Anytime there’s a rule change of significance in any sport (the 3 point line and defensive rules in basketball, pro-offense rules in football and the NHL), you learn to quickly distinguish which coaching staffs play checkers, which play chess and which struggle with rock-paper-scissors.
(…and how to get out)
Since 2010, Texas has been a .500 ball club. Or, more precisely, our 53-48 record makes us a .525 ball club. Let’s not short ourselves. Over those eight years, the Horns have posted four losing records, only one AP Top 25 finish and our best three year run occurred between 2011-2013 when Texas went 25-14. Since 2013, Texas is an execrable 23-27 (.460).
How’s that for a headline to excite or scare you? While Texas faithful are rightfully excited about the incoming 2018 freshman class, those true freshmen will be secondary factors (elite DB class pun intended) in 2018 season results.
If you want to understand Big 12 programs, observe how they recruit.
Baseball is an individual sport disguised as a team sport; football is a team sport guised as a unit sport. – Me, 2018
While it’s natural and useful to break down a football team by discrete units, game theory and tactics are always impacted by total team football considerations.
Draw a line from San Antonio to Galveston. Follow that line up the Louisiana border and take a hard left before the Arkansas border to Dallas. Now connect Dallas south to San Antonio. Color it all in. That rhombus drawn by a 2nd grader comprises less than 20% of the geography of the state and 95% of the football talent. So that’s what we mean by recruiting the state, with apologies to the good people of El Paso, Harlingen, Dumas and Buffalo Gap. What we really mean, more precisely, is that UT should recruit a small part of the state and then ignore vast swathes.
A sizable number of Texas football fans believe that the Longhorns need only recruit state of Texas athletes (> 90% or more) to maximize the program, supplementing occasionally with a few legacies, a sprinkling of JUCOs and the random who recruits himself to Texas. Homegrown recruits should certainly form the core of the program, but the perception of a healthy in state vs out of state ratio is skewed by prideful regionalism and a failure to appreciate the level of talent that can be acquired elsewhere. There’s also a lack of awareness of the practices of our peer institutions.
In the mid-19th century, “Go West, Young Man” was advice popularized by Horace Greeley that urged enterprising youth to seek their fortunes by taking a left and building a country along the way.
In 2018, “Go West, For Young Athletes” is my advice for an ambitious Texas staff rebuilding a proud program.
Cautionary tales have been with us since Man first started communicating as tribal hunter gatherers and Ooo-ga The Prideful boasted that he’d show everyone that cave bears are probably just large marmots. A story Eric Nahlin’s wife has repeatedly implored me to remind him of every time he announces to the family that he has mastered electricity with the power of his mind and tries to entice it from a power outlet with a paper clip.
If you thought the offense struggled, imagine if the defensive front 7 hadn’t been split up by the Spring game draft format. Roach, Omenihu and Hager sharing the same pass rushing space is a daunting proposition for a lot of offenses. Particularly when all three can credibly line up at multiple positions and come in unexpected ways.