As we soldier on through Texas Week here at RMN, we're proud to welcome aboard PB, our esteemed guest from Burnt Orange Nation, to give us some orange-tinted insight into Texas' 2008 season. Side note: If you aren't at least occasionally glancing at the fine work and outstanding community being fostered over at Burnt Orange Nation, you're doing yourself a major disservice. Adjust your life accordingly.
On to the questions!
RMN: Give us a brief glimpse of Texas' 2007 season by describing your personal highs and lows from last year.
PB: Oddly enough, Texas' high point in 2007 may also have been its low point. When the Longhorns dropped the regular season finale in College Station, post-Vince Young Texas football bottomed out, as everything Texas fans had been complaining about all season was on full, amplified display: Stephen McGee torched a porous pass defense, Colt McCoy turned the ball over multiple times, the coaching staff seemingly had no game plan to take on A&M, and athletically limited veterans started over superior young playmakers.
Longhorns fans were rightfully disgusted with the team's second straight loss to A&M, but a funny thing accompanied the loss: Mack Brown was forced to face some very unpleasant music.
Mack Brown is a lot of things - some good, some bad - but one thing people frequently seem to miss is just how tough the guy is. Especially when his back is against the wall, Mack Brown is one tough SOB, and though skeptics complained that Mack would "never change," in reality his career has been full of crafty, well-timed adaptations. And following the A&M loss - the Texas fanbase as displeased as it has been in some time - Mack changed gears:
* The depth chart was scrapped in favor of open competition among all players for all positions.
* The Holiday Bowl workouts were exceptionally intense, with heavy stress on accountability.
* Following the Arizona State whipping, Mack demoted his defensive coordinator and then hired Will Muschamp away from Auburn.
* He re-assigned his running backs coach to a full-time position working on player relations, addressing head on the discipline issues that plagued the team in the previous summer. (Texas has had zero discipline problems this summer, knock on wood.)
* He hired Major Applewhite as his new running backs coach, giving Greg Davis a fresh perspective to work with.
* He turned the heat up on his recruiting and, following a good-not-great class of 2008, is putting together a monster (top three nationally) class for 2009.
And on and on. As horrible as the Texas A&M loss was, it lit a fire under Mack Brown.
RMN: There's no argument about Mack Brown as a recruiter, but what is the consensus on Brown as a gameday coach? I can't believe I'm asking about a guy that cranks out 10-win seasons, but is he capable of 2005-type success (or even multiple Big 12 championships) without a transcendent talent like Vince Young?
PB: In my mind, Mack Brown's legacy will be defined in 2009, where he'll either prove himself an elite coach or merely "very good." My full thoughts on this can be read here.
More questions after the jump!
RMN: Much has been made about the hiring of Will Muschamp. Were any perceived defensive struggles from last season primarily a problem of motivation? Are any schematic changes in order, or is his job solely to get the most out of the talent that is already there?
PB: All of the above. His predecessor, defensive backs coach Duane Akina, blitzed too often and played the wrong personnel. Beyond that, though, I think the biggest benefit to hiring Muschamp is that he carries forward the momentum created after the Texas A&M loss. Mack wants fire, accountability, and an attitude of doing better than your best. That's Muschamp's M.O.
RMN: How do Texas fans approach the developing situation at quarterback? Is Colt McCoy still "the guy" in Austin or are the talents of super-athlete John Chiles too much to ignore?
PB: Colt is the guy, without question. Chiles can, should, and will be deployed as a complementary weapon, but Colt's the starter. Using Chiles creatively is a goal, but Texas' eggs are in the McCoy basket.
RMN: How do you expect Texas to matchup with Missouri? How much do the questions in the pass defense and the departure of the 'Horns workhorse at running back affect the gameplan?
PB: I think Missouri's as dangerous as any team in the country, though Texas certainly has the athletic talent to play with - and even beat - the Tigers. To me, I don't know that the 'Horns are well-suited to win any shootouts this year, so if Missouri's moving the ball, I expect a loss.
RMN: Finish the following phrases:
-- Mizzou will beat Texas if:
-- Texas will beat Mizzou if:
-- Mizzou will beat Texas if: It can limit Texas from big plays on offense, forcing the 'Horns to score by moving the chains on sustained drives.
-- Texas will beat Mizzou if: It can generate pressure on Daniel with the front four.
RMN: Give us an early prediction for the Mizzou/Texas game, as well as the best- and worst-case scenarios for Texas' record during the 2008 season.
PB: Way too soon for me to make any predictions on a specific game, especially with so many open questions for Texas right now. As for the season, the schedule is tough enough that Texas could lose as many as 4-5 games. And yet, there's enough talent on hand that an 11 or 12 win season can't be ruled out. Let's split the difference: a solid 9-3 regular season seems fair.