Tuesday, July 25, 2006
A SOMEWHAT OBLIGATORY ASSESSMENT OF: TEXAS
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By popular demand - 31 blank spaces and the dubious voracity of the identity of signee "Denver Lamberth" not withstanding - SMQ begins his final week of fire sale, non-binding predictions with the mythical champs
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Three white whales - a rival, a conference, a national crown - felled in one swoop, but whence the state of Mack's new kingdom sans Sir Score-a-lot?
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 56-8 (36-6 Big XII) - 2005: 13-0 (9-0 Big XII, Champs), Won Rose Bowl, Mythical National Champs
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 13 (6 Offense, 7 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: On the bright side, Mack Brown Inc. stunned doubting Thomasi (like SMQ), finally achieving nirvana by riding its loping, rocket-armed chakra past its main blockage in the South Division and on to enlightenment in the Rose Bowl. Loosening Oklahoma's psychlogical death-grip on the the teams' series - and, subsequently the conference - should not be underestimated.
Of course, even few Sahasrara are otherwordly enough to have these actual, very earnest words written about them:
Yet lest fans despair in the wake of the adulatory funeral pyre of their gridiron yogi's amateur career, they are comforted, for "Young's final, selfless act for the Texas Longhorns was to talk to his would be successor about leadership." In this case, the reference is to iconicly-named and thickly-eyebrowed redshirt freshman Colt McCoy, though "Wait, he's white?" all-star Jevan Snead was an early enrollee and competed during the Spring. To date, neither has anything to recommend him but the ungodly prep stats one would expect of a potential freshman starter at one of the nation's primo blue chip magnets. Also, neither is quite as highly regarded as Chris Simms was out of high school. So ve know nottink.
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McCoy: More or less acquainted with Vince Young
WHAT'S THE SAME: "Ungodly" is also a nice way to describe Jamaal Charles' 7.4 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns (on just 119 carries) as a true freshman, and the Longhorns' returning skill talent in general: Charles, Selvin Young, Billy Pittman, Limas Sweed, Quan Cosby and SMQ fave "Heavy" Henry Melton collectively topped 4,000 total yards from scrimmage in '05 (a little over 308 per game, or about 10 yards per touch) and could all play and start for just about anybody in the country. Those numbers do not include all-purpose virtuoso and epic hash hound/armed peanut farm brawler/banished MySpacer Ramonce Taylor, who had more than 800 total yards and a stunning 15 touchdowns on 103 offensive touches but may or may not return for the fall. Whether losing a quarterback whose talents commanded ad libs and many carries of his own, as well as defenses' undivided attention, hurts or helps those numbers is probably a toss-up, but whether opposing coordinators will grow pale and jelly-legged watching these guys on film is not.
HEROES AND VILLAINS: While Taylor was busy getting his multiple felonies on, McCoy was living up to his moniker's big-hearted maverick potential by intrepidly helping to rescue a neighbor suffering from a seizure on Memorial Day (an act accompanied by a story, coincidentally, that stops dead in the middle of Colt's harrowing climb up a bank of rocks to get to the man to point out that a few other neighbors were - gasp - Texas A&M fans! "I'm an Aggie, but I'm darn proud of that kid," one reluctantly reports).
McCoy - whose Wikipedia page is already as long, before he's taken a snap, as 'Horn legend and NFL Hall-of-Famer Bobby Layne's entry - will soon find that off-field virtues earn little acclaim if one looks more like Chris Rix under the lights, and his inexperience (or that of Snead or fellow true freshman Sherrod Harris) will be the main impediment to this absurdly talented team's chances of repeating. The only two teams in SMQ's lifetime to win a mythical title with a non-junior or senior QB were Alabama in 1992 and USC in 2003, and both of those very different quarterbacks were redshirt sophomores, not freshmen. It's not a particularly original question, but it must be asked: even at home, how much confidence can be placed in any of these kids when they line up against Ohio State in September? Against Oklahoma's rabid D a month later? That's a steep learning curve, one no freshman or redshirt freshman quarterback in SMQ's memory - probably Michael Vick included, given his opponents as a redshirt - has ever aced out of the gate.
THE DIRTY WORK: The goal, of course, will be to take everything out of whichever kid's hands are being employed at any given point, and the backfield talent are offensive line are geared to pick up that sort of slack. Mack Brown commissioned a study two years ago to determine exactly what ingredients made a champion over the past decade or so, and determined that line play was the most consistent factor present in every title winner. Hence, the 'Horns put together probably the best combination of offensive and defensive line play in the country last year, and might be in a position to pull that off again. Departed Jonathan Scott and Will Allen were the most decorated of '05's veteran line crop, but all-leaguer Justin Blalock is back at one tackle with honorable mention pick Kasey Studdard and center Lyle Sendlein. No Rodrique Wright is no big whoop on defense, where there's ridiculous depth at end and size in the middle in the form of Frank Okam. It was a group that wore down towards the end of last year, though - it allowed opponents more than 5 yards per carry in four games, all in the last six - lost three of its four leading tacklers and might have a hiccup or two in the good-looking but Michael Huff/Cedric Griffin-less secondary.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER: Oh, that Colt, saving the neighbors, fending off the preppies and receiving high praise from Austin's former quarterbacking Zeus:
Of course, Vince Young's been known to struggle with the answers of a lot of questions. Oh! Thank you.
REASON FOR HOPE: Obviously. This team is still absurdly talented everywhere you look.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: Obviously. Vince Young could have carried this group like it was a two-year-old on his shoulders, but it's going to seem more like a, well, herd of longhorn steers to McCoy if he's forced to assume anything remotely resembling the same burden. Even as a "within the offense" type for now, will the passing game be good enough to keep more competent opponents from ganging up on the stud backs?
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, LITERARY, POLITICAL OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... Spider-Man 3, the much-awaited, spare-no-expense follow-up to other big-budget, star-studded, massively successful mythical champions - one on the box office, one on the field - and hoping the dollars and mostly returning talent, under the same direction, can live up to the franchise's recent past success.
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Ramonce Taylor's second-favorite Mary Jane
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING...: Two losses max, BCS game as Big XII champ or at-large. The quarterbacking youth would seem to preclude a successful mythical title defense, but it's going to be tough to pick against a collection of athleticism and experience across the board like this in any game. Beat Ohio State, and SMQ will believe.
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PREVIOUS REASONABLY ANTICIPATORY ASSESSMENTS:
June 3: Boston College...June 4: Arkansas State...June 6: Hawaii...June 8: Virginia...June 10: Rice...June 11: Boise State...June 14: Tulane...June 18: Oregon...June 21: Colorado...June 24: South Florida...June 26: Fresno State...June 30: Minnesota...July 2: UAB...July 7: Virginia Tech...July 9: Michigan
ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENTS:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: BYU...April 5: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: Marshall...April 13: Florida State...April 15: San Diego State...April 16: Alabama...April 19: Oregon State...April 20: Buffalo...April 21: N.C. State...April 23: Arizona...April 24: Memphis...April 25: Louisiana Tech...April 28: Iowa...April 30: Toledo...May 2: Ohio State...May 3: Mississippi State...May 5: Southern Miss...May 7: Louisiana-Lafayette...May 11: Akron...May 12: North Carolina...Michigan State...May 15: Air Force...May 17: Stanford...May 18: Georgia Tech...May 21: Connecticut...May 23: Purdue...May 24: Navy...May 27: UCLA...May 28: New Mexico State...May 29: Tennessee
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Texas A&M (obligatory)