From Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman. …
1. What factors have led to Texas dropping out of the national championship picture since the title game appearance against Alabama?
There are two huge factors. The first was the inability to develop quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who came in as a freshman and replaced Colt McCoy after he was injured early in the Alabama game. Gilbert was the national player of the year out of high school but he flopped as a starter, throwing 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions during the 5-7 season. Then last season he was benched in the second quarter of the second game against BYU and never played another game at Texas. He has since transferred to SMU where he is starting. The other factor is recruiting. The veteran coaching staff got fat and happy after all of those great seasons earlier in the decade and missed out on some key evaluations. Mack Brown let several of them go, including longtime offensive coordinator Greg Davis because he saw the program was going in the wrong direction. Last season’s 8-5 finish was a step in the right direction but still nowhere near what folks around here are accustomed to.
2. What is Mack Brown’s level of support there among fans?
They love Mack but they love Texas football more. After he went 13-12 over 2010 and 2011, the fan base grew a little restless. Brown makes $5.3 million per year and Longhorn fans have always expected this team to compete for national titles, so they remain an impatient bunch. We don’t get that many ‘Fire Mack’ emails because I think most fans believe the program is back on the upswing.
3. How is Manny Diaz perceived at Texas, and how has he fit in as defensive coordinator with the Longhorns?
Fans love Diaz and some believe he would be the perfect guy to replace Brown when he leaves. Diaz is perceived as a star in the making on this staff. He’s a great quote and his players react to him well, not only because he’s one of the smartest guys in the room, but also because he looks like he could be their age. I don’t see him sticking around much longer. Of the coaches on this staff, he’s the one I could see bolting for a head coaching gig the soonest.
4. What is the Texas perspective on the end of the series with Texas A&M?
Good riddance is pretty much the universal sentiment around here. The Aggies are clamoring for Texas to continue the series with them but the Horns are like, ‘You left, so don’t expect to have your cake and eat it too.’ Texas wants nothing to do with A&M now that the Aggies are in the SEC. I hope to see the two meet in the Cotton Bowl someday. That would be a raucous atmosphere.
I’ve learned that Texas has put a better product on the field than last season but it’s difficult to see how much better because Wyoming and New Mexico aren’t exactly world beaters. It’s obviously the fastest team the Horns have fielded since the 2007 team that had Jamaal Charles, Jordan Shipley, Colt McCoy, Sergio Kindle, and Sam Acho on the roster. And there is depth at key positions. The one concern I would have if I were a Texas fan would the depth at linebacker on defense, and the lack of a vertical passing game on offense. It should be mentioned that QB David Ash is completing 73 percent of his passes and has thrown 49 passes without an interception.
6. What are the personalities of this team on offense and defense?
I think Texas is a ball control team that doesn’t mind taking the air out of the ball. The Horns are trying to mimic Alabama’s strategy: put the ball in the hands of your running backs, let the QB serve as a game manager, and hope the defense can create some turnovers to put you in good field position. The defense threw a shutout against New Mexico but has started slowly in the first two games. We’ll see if that bites them against a capable Ole Miss offense.