play in a bowl: "With a month to get ready, he'll be fine. I think Colt's fully expecting himself to play. Physically, he feels a lot better already."
Q: You wrote a pretty critical column about Texas on Monday. You went after the linebackers pretty good. Are they really that bad?
Michael Thornton, Dallas
BROWN: I hate to be critical of individuals because they are just college kids, but in the age of television, you can't hide from videotape. If you go back and watch this defense this season, you see the linebackers (who were coached by Chizik) constantly getting pushed around and, if anything, just holding their own but having no significant impact. That's why the coaches went to a nine-man front and got the secondary so involved in run support. That decision also caused the defense to become so susceptible to play-action fakes – a huge reason UT got burned so much through the air. The coaches could never make the adjustments needed to get pressure on the quarterback (especially against K-State) or to settle the secondary down. There were no zone blitzes, corner blitzes or stuff Texas hadn't shown. Instead, K-State's QB Josh Freeman got comfortable and looked like Joe Montana. A&M made most of its rush yards on perimeter plays or the option, which exposed the soft nature of UT's linebackers. That position needs a major upgrade. The return of Rod Muckelroy (arm) and development of Sergio Kindle, the freshman from Dallas, should help next season. Win or lose in the bowl game, Kindle should play a ton because Robert Killebrew was a huge disappointment this season on the strong side. And the disappearing act of weakside LB Drew Kelson this season was a mystery. Kelson covered Reggie Bush stride for stride in the Rose Bowl. This season, an ankle injury limited him early. But by midseason he was fine and barely got on the field. Whoever coordinates this defense next season has a lot of work to do on the back seven because three of the four members of the nation's 100th-ranked pass defense are out of eligibility.
Q: Do you think the coaches would pull a redshirt off Sherrod Harris in the bowl if Colt McCoy were somehow not ready to play and Jevan was already on his way out?
BROWN: My initial instinct is no. You don't redshirt a kid all season and give up a year of eligibility over one game. No offense to the Gator or Alamo bowls. I don't think it would be fair to Harris, unless Harris really wanted to play.
Q: Didn't Greg Davis prepare Hines Ward to play quarterback at Georgia in a bowl? Do you see him doing the same with Quan Cosby or Billy Pittman if Texas is suddenly thin at QB?
Jonathan Sellers, Atlanta
BROWN: Jonathan, you get this week's prize for best question. Yes, Greg Davis did get Ward, a slot receiver, prepared to play QB in the 1995 Peach Bowl while coaching the offense at Georgia. In fact, Ward set a school bowl game record by completing 31 of 59 passes for 413 yards in a game that saw Georgia come back from a 24-6 deficit only to lose, 34-27, to a Virginia team with Tiki and Ronde Barber. So getting Cosby or Pittman ready to run the zone read and throw some play-action passes against Clemson or Iowa should be a piece of cake with a month to prepare.
Q: What do you think of Gene Chizik going to Iowa State?
Rod, Iowa City
BROWN: I thought he might have been able to get a better job than that. Bob Stoops won a national title as defensive coordinator for Steve Spurrier and got Oklahoma as his first head-coaching job. Maybe Chizik thought his stock was dropping and needed to grab something quick. Here's the funny thing about Gene Chizik, though. He cares more about where his kids grow up than he does about being at a big-name school. Otherwise he might have waited to see if he could get the North Carolina State or Arizona State jobs. Chizik, though, I think is happy to be raising his three kids in the down-to-earth Midwest. And if he can turn Iowa State into a consistent challenger for the Big 12 North title, he'll be seen as a hero at Iowa State because they have good, loyal fans. I will be interested to see how his public persona changes. Off camera, he's a charming, funny, self-deprecating guy who will admit he loves ABBA with a passion and goes to chick flicks with his wife, Jonna. On camera when talking about football, he's very low key and shows very little of that personality.
Q: Where to do you think Jevan Snead will end up?
Karen, Fort Worth
BROWN: The rumor mill has him looking at Louisville and Houston in addition to my source telling me that TCU is a leading candidate to land him. Louisville doesn't make much sense because Chris Simms' little brother, Matt, a very highly touted recruit, is headed there. Snead de-committed from Florida because he didn't want to compete with Tim Tebow. He's leaving Texas because he feels like the coaches have picked Colt McCoy for the future. TCU loses senior QB Jeff Ballard and will go with redshirt freshman Marcus Jackson next season. Jackson will be a junior when Snead would be eligible again. Houston's QB Kevin Kolb, a Stephenville product like Jevan, is a senior so there might be opportunity at Houston. The Cougars are also coached by Art Briles, legendary coach at Stephenville. So Houston could also be a good fit.
Q: I'm curious about the timing of the Snead news. Why do you think it got out right now? Couldn't he have waited until after the bowl to announce he is transferring?
Rick, Fort Worth
BROWN: After Snead made his intentions clear to the Texas staff, I think they were hoping they could keep it under wraps at least until the bowl announcement came down Sunday. I think the team didn't want any more negative news out there that could influence the Gator Bowl's decision whether to take Texas. The Longhorns would like to play in the Gator, even though the payout of $2.5 million is only slightly more than the Alamo's $2.225 million. Strangely enough it was repeated trips to the Gator Bowl at North Carolina that helped drive Mack Brown to Texas. He didn't feel like the Tar Heels ever got serious consideration from the Bowl Alliance (that's what the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls were called before the BCS). Trips to Florida are the kind UT officials like to take because they always like to play games in places that are fun for their fans to travel. Jacksonville, Fla., would fall into that category. There's a lot of good golf courses around there, and you're close to the beach. Anyway, by sources close to Snead talking about his decision to transfer, the Gator Bowl now has something else to consider: UT is mighty thin at quarterback, and the starter is coming off a severely pinched nerve in his neck. The bottom line is that Snead wants to move on. He wants to take visits, take phone calls and be recruited again so he can be at a new school in January.
Q: In your column Monday, you talked about Texas' decreasing third-down conversions as a sign that the offense had become predictable. Can you explain that?
BROWN: Texas converted 47 of 93 third downs (50.5 percent) through the first nine games of the season. In the last three games, against Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas A&M, the Longhorns converted only 12 of 39 third downs (30.8 percent). As teams see more film of a team, it becomes easier to know what to expect, unless that team is constantly changing things up. Texas wasn't constantly changing things up. By the end of the season, teams knew exactly what was coming. Texas didn't unveil any new wrinkles against A&M. On a day when the fans were ready to explode with sound because their team was playing for a Big 12 South title, the offense did nothing remotely new unless you count starting the game in no-huddle. If coaches went conservative because they sensed Colt McCoy's arm wasn't right, they should have pulled him in favor of Jevan Snead, who had two weeks to prepare for the A&M game.
Q: Any idea how many fans would travel to Jacksonville, Fla., for a bowl game after losing two straight? I think there'd be more Texas fans at the Alamo Bowl.
Stephen, San Antonio
BROWN: Stephen, I agree with you. I think maybe 5,000 Texas fans would go to the Gator Bowl, while 20,000 to 30,000 Clemson fans would go. But if Texas played in the Alamo Bowl, there would be great local interest. Alamo Bowl tickets are reasonable ($25 to $85) compared to UT season tickets, which ranged this season from $45 to $85 depending on the game (Sam Houston State was $45. Ohio State was $85).
Q: Who is the Big 12 player of the year?
BROWN: That's a good question. I kind of like to wait until the last game is played to determine that stuff. I'm a Heisman Trophy voter, and I hate that we have to turn in our ballots next week. If everyone could have waited until the season was over, there might have been more Heisman votes for Vince Young than for Reggie Bush last season. I mean how can you vote for the best player before the season is over? It's ridiculous.
But if I had to vote right now it would be for either Nebraska QB Zac Taylor or Oklahoma QB Paul Thompson. Both players to me are the heart and soul of their teams. And I'm big on chemistry, leadership and those intangibles that cause teammates to run through a brick wall for a guy. If Texas had gone 11-1 and Colt McCoy didn't get hurt, I probably would have put Colt third on my Heisman ballot behind Ohio State's Troy Smith and Michigan's Michael Hart. I'll tell you next week who is on my final Heisman ballot.
Q: With no Texas game to predict – and you've been doing so well with those games, anyway – do I dare ask for a prediction in the West Virginia-Rutgers game so I'll know where Texas is going bowling?
BROWN: Ouch. Liz, that hurts. I admit, it's been a bad year for predictions. I thought Nick and Jessica would outlast Sonny and Cher. I thought Howie Mandel and Deal or No Deal would be laughed off the air. And I sure didn't see The Revenge of Rocky's Kidney Stones or Rocky Balboa or whatever they're calling it doing anything but going straight to video. So stay away from me right now. If there was a blackjack table needing cooling, they'd call me over to play a few hands. (By the way, I'm headed to the Big 12 title game this weekend in Kansas City, where the Ameristar Casino has been watching over my retirement portfolio.) Nonetheless, I will go with West Virginia at home over Rutgers in a thriller, 48-44. Thus, Texas would be Alamo Bowl-bound. And I can think of worse places than the Riverwalk to spend some of the Christmas holiday. A week of eating blackened prime rib at Boudro's would be fine with me.
Thanks for the questions, except for you, Liz. Keep them coming.
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