I attended my first Austin Longhorn Club lunch today. It’s held the Thursday before every Texas Longhorn home game, and features a speaker from the coaching staff. This week, it was Coach Mack Brown.
The event is held at the Erwin Center. On the way in, I asked how many people were expected.
The man at the name tag table hemmed and hawed a bit. He said that it’s usually 250 to 300 people, and usually about 500 when Coach Brown is the speaker.
My guess is that the head count was closer to 300. There were definitely empty tables.
VIPs in attendance included Edith Royal (Coach Royal’s widow), DeLoss Dodds, a couple celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary (I missed the names), David Walters (former UT swimmer and Olympic gold medalist in 2008), and about five other UT letter winners from various sports.
The opening prayer was given by Reverend Holly Hoppe of Hope Presbyterian Church.
Bill Little gave a few remarks before introducing Coach Brown. He said that there will be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 National Championship team at 6:40pm before Saturday’s game. David McWilliams and Tommy Ford will be taking part in the coin toss. He also mentioned that the GPA for this team is the highest it has ever been.
Mack then took the stage. I was taking notes while he spoke, but it would be best to view everything below as paraphrasing. I believe I got the spirit of each statement correct, but they certainly aren’t quotes. And there were statements that I missed, so they’re not complete.
Mack said that the Spirit Stampede (when the team walks from the buses to the stadium) will happen at 4:45pm, rather than 5:00pm (two hours before game time) as it has in years past.
Next, Mack brought up the team motto for the season, “For The Man On My Right and Left”, which was suggested by team deep snapper and former Green Beret Nate Boyer. Apparently, Nate texted Mack recently to let him know that the man in the middle is important too.
Saturday will be about up tempo offense. When moving quickly, they will snap the ball after 10-15 seconds. The team is in better shape with the up tempo practice.
The two deep on offense and defense will play in the first half. Defense will substitute after a long play, or any time where there’s a short break. Defense staff and team are much better prepared.
Anthony Fera is well, and doing a good job punting and kicking. Mykkele Thompson and Duke Thomas will return the first kickoff. Jacorey Warrick will play, but may be the only freshman to play. It’s a junior/senior team, and the leadership has showed up.
New Mexico has changed everything regarding staff and scheme, so we have no idea what they’re going to do. We’ll have to adjust in the first quarter. Good test for coaches.
Mack then opened the floor up to questions. Remember, I’m paraphrasing.
Oscar Giles and Daryl Wyatt with some of the younger guys.
Having Major on the field will take less time to get the plays in. If he’s not comfortable after a couple of games, he may move back upstairs.
Daryl Wyatt has a great offensive mind and he and Major have a great relationship.
Having Vince and Colt tutoring David Ash over the spring and summer has made a huge difference.
Is the Johnny Manziel story over?
I can’t comment. Don’t know the details. Many things said publicly are not factual. Not trying to avoid the question, but not in a position to answer.
Tell us about new rule changes.
Head to head intentional penalty can cause suspension for that game and the next, without an appeal process.
Coaches aren’t happy. We want the players safe, but its been too inconsistant.
Kickoff has moved back to 40. Should be fewer returns. Halo rule has returned. 15 yard penalty within 1 yard of return man.
When you bring a recruit in, who determines whether he has the “it” factor? Who gives the final thumbs up or down?
We don’t ever give thumbs up. We give the Hook ’em, Horns. I made that mistake 16 years ago.
A lot of the pro teams miss on draft choices. Recruiting isn’t as simply as it seems.
Mack discussed review process and how it works up the chain. Territory coach to position coach to coordinator. Transcript is reviewed, then if everything has passed, it’s taken to Mack.
Specifically looking for players above a 3.0 helps. Leaders in school and community. Looking for one that wins.
In the end, you don’t know until they get here to play.
Please discuss player development staff.
The staff has improved our recruiting process. Will impact more in future years. Latest class was mostly done when they came on board.
The development staff do nothing but this. The staff is letting him know which players and recruits have major events so Mack can tweet them.
Have some younger staff members working Facebook and Twitter. They’re also good at video.
Greg Robinson is watching during practice to see what his eyes see, but he’s also evaluating film.
How has the harder line about decommitting been received by recruits?
I’d like to continue to preach integrity. Young guys need to learn the truth, and coaches need to speak the truth. We had five recruits back out, which is too many. It forces us to go make other kids change their minds.
If you’re engaged to Texas, I don’t want you dating around.
Can you elaborate on this year’s team motto?
Its from Nate Boyer. He’s a hero and role model for our players. I don’t care about themes, but we tell the players it needs to be thought out.
Nate says that football and military training are similar. It’s tough and rigorous.
It’s a theme that this team needs to play as one.
When I took over, Royal said the team was like a box of BBs spread all over the floor. The last couple of years we’ve been scattered as a team. We’re trying to get everyone together.
Could you talk about the WR and TE in the up tempo offense.
We averaged 69 plays a game last year. Oregon had like 83.
We’ve had a lot of guys at WR injured. It could be a strong point of the team if everyone gets healthy.
Daje is greatly improved. Jaxon had a good practice yesterday and is not sore today.
Jacorey Warrick will play as a freshman. Bryant Jackson is out. Kendall Sanders is out.
Swaim or Daniels will start at TE. Both have had good camps. McFarland is not as good a blocker, but will have a place.
Can you talk about our running game? How many will play the position?
We’re trying to play two deep in the first half.
He’s told the players that everyone is going to get their chance. If you want to play more, play good.
We need to stay fresh. This league is the best offense league in the country.
Can you comment on Desmond Harrison?
6’10” and 310. Great feet. Been in pads twice since last season. Hasn’t played since November. Not in great shape, but he’ll play early.
How’s the defense look?</strong>
I’ve seen ’em for 29 days, but I don’t know how they’re going to play. We lost two great players on defense, but the rest are back, and they’re tired of the question. Everyone is more mature.
There were a lot of bad defenses in this league last year, but we got the most attention.
I thought they were pretty good last year in camp, but then they stunk. I think we’ll be much better than we were last year in the first six games. I’m going to show them the 4th quarter of Oregon State in the afternoon meeting. That’s who we want to be.
I’ll see you Saturday night!