Mack Brown went on the Dari Nowkhah and Mel Kiper Jr. show this morning on ESPN radio at 10:30 am to talk about the team and here is my transcription of the conversation. I think it is important because Mack tells us which way certain positions are shaping up, particularly the kicking/punting situation. I think I captured almost all of it exactly but please not that it is not exact verbatim.
Dari: People are ready for a Texas comeback. Big things are expected nationwide of this team. What is a realistic expectation for as you see this team everyday?
Mack: I know I am ready for a Texas comeback, without question, after the last two years. But I think it (15th) is a good spot for us. We have some question marks, we have some really good young players, were still one of the younger teams in the country, but we’ve got a chance to be good. And I think that’s why you’re out of the top 10 looking in – because people say hey, this is a team that can move up so we are going to put ‘em in there high enough but they have to prove some things that they haven’t accomplished over the last 2 years.
Mel: Mack it seems like this offensive line is going to be a lot better. You have two of the best guards in college football, you have three running backs… so you have the stable of talented runners, you have receivers like Davis Shipley & great running backs, the stable of talented runners, you have receivers like Davis, Shipley and Goodwin who can get it done. The trigger man. Ash and McCoy. They’re sophmores now, a junior for McCoy, Ash is a sophomore, the improvement that the quarterbacks have shown... and who’s going to be the starter opening week when you play Wyoming Sept. 1?
Mack: Mel, I think the improvement has been huge. They improved some between the Cal game, the end of the season and summer work, spring practice. I think there is a huge jump over the summer and you can tell our guys worked in the weight room with Bennie Wylie and then they came into preseason camp. All the receivers are back, the same offense, the same offensive coordinators… there is much more familiarity than there was this time last year and therefore much more confidence. David Ash was playing in the first ball game he had ever played in as a true freshman at Texas and you said that Case McCoy was a junior but really he’s like a sophomore because he played 9 plays his first year, we really didn’t handle it very well so both guys are young, now both guys have won a key game outside of Austin… you go back and look at Case beating A&M in a tough battle the last game of the series for a while and then David Ash won the game against Cal, so both of them come in here with credibility with the players, both of them come in here with more confidence than they had last year, they are more familiar with what we are doing and we have better players around them. So I think all of those things help that quarterback position. We have a huge scrimmage tomorrow night Mel and we haven’t separated them yet. Normally they do that but we’re in a good position and there are very few people that have two quarterbacks that can play, that have won games, so it puts us in a good position with that depth and we hope one separates between now and next week.
Dari: Staying on that qb situation, did you come away feeling… are you ok playing two qb’s in a regular season, has anything occurred to you that maybe you don’t like that after doing that for a little while with these two? Do you want to have a clear #1, how important is that to you?
Mack: Dari you would like to have Vince Young or Colt McCoy. It was never in question when those two were here. And then you also would like to have a great situation with two guys like Major Applewhite and Chris Simms. And it gets some talk and chatter from fans and media across the country but like in Colt’s first year as a redshirt freshman, we’ve gotta win one of the last two games to play for the conference championship and maybe have a chance to play for the national championship. Colt gets hurt, we’ve got a young freshman behind him who loses both games. And then all of a sudden during the national championship Colt gets hurt on the 5th play, we’ve got a young freshman behind him so we can’t come back and beat Alabama. So what I do think is that if you’ve got Colt MCCoy and Vince Young, two of the best that have ever played, then we are not having this discussion, but you’re probably in a little trouble with experience behind them. Because younger quarterbacks that are coming in about their age group all want to transfer. It is hard to keep two good quarterbacks any more. What we do have now is we have two, both with experience. So if you ask me whether I’d rather have Vince Young or Colt… Yes. Because they’ve shown it, they’ve done it. These two guys are talented and since neither one of them have taken over with that experience or with that confidence yet, we will probably play both of them. And we did that at North Carolina. We had Mike Thomas and Jason Stanisak, we had some good years where the starter messed it up and the other guy would come in but then you are not relying on the performance or the health of a single player to win football games at Texas.
Mel: Mack normally I don’t go to the special teams when we’re talking to the coach, I go straight to the defense and talk about Okafor and Vaccaro but I want to go to the kicking/punting situation because it kind of has impacted the Baltimore Ravens. Justin Tucker undrafted has come up for Baltimore and hit a 60 yarder in practice, kicked a 50 yarder last night in a game challenging Billy Cundiff for the kicking job. The kicking/punting job is open and Justin Tucker is now with the Baltimore Ravens – you are going to be in a lot of close/big games… who’s going to get the job done on special teams for you both in a field goal kicking and punting situation?
Mack: Well, we’re new and inexperienced at those positions but I think we’re really talented and good. There is a punter that came from Duke named Alex King, he graduated, he was in that “Russell Wilson” situation, so he’s come in and he’s averaged over 42 yards per punt last year and 17 punts inside the 20 yard line so all of a sudden we go from inexperienced to experienced. And we have a young guy named Will Russ who’s got much more consistent too with that competition. Then you go to the kicking and you’ve got a young guy that came in from Coppell High School was a freshman thats been an excellent kicker in preseason. Nick Jordan has done an excellent job for us even though he hasn’t done it in front of 101 thousand like he’ll have to in a few weeks and then you go to the kickoff and we have a guy name Nick Rose, who is a freshman and he’s got the best kickoff leg I’ve ever seen. He’s been kicking it through the goal post and out of the end zone – so that gives us a chance in each of those positions to be good. On top of that Mel, and it has been unfortunate for him, Anthony Fera who came in from Penn State, was the runner up to the Lou Groza Award last year made 11 of 11 from 40 yards, he transferred and he’s had a sore hip flexor and hasn’t been able to kick very much but we feel like we probably have as much talent and all the positions will be separated unlike they were for Justin last year, we’ve probably got as much talent in the kicking game as we’ve ever had and that should be a huge plus for us.
Dari: Before you go, as I look over this poll and polls are polls, they are what they are… we don’t know how they are going to turn out …. you know me and you know I am a Big 12 guy and I notice that neither Texas A&M or Missouri is ranked, while TCU and West Virginia are both in the top 20. Does that say anything about the state of the Big 12?
Mack: Dari I think you can arguably say that it is stronger now than ever because you brought in two conference champions. You brought in two teams that have been prevalent in the BCS here for the last couple of years. You see what West Virginia did to Clemson in the bowl game, you see what TCU has done over the last number of years for Gary… I really think we’ll have a better team this year than we did last year but we’ll have a tougher schedule, because I think both of those teams bring a lot of credibility, really good football players into our league and it will be an interesting mix. TCU has played a lot of the Big 12 schools, they have been around… West Virginia is a new school completely so it will be different for our guys to go to Morgantown and it will be different for them coming in here. One of the bigger games people are talking about this year for us, they talk about Ole Miss because they love to travel, but most of the people are talking about West Virginia coming to Austin, Texas for the first time – and I think that will be a great game.