• Quarterback situation too much of a good thing

    Garrett Gilbert has two seasons left as Texas’ starting quarterback, but then what?
    Garrett Gilbert has two seasons left as Texas’ starting quarterback, but then what?

    Schools like Texas deserve the best recruits in the nation, and the Longhorns like to take as many as they can get.

    Three talented receivers? Sure. Five huge offensive linemen? Can’t ever have too many of those. A couple of linebackers? Why not.

    Taking multiple prospects at the same positions works out fine, because they can all play at the same time. Offenses sometimes run empty sets with five wideouts, four defensive backs need to be on the field, defensive tackles rotate around all the time and most teams like to have a fresh running back in relief.

    But there just don’t need to be this many quarterbacks.

    Taking two of ‘em in 2010 was one thing. Taking David Ash last year was another, as is bringing in Connor Brewer in 2012. By the time Garrett Gilbert is a senior, there will be five quarterbacks on scholarship (assuming none of them transfer ... and in that case there will be four.) 

    There’s bound to be a quarterback controversy brewing soon, and it might be a bad one. Gilbert might lose all confidence in himself as fans clamor for somebody else. Connor Wood’s talent might get thrown out with the garbage — or taken to Tulsa. The coaches might piss off Colt McCoy if they don’t give his youngest brother Case any looks. David Ash is in danger of being swept under the rug if the more extroverted Brewer arrives on campus next summer and becomes the most popular man on the team.

    And that’s not quite it — Wood, McCoy, Ash and Brewer might all be playing second fiddle to Whitewright High School quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who is widely considered the best 2013 player in the state and looks like the second coming of Vince Young.

    Yes, it is sensible for the coaching staff to plan ahead in case of injury, attrition or disappointment, and load the quarterback cupboard accordingly. But this is too much. Waaaayyy too much. Good quarterbacks need at least two years as the starter to develop to their fullest potential — unless you’re Cam Newton — and that won’t ever happen here.

    Let’s say it plays out like this:

    2011: Gilbert starts (Jr.), Wood transfers and Ash redshirts
    2012: Gilbert starts (Sr.), Brewer redshirts
    2013: McCoy starts (Sr.)
    2014: Ash (Jr.) or Brewer (So.) enters the year as the starter

    That doesn’t look good. McCoy gets just one year to show what he can do, Texas loses Wood and then Ash and Brewer (assuming they redshirt — if they don’t, this is even more complicated) are stuck behind each other for two years. Where does that leave the door for somebody like Swoopes or anybody else to come in? Who wants to sit for three seasons?

    The two most successful Texas quarterbacks since James Street were Vince Young and Colt McCoy. They both redshirted their first year, and then started or received significant playing time in their redshirt-freshman season (Colt started, Vince initially shared snaps with Chance Mock). This isn’t any coincidence.

    Blue-chip quarterbacks expect to start for more than just a few seasons in college, because they’ve never spent much time on the bench in high school. And most of them are welcome to competition, which is probably what Texas is trying to foster through all of this — natural selection, if you will.

    “Those quarterbacks there did not do anything to affect me coming to Texas,” Brewer said earlier this week. “There’s going to be competition everywhere.’

    But not quite like this.

    It’s almost as though Mack Brown is figuring out ways to ensure his team is quarterbacked by a top arm, while simultaneously ensuring that rival teams don’t get these guys on campus (wait, no, that’s exactly what he’s doing).

    That helps Texas, sure. They would much rather have Connor Wood playing for Tulsa than Oklahoma (the Sooners went hard for him) and they would rather have McCoy play at Houston than Texas A&M. Just hope the Longhorns are ready for a messy public relations crisis, as well as a few burnt bridges — especially with the McCoy family.

    Making all of this worse is the fact that the Longhorns keep missing out on strong state-bred talent. Andrew Luck tore it up at Houston Stratford. Robert Griffin is from Copperas Cove. Nick Foles played 10 minutes away at Westlake High. All three of them will be professional athletes in a year or so, no doubt about it.

    You can’t say that so confidently about any quarterback on Texas’ roster. But surely if the Longhorns keep recruiting even more of them — five or six, perhaps nine — they’re bound to eventually find one they like. 

    Read more about Connor Brewer here.

  • Fans unimpressed by watered-down All-Star game.

    American League's Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers pitches at the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
    American League's Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers pitches at the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    The National League beat the American League 5-1 in the 2011 MLB All-Star game, and that is about as much as some are willing to remember.

    “What a waste of two hours and some odd minutes of my life,” said broadcast journalism senior Derek Lewis.

    Like many sports fanatics, Lewis decided to watch the All-Star game on Tuesday, but was disappointed by the lack pomp and circumstance. Some of these fans said that this year’s watered-down cast of All-Stars and boring broadcast was not appealing.

    “It had three big plays,” Lewis said. “The rest was all fairly boring, undominating pitching that was just good enough to get outs for the National League and some poor defensive efforts that made the game into Keystone Cops at certain points. Plus, several big American League pitchers were out. Several big name players overall were out. Not a good showing from baseball.”

    In the American League two players chosen to by the fans — Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez — and four pitchers selected by the players (including three more Yankees), skipped for medical reasons. Jeter, who recently recorded his 3,000th career hit, cited mental and physical exhaustion as the reason for his absence. Rodriguez is currently in on the DL.

    In the National League, only one voted starter — Jose Reyes — didn’t suit up Tuesday in Phoenix, but Shane Victorino, who won the final vote over Washington Nationals first baseman Michael Morse, was also out injured.

    Though this year’s numbers have not been released, the MLB All-Star game’s ratings have declined consistently over the past decade, with last year’s mid-summer classic boasting the worst ratings ever. Fans who watched but didn’t enjoy this year’s game said the MLB isn’t doing enough to keep the very people that drive the game interested — the fans.

    “It was like any other baseball game, which is sad because it’s the All-star game,” said baseball fan Sarang Patel. “A lot of it may be Fox's fault. There was no "fun" appeal. The highlight was Justin Timberlake with his beer near a pool with girls. The NBA All-Star game has all these in-game microphones, celebrity interviews, jokesters, etc. The MLB and Fox couldn't even utilize Brian Wilson correctly.”

    Other fans echoed Patel’s sentiment that the MLB has gotten lazy in keeping fans interested, and say other sports offer more exciting draws in the summer sports lull.

    “They [MLB] really aren't trying to fight Soccer for this summer market while the NBA and NFL take vacations,” Lewis said.

    Brian Wilson is the San Francisco Giants reliever known for his post-game celebrations and hilarious antics.

    It may not be fair to compare the two sports’ All-star games, but in terms of ratings, the NBA knows what it’s doing. It puts the game on a weekend and spends an entire week building the event up with funny promotions; Usher crooning about it, and with players who actually want to play in the game. The 2011 NBA All-Star game boasted its highest ratings since 2003, bringing in over 12 million viewers.

    Some regular sports fans didn’t even realize the All-Star game was even scheduled for Tuesday night.

    “I didn’t even know it happened,” said business senior Saagar Grover, adding that he didn’t mind missing it.

    Obviously these dissenting voices don’t represent the voice of every sport and baseball fan. The fact of the matter is that baseball is slowly losing younger viewers to the glitz and glamour of the NBA and NFL. Both those leagues are able to draw viewers to games in which a fan may not even have a vested interested beyond the desire to be entertained. One would have thought that with the other leagues wrapped up in lockouts, baseball would do everything it could to retain and even gain viewers who have nothing else to follow right now. If I were Bud Selig, I would have put in a call into Usher, or maybe Ke$ha.

    Not every baseball fan had a bad time. History junior Eli Perez said he preferred the low-key nature of the game, as well as getting the opportunity to see some fresh talent.

    “It was exciting to see the next crop of super stars like Starlin Castro and Rickie Weeks come up and playing in the game, but it was really disappointing to not see Derek Jeter out there," Perez said. “Overall it was a fun game to just sit back and relax to. Not every game is going to have hundreds of runs scored. Sometimes they are just a grind which can be equally as enjoyable to watch.”

    He may be right. That type of game does appeal to some people, and I certainly tuned in for 90 percent of it. But it wasn’t exciting enough to keep me from flipping back and forth between Fuse’s 100 Sexiest Videos of All-time, and ESPN U’s rerun of last year’s Texas vs. Nebraska football game.

  • Get in the game: NCAA 12

    With improvements in run blocking, running backs should have an easier time getting yards on the ground than they did in the past.
    With improvements in run blocking, running backs should have an easier time getting yards on the ground than they did in the past.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this will be my last column for a few weeks.

    I’ve got some NCAA to play.

    EA Sports’ college football franchise came out this morning at midnight — yes, I was in line to get it — meaning that today and for the rest of the week, college football junkies worldwide will spend their days doing absolutely nothing but this. I’ve been playing this beautiful game for 10 years and it has simultaneously given me poor grades, a disinteresting social life (unless you’re talking about online play) and no sleep. All in good fun.

    Fans will be excited about the retooled tackling system, as well as a coach mode that allows you to start out as an offensive or defensive coordinator and work your way up. You can even give some players Rastafarian dreads. Of course, players come with names such as QB No. 7 and WR No. 1, so if you want to make things more realistic you can download roster updates or, if you can’t wait a week for those to come out, you can do it yourself.

    The Longhorns are ranked No. 22 in the game (Oklahoma is No. 1) and I thought it would be interesting to simulate the 2011 season, just to see how folks outside Austin thought the rebuilding year would go.

    After setting the depth chart — had to redshirt Marquise Goodwin, move Alex Okafor back to defensive end, and slide Adrian Phillips over to corner, among minor changes — I pressed “sim to year” and held my breath.

    In this simulated world, Texas won its first game against Rice 35-0. Garrett Gilbert threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns, Malcolm Brown scored twice on the ground, Mike Davis caught seven balls for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense held Rice’s offense to 222 yards of total offense.

    Pretty sure Texas fans will take that come fall.

    But they probably wouldn’t like this. The final record turned out to be 7-6 after the Longhorns had lost the Texas Bowl to the old foe Nebraska. Final score of that game? Texas, 16. Nebraska, 63. Ouch.

    If this is really starting to get you worried, find solace in the fact that Ohio State’s tattooed (ex) quarterback Terrelle Pryor won the simulated Heisman Trophy — and that’s definitely not happening.

  • A Derek Jeter tribute: A lot of words for a lot of hits

    “Perfect” — the most overused and inappropriate of all the sports hyperbole. Rarely is anything ever “without error, flaw, or fault, or excellent and ideal in every way” (Merriam Webster’s). Hardly is any sports feat truly perfect.

    When perfection does happen, it’s immortalized — there have been 20 perfect games thrown in baseball, and each of those pitchers is labeled as the “man who threw the perfect game.” It’s remembered — unlike an all-time hits list, nobody who has thrown a perfect game will ever be bumped off. Perfection is perfection is perfection, and it can never be topped.

    Or can it?

    You can make the case that Derek Jeter’s day on July 9 of 2011 was better than perfect, and here’s how.

    To start, topping perfection can only happen if the moment is bigger than the box score. If it’s September (or August) and the Astros are officially out of the playoff race and, say, Hunter Pence goes 4-for-4 with four home runs and 16 runs batted in, then that’s perfect. But it’s not better than perfect, because it really means nothing on a larger scale.

    So the stage was set, before he ever stepped into the batters box, for Jeter’s Saturday in the Bronx to be perfect. The chase for 3,000 hits was still on, the Yankees only had two games left before the All-Star break, which would be followed by eight consecutive away games. So the pressure was on for Jeter to get hits No. 2,999 and 3,000 in front of the fans he grew up playing in front of. Those circumstances are grand enough.

    Jeter needed two hits. He got five.

    Before Saturday, he had hit 236 home runs — with just two this season, both coming on the same day earlier this year against Texas. So, in the middle of season No. 17 in the bigs, Jeter has averaged just under 14 long balls a year. It’s likely that he won’t get 10 this season.

    That’s necessary information to know when looking at Jeter’s career. As almost anybody can tell just by watching him and by looking at statistics, he is the farthest thing from a power hitter. The single is his thing, an inside-outside swing with which he drives balls barreling toward him right back to right field. Before July 9, only 778 of Jeter’s hits were for extra bases. He doesn’t reach on triples very much, because he has played his whole career in Yankee Stadium — the new one has the same dimensions as the old one — which lacks the sort of gap capabilities triples require. He had 480 doubles, which seems like a lot, but nothing compared to 2,220 singles. Jeter has mastered the art of the single.

    Hit No. 2,999 was a single; a slow roller through the third baseman and the shortstop. As he has gotten older and his skills have decreased, many of his hits of been weak rollers, finding some small hole in the infield.

    Then Jeter turned back the clock 10 years and did something that you see only in movies: He belted a home run for his 3,000th hit, the second player ever to accomplish that feat. The pitch from lefthander David Price was a curveball on a 3-2 count. In his Yankee life, Jeter had hit just 6 percent of his home runs on a full count.

    More hits were to come — a double, a single, and then the game-winning RBI in the eighth inning. The Yankees beat the Rays 5-4.

    In his career, Jeter has gone long in every 40 at-bats. This season, he has hit a home run in every 95 at-bats.

    Those numbers equate to some ridiculously low probabilities that Jeter’s 3,000th hit would be a home run on a 3-2 count off a curveball, when he was surely looking for a fastball.

    Perfect.

    Unlike most other historic Yankees, Jeter doesn’t have a true nickname — ‘Captain’ is more of a title, not really a moniker.

    The Yankee Clipper is a nickname; The Iron Horse is a nickname. Mr. October is one, The Commerce Comet is one, Sultan of Swat is one. He is not known affectionately by just a single name, like Yogi, Whitey, and Billy.

    He is not The Derek, or The Jeter — unlike The Babe or The Mick. He is just Derek Jeter, No. 2, shortstop, captain of the New York Yankees.

    Except for that one night when, for a fleeting moment, he was Mr. November.

    The terrorist attacks of 9/11 delayed the start of that year’s baseball postseason, which meant the New York Yankees would play Game 4 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Halloween night, October 31.

    A 3-3 tie took the game into extra innings, past midnight, and the scoreboard at old Yankee Stadium read: “Attention Fans, Welcome to NOVEMBER BASEBALL.”

    In the bottom of the 10th, at 12:03 a.m., Derek Jeter hit a walk-off home run to right field off Byung-Hyun Kim on — wait for the kicker — a 3-2 count.

    It was the first non-exhibition November game in MLB history, and it made Jeter, for a night at least, Mr. November — a spin-off of Reggie Jackson’s Mr. October, which was given to him when he torched the Dodgers with three home runs in the deciding game of the 1977 World Series.

    Taking Kim deep remains one of the most iconic memories of Jeter’s career. So, for a player not known for power, 3-2 count home runs were linked on Jeter’s 3,000th hit.

    Perfect.

    The 5-for-5 day Jeter turned in against the Rays Saturday was technically a perfect hitter’s box score. For every time he came up, he successfully came through.

    So that makes him perfect, but not anything more.

    What does make him better than perfection is this: His team won.

    Jeter is not the best winner ever — Yogi Berra is. And he’s not the best Yankee ever. Even crazier, he’s not the best modern-day Yankee — that’s Mariano Rivera.

    He’s not some once-in-a-lifetime talent. Honestly, he’s not. When you have almost 10,000 at-bats in your career, and if you remain healthy, you will most likely reach 3,000 hits. Just ask Craig Biggio. What he is a once-in-a-lifetime professional. He plays the game the right way. He handles the notorious New York media. He has handled all the criticism this season that comes with a nasty off-season contract dispute, and has for years listened to people call him “overrated.”

    Given how much coverage he is given — it seems like if Derek Jeter wakes up in the morning and eats Cheerios instead of his usual Wheaties, it makes Sportscenter — he probably is overrated.

    But he wins. He has enough rings to fill a hand and he will be in contention for more. He has been a part of 1,513 wins since 1996.

    Winning, above all else, is what Jeter does.

    Getting hit No. 3,000 made his day perfect. That it came off another unlikely 3-2 pitch did too. Going 5-for-5 made it perfect as well.

    But winning the game, as usual, made Derek Jeter’s day better than perfect. 

  • The Daily Texan’s Big 12 Preseason football picks

    Junior-to-be D.J. Monroe tries to get past a UCLA defender in 2010. As a freshman in 2009, Monroe became the only player in school history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns.
    Junior-to-be D.J. Monroe tries to get past a UCLA defender in 2010. As a freshman in 2009, Monroe became the only player in school history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns.

    Here’s how my 2011 Big 12 Conference Media Preseason Football Poll turned out. If you’re a Texas fan, you might not want to look.

    But first, two thoughts:

    1) Oklahoma is going to be really, really good (duh). The Sooners have the best quarterback in the Big 12 in Landry Jones, the most electric player in Ryan Broyles, and the best defensive player in Travis Lewis.

    2) Sorry to say this, but the Longhorns’ offensive talent looks to be depleted. With the exception of freshman running back Malcolm Brown, who I have as my Newcomer of the Year, not one player was in the running for a first-team selection.

    On to the selections:

    Offensive Player of the Year — Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
    Defensive Player of the Year — Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
    Newcomer of the Year — Malcolm Brown, Texas

    Preseason Top 10

    1. Oklahoma — See above.

    2. Texas A&M ­— Ryan Tannehill, Cyrus Gray and Jeff Fuller make for a pretty dangerous trio. The O-line is raw but talented, Christine Michael would start in the backfield for any other team in the conference, and Ryan Swope and Uzoma ‘EZ’ Nwachukwu team with Fuller to make the most complete receiving corps in the Big 12.

    3. Missouri — Blaine Gabbert is gone, but the Tigers usually have a potent offense regardless of the quarterback or the receivers. Four good running backs return and Michael Egnew is a versatile option at tight end.

    4. Oklahoma State — It will be interesting to see how things are offensively with Dana Holgorsen now the head coach at West Virginia and the departure of Kendall Hunter — who seemed like he was in Stillwater for forever — but it’s hard not to like the combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. The two teamed up for a ridiculous 20 touchdowns in 2010.

    5. Kansas State — The loss of Daniel Thomas hurts the Wildcats, but the addition of 2009 top recruit Bryce Brown should help. And Texas fans remember Collin Klein, don’t they?

    6. Baylor — Look, anytime you’ve got Robert Griffin on your team, you have a chance to win any game. I’m not huge on the Bears’ stable of running backs, or either line — though they always seem to have somebody jump out of oblivion to be a first-round draft pick — but Griffin makes stuff happen when the play breaks down. He has Kendall Wright to throw to, also.

    7. Texas — This might look stupid come November, but after a 5-7 season, it’s hard to think that the Longhorns are going to drastically improve. Plus, Texas lost to five of the six teams above them on this list last season, and Missouri wasn’t on the schedule. If it’s any consolation, the defense should be leaps and bounds better than last year.

    8. Texas Tech — In the days of Mike Leach, Tech could plug in any old quarterback in its Air Raid offense and get huge numbers. Seth Doege is the first “new” quarterback in the Tommy Tuberville era, as Taylor Potts was the starter during the Leach regime. We’ll see how Tuberville — and a new 4-2-5 defense — fares in his second year on the plains. Expectations should be pretty low.

    9. Iowa State — Head coach Paul Rhoads is doing something remarkable in Ames: the Cyclones are finally not awful. They beat Texas and Texas Tech last year, and lost to Nebraska by one point in overtime. They still got beat 52-0 by Oklahoma though. Some things never change. (Keep an eye on quarterback Jerome Tiller; a big, athletic quarterback who was the hero of the 9-7 2009 win over Nebraska.)

    10. Kansas — Last year was a train wreck for new head coach Turner Gill. The Jayhawks have 14 starters returning, which can be construed as a good or bad thing. Good, because of the experience. Not so good, because those starters only won three games last year.

    Preaseason All-Big 12 Conference Team

    Offense:
    QB — Landry Jones, Oklahoma.
    RB — Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M.
    RB — Bryce Brown, Kansas State
    WR – Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
    WR — Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
    TE — Michael Egnew, Missouri
    OL ­— Philip Blake, Baylor
    OL — Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
    OL — Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
    OL — Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
    OL — Elvis Fisher, Missouri
    PK — Justin Tucker, Texas
    PR — Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

    Defense:
    DL — Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
    DL — Brad Madison, Missouri
    DL — Kheeston Randall, Texas
    DL ­— Richetti Jones, Oklahoma State
    LB — Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
    LB — Keenan Robinson, Texas
    LB — Emmanuel Acho, Texas
    DB — Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
    DB — Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
    DB — Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
    DB — Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
    P — Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
    KR — D.J. Monroe, Texas

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