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Big 12 media days begin, again, with no Texas quarterback in sight

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Big 12 media days begin, again, with no Texas quarterback in sight

 

Mack Brown always embraced symbolism with the game’s most important position. It just didn’t always work out.

In July 2010, the former Texas coach brought sophomore Garrett Gilbert to Big 12 media days. The quarterback’s only real experience had been stepping in for the injured Colt McCoy against Alabama in the 2009 national championship game. Given that UT nearly pulled off a miracle win, Gilbert had street cred.

“We think Garrett is doing really well,” Brown told reporters that summer. 

Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert was a huge draw at Big 12 media days in July 2010 after almost beating Alabama in the 2009 national title game.  (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

Gilbert ended up getting booed out of Royal-Memorial Stadium and transferred. 

In July 2013, Brown brought junior David Ash, who was fresh off a stirring win over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. “David has grown up. He’s learned a whole lot,” Brown said then. Ash ended up getting hurt in the second game against BYU. Concussions ended his career the following year.

Big 12 media days are Monday and Tuesday at The Star in Frisco, and no Texas quarterback will be present. Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech will meet reporters on Monday. UT, Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia will be on Tuesday.

As for the Longhorns, it’ll be the fifth straight year that the league’s most glamorous program hasn’t brought the game’s most critical player to the Big 12’s most high-profile preseason event.

That correlates to the Longhorns’ record. Texas is 53-48 this decade, a measly five games over .500. The Longhorns are four games under .500 since the start of 2014. In the Big 12, no quarterback means no chance.

Reporters were allowed to only watch UT’s current crop from a distance this spring. In fact, no Texas quarterback has been made available to reporters since the Texas Bowl. 

The program has lacked star power at the position once dominated by Vince Young and Colt McCoy, quarterbacks with a combined record of 75-10 from 2003-09. 

In his second season, Texas coach Tom Herman is bringing players to media days that will be odds-on favorites to become team captains — defensive end Breckyn Hager, defensive tackle Chris Nelson, offensive guard Patrick Vahe and tight end Andrew Beck. That’s the similar approach former coach Charlie Strong took from 2014-16. He brought upperclassmen to media days who were respected in the locker room and in the coaches office. Strong never had a clear-cut, unassailable, team leader at quarterback.

Texas quarterback David Ash (14) waves to fans as he leaves the field after defeating Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl held in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. Texas defeated Oregon State 31-27. Rodolfo Gonzalez / Austin American-Statesman

RELATED: No longer a surprise, Texas’ Chris Nelson steps into spotlight

There’s nothing wrong with bringing seniors who have earned it. Many coaches view this as a reward and a signal about team leadership. Expect lots of laughs about Hager’s long, billowing hair and Beck’s cast-iron, Terminator-tough foot.

But make no mistake, sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s past performance and future will be discussed. A lot. He’ll just be back in Austin. 

Herman may try to frame a quarterback battle between Ehlinger and junior Shane Buechele. But those around the program believe Ehlinger will be the opening-day starter against Maryland.

Herman loved Ehlinger’s potential last season. He still does, but that feeling waned after Ehlinger cost the Longhorns three potential wins. Herman tried to put the quarterbacks in tight situations this spring. Nobody can gauge Ehlinger’s improvement until September, though.

There’s also good reason to talk about UT’s two freshmen, Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson. Both are probably redshirt candidates, although with new redshirt rules going into effect this season, anything is possible. Starting in 2018, athletes can play in four games and still qualify for a redshirt.

“I hope we all feel a lot better about that quarterback room, right?,” Herman said after the spring game. “Two veteran quarterbacks, I thought looked really good, and you guys got a glimpse of what we’ve seen after the first 14 practices in those young guys. 

“So I’m excited about the future of that program.”

Texas quarterback Shane Buechele (7) points to a wide receiver during the Texas Orange-White spring football game in April. (Nick Wagner/American-Statesman)

The pass-happy Big 12 is a quarterback-dominated leagued. Eight different teams brought quarterbacks to Big 12 media days in 2016. That included Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, who became a Heisman Trophy finalist that season and won the coveted award in 2017. 

Last year, four league quarterbacks made the trek to Frisco. Mayfield was there, as was Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, TCU’s Kenny Hill and Iowa State’s two-way standout Joel Lanning. 

Going to media day, regardless of conference, is the first big step on the road to national awards.

Already this month, West Virginia officials have launched a Heisman campaign for quarterback Will Grier. The website grier7heisman.com has plenty of write-ups, stats and videos to keep anyone busy for hours. Central Florida has also started a similar push for quarterback McKenzie Milton.

Texas hasn’t had a legitimate contender for any national quarterback awards since McCoy in 2009. 

If the Longhorns ever hope to compete for championships again, they need better play from the game’s most important position. Until then, the program could be spinning its wheels, away from the Big 12’s center stage

 

https://www.hookem.com/story/big-12-media-days-begin-no-texas-quarterback-sight/

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A rivals two star recruit.

Meet the long-haired, Marlon Brando-loving player poised to lead a Texas Longhorns turnaround

 

FRISCO, Texas – The golden locks of Texas defensive end Breckyn Hager drape long past his shoulders and curl past the lower portion of his rib cage. In the Bible, Samson’s long hair represents his strength. In Austin, where the sputtering Texas football program is desperately seeking a revival, Hager’s flowing locks are a daily reminder of the program’s recent weakness.

Hager says he hasn’t cut his hair since arriving on campus in 2015, when he made a unique pact with his teammates. His next trim will come only when the Longhorns win the Big 12 title and end a drought that dates back to 2009.

I’m going to let everyone get a piece because it’s going to be a story,” Hager said. “And then I’m going to put it all in a bag, and I’m going to donate to Locks of Love.”

Locks of Love is a charity organization that provides hair pieces to financially disadvantaged cancer patients. It was a highlight of a Big 12 media day riddled with unexpected references that ranged from French philosopher René Descartes to the late actor Marlon Brando. (“I love Marlon Brando, he’s my man-crush Monday, every Monday.”)

Hager’s media day podium interview unfolded more like an experience – 90 minutes where he sounded part Spicoli, part Socrates and part Scorsese. Hager established himself as the frontrunner on the Dos Equis Award Watch List for the Most Interesting Man In College Football, a mixture of eccentric, philosopher and endearingly bizarre. There’s a movie he’s making, a business venture he’d get in trouble talking about and trips to California that he gently suggested did not marry themselves to the discipline required of an elite athlete. “I have things,” he said at one point, “the world needs to hear.”

Hager’s media day experience would certainly have turned Bill Snyder’s hair a more fluorescent shade of white. But Texas coach Tom Herman, a free spirit by football coach standards, knew exactly what he was doing showcasing Hager. The senior defensive end epitomizes the intense buy-in that he hopes will help flip the program to Big 12 title contenders after Herman’s 7-6 debut season in 2017. Herman compares Hager to the character Steve Lattimer from “The Program,” the paragon of intensity.

That is real,” Herman says. “That’s not an act. That’s not for show. That’s the way his circuits are wired.”

Herman found out in the third quarter of Texas’ overtime loss to Oklahoma State last year. Hager ran off the field after a sack and Herman greeted him with a low-five to celebrate. Herman laughs, calling what happens next a “scene out of a movie.” Hager stopped, removed his helmet and apologized to Herman. Perplexed, Herman looked on the field to see if there was a flag down on the play.

“Sorry, coach.”

“Sorry for what?”

“[Sorry] for being such an a–hole, I love you coach.”

“Alright, Breck, I got a game to coach here, bud.”

It perplexed Herman that a player as passionate as Hager, who grew up the son of a Longhorn legend, had been such a non-conformist. But that moment flipped everything, as Hager has become emblematic of the cultural overhaul that’s got Herman and his staff so optimistic about the upcoming season. “It surprised me a guy that wants to win so badly, that loves Texas so passionately, took so long to give us his heart,” Herman said. “That was odd to me, but once he did, man … that’s my dude.”

53e5824da714b1b5472408a25a100770 Hager won’t cut his hair until the Longhorns win another Big 12 title, a feat not accomplished since 2009. (AP)

Hager ended the season an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 player, finishing with nine TFLs and four sacks. He described his initial resistance to the staff as him “just being a weirdo.” He’s gone from leading the resistance to expecting Belichick-level loyalty from his teammates: “Holy crap, these guys know what they’re talking about,” Hager says of his epiphany. “We better all buy in and become the Patriots you know.”

Part of Hager adapting to the staff came with the realization of the only thing that can truly secure his legacy at the school. Hager’s father, Britt Hager, is a Longhorn legend who still holds the program’s records for tackles in a season (195) and career (499). But Britt Hager’s era at Texas dovetailed with the forgettable David McWilliams era, and a pair of Bluebonnet Bowls doesn’t exactly ensure immortality. “Colossal individual statistics mean nothing, they don’t stand the test of time unless you win games,” Breckyn Hager says. “My father is [a] case of that here at the university, the greatest linebacker statistically individually, like, ever, and you don’t hear anything about him because they didn’t win.”

Texas’ best care for winning this season will come with a repeat performance on defense. Herman stressed again on Tuesday that he considers veteran coordinator Todd Orlando the best in the country.

Hager and Orlando would make the quintessentially perfect pair for a buddy movie, as Orlando is a steel-jawed Pittsburgh native whose moods are dissected in degrees of his scowl. He’s as exacting as he is demanding, as evidenced by Texas improving 61 spots in scoring defense — from 90 to 29 — in his first season in Austin.

How much does Hager adore Orlando?

“Every film session you get with this man is a blessing from the football gods.”

“[He tells us if we get the ball on defense] we’re trying to score touchdowns out here. I was like, ‘Where have you been all my life?’”

“One time at the end of practice I saw him trying to help a little wounded baby bird, and it was like the most sincere, kind thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Hager’s best reaction of media day came when I asked him who he liked better, Brando or Orlando. “Oh my God! This is the question of the century! Oh my goodness!” he exclaimed. “That’s insane.” Finally, the shock wore off and he answered: “I would say coach Todd Orlando because I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for him.”

The fact that Hager was sitting there was a blessing for all the reporters. And it also showed that the Texas program is taking on the swagger and identity that Herman’s Houston program had. Herman is demanding, but in a much different way than the Saban generation of autocrats. Herman grew up in Southern California wearing Vans and riding skateboards and aspiring to become, of all things, a sports talk radio show host. (Herman once during a baseball game at Division III Cal Lutheran got thrown out of the game by a portly umpire for playing the sound effect of an oinking pig to protest a questionable call).

That twinkle of mischief returned to Herman’s eyes on Tuesday as he reveled in the media going through the “Breckyn Hager experience.” If there’s a movie about this potential Texas turnaround, Herman has already identified the lead actor and defining scene.

“These guys are building an empire, a legitimate empire and I’m just trying my absolute hardest for building the foundation [with them],” Hager said. He added in the same soliloquy: “It’s going to be a lovely time for all of us who have been a part of some not so lovely times.”

 

https://www.yahoo.com/sports/meet-long-haired-marlon-brando-loving-player-poised-lead-texas-longhorns-turnaround-051842506.html

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Bad Longhorns and the Big 12: A case study

4

Texas has been uncharacteristically mediocre since 2009. Does this affect the legitimacy of the Big 12?

 

https://www.frogsowar.com/2018/7/28/17624312/bad-longhorns-and-the-big-12-a-case-study

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