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The Super Bowl is set, and I suppose I am for the Seattle Seahawks, and I say this for two reasons: 1. Earl Thomas is a Longhorn and reps the burnt orange very well up in Pearl Jam. Not only is he “DBU” every time he plays on Sunday Night Football, but he’s elite as well. 2. I really, really dislike the New England Patriots. I’ve heard Bill Belichick is a really charismatic guy off the record, but I never see him off the record. I only see that stoic, bland personality he puts out there, which very much reminds me of Will Ferrell at the beginning of Step Brothers … you know, before he’s funny. I don’t hate Tom Brady, but I don’t root for Tom Brady. Maybe it’s jealousy, maybe it isn’t, but I don’t root for him. And then there are all the allegations against the Patriots:

They could all be false, or all be true, or be somewhere in the middle. That’s a lot of (alleged) cheating. I’ll pass. So the Seahawks, cut and dried then? Not quite.

There are LOTS of Aggies on the Seahawks. There’s Pete Carroll and his gum. Garrett Gilbert is on the practice squad for New England, and I think that’s awesome. I loved going to Boston (the single craziest, most movie-plot day I’ve ever had was in Boston). Even still, Seahawks.

I can’t believe there’s only one game left in the football season. The good news is we will soon start the clock for 2015. In fact, let’s do it now: 227 days from right now (Wednesday, 01/21) the Texas Longhorns kick off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

 

Coaches

Texas hired a new coach, and his name is Jay Norvell. He will join the staff as the wide outs coach. Norvell has been coaching college football for almost 30 years and while he doesn’t have a coaching connection with Charlie Strong, he does have one with Shawn Watson as both were at Nebraska in 2006.

So who is Jay Norvell, and what does he bring to the table? Well I’ll tell you:

Jay Norvell comes from oklahoma, where he was the wide outs coach and co-offensive coordinator the last five years. Prior to that, he was the wide outs coach for the sooners (2008-09). Before oklahoma he was at UCLA (2007, qb’s and OC) and Nebraska (2004-6, qb’s and OC). He spent five years in the NFL with the Colts and Raiders (te’s and wr’s), which came after a stint coaching both wide outs and qb’s at Iowa State (1994-97) and a five-year run at Wisconsin coaching just about everything on the offense. He got into coaching in 1987 after he spent a year playing with the Chicago Bears (lb), which came on the heels of a 4-year career playing linebacker at Iowa. Norvell brings with him three decades of coaching experience and over a decade of recruiting in Big 12 markets for ou and Iowa State. He has Big 12 Championship rings from 2007, 2008 and 2010 (and a Big Ten Title from the early 90’s), so he brings skins to the wall and all that experience to the staff.

The knock I’ve seen floating around is that Norvell can recruit with the best of them but he doesn’t always develop the talent he has. I personally don’t see that to be the case. In his time at ou he coached Ryan Broyles (2nd in NCAA history in receptions and receiving yards, consensus All-American in 2010 and 2011, now with the Detroit Lions), Kenny Stills (school record for receptions and receiving yards for a freshman, now with New Orleans Saints), Joaquin Iglesias (2009 3rd round pick, Chicago Bears), Manny Johnson (2009 7th round pick, Dallas Cowboys) and the adorable Jaz Reynolds (Tennessee Titans). Currently on the team is Sterling Shepard (Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2012, All-Big 12 in 2014, Biletnikoff Semifinalist) as well as Duron Neal (second the team with 513 yards, 42 catches and three scores) and KJ Young (fourth on the team with 225 yards and a score). This time next year, Norvell will have five of his ou receivers drafted in eight years. That’s not something Texas has ever come close to doing at that position. The notion that Jay Norvell doesn’t develop his players seems pretty silly when you see the number of guys he’s put into the NFL at wide receiver.

One thing even his detractors will acknowledge is Jay Norvell is a monster recruiter. He was named the Big 12 Recruiter of the Year in 2012 and pulled in the No.1 wide receiver class in the nation that same year. In fact when Dorial Green-Beckham decided to leave Missouri (and, by “decided to leave,” I mean “was thrown out in the street by the door guys like in a movie”) he immediately went to ou because of his relationship with Norvell. He’s got rings, he’s got NFL experience with guys like Jerry Rice (at the end of his career) and Marvin Harrison and a fleet of players now pulling paychecks in the league.

Well if he’s such a great coach and recruiter, why isn’t he still at oklahoma? Another excellent question.

This is a bit layered, so follow me. I have sooner friends and they follow their stupid team the way I follow mine. In the sooner world, last year was about as bad as it’s gotten under Bob Stoops. They had the five-loss season in 2009 when they lost Heisman winner Sam Bradford for the year, but you can’t lose your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and expect no drop off. That was the first 5-loss season of the Stoops era since his first in 1999. An 11-2 season in 2013 highlighted by a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama set the table for a top 10 pre-season; in fact The Sporting News had them ranked No.1 last August. But it turns out Trevor Knight is not Superman, and the Mike Stoops defense was nothing like it was supposed to be. Frustrating, come-from-ahead losses to TCU and K-State sandwiched a complete scare from Texas, they were blown out by Baylor in historic fashion and then were completely stunned at home by a freshman quarterback-led Oklahoma State team that was 5-6. And then they were blown out completely and entirely by Clemson in the bowl game. The result was 8-5 and, to them, catastrophic considering where they started. The other 5-loss teams had issues  (a new staff in ’99, losing the franchise qb in ’09), but in 2014 there were no issues, at least on paper. The defense fell apart and the quarterbacks were terrible. That’s unacceptable up there. As successful as Stoops has been against Texas and as obnoxious as their fans are in the Cotton Bowl, more than a few are frustrated with the lack of post-season success and the fact something always seems to trip them up: a loss to Texas in 2013, a home loss to No.15 K-State in 2012 when they were No.6, getting blown out by A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the inexplicable loss to Texas Tech at home in 2011, losses to A&M and Missouri in 2010, the Boise State bowl loss … You get the idea. They (the fans) think they just can’t get out of their own way, and while Big 12 Titles are nice, they’ve only gotten to the big game three times in Stoops’ 16 years, and the last one was six years ago. With blowout/embarrassing losses piling up, Stoops needed to wet somebody to sate the masses, and that was not going to be his brother. The offensive side of the ball took the fall and was clipped. From what I’ve read it doesn’t sound like Bob Stoops wanted to let Jay Norvell go, but had to do something. They are friendly, or were before this, and in unprecedented fashion the sooner fans are lamenting the loss of a very good coach. This is usually when we hear the player/coach in question was no good and couldn’t cut it at ou, which is why he left/was fired/quit. Not this time, which should tell you all you need to know about how they feel regarding Jay Norvell.

The guy is a terrific coach, a tenacious recruiter and has an absolutely phenomenal mustache. He’s already on the road recruiting (more on that in a few) and will hit the ground running this week with the start of school and off-season workouts. With the exception of John Harris, the wide outs did very little last year in the way of playmaking. Marcus Johnson fell off the map and you didn’t see enough of the younger guys to get a real gauge on their abilities. I expect that to be significantly different this spring.

Welcome aboard, Coach Norvell. Any insight into the Visored One will be greatly appreciated as well. I imagine Norvell will be bouncing off the walls when Texas comes out of the Cotton Bowl tunnel in October.


Recruiting

As we said last week, six five members of the 2015 recruiting class are enrolled in school and ready to get to work: offensive linemen Brandon Hodges, Tristan Nickelson, Connor Williams and Garrett Thomas and linebacker Malik Jefferson. About the strikethrough: safety Tim Irvin flipped on his way to Austin after stopping at Auburn and is now officially War Eagle. That really stinks, because the guy had a chance to come in and play right away in the secondary. He has the look and feel of Earl Thomas. My buddy said pretty bluntly, “I am not worrying about an Earl Thomas-sized safety that we don’t even know will ever become Earl Thomas. Time to move on.” Amen, Squared. Moving on.

Back to Norvell, Texas is now in a two-horse race with UCLA for the services of Aledo wide out Ryan Newsome. He looks a lot like Ryan Broyles on the field, and that’s a complete compliment. Texas needs all the playmaking outside it can get and with the possible shift in offensive philosophy, the opportunity for a young, fast wideout like Newsome to get on the field early is very, very real. Newsome has the speed and ability to be an instant success, and the fact Texas is in his final two has a lot to do with Jay Norvell, who was recruiting him very hard whilst a sooner coach. With Brett Hundley moving on at UCLA, the Bruins are starting over at quarterback. I think, at the end of the day, the fact Jonathan Gray is here (an Aledo alum), Jay Norvell is here and Austin is a few hours away rather than a few time zones away will put the four-star wide out in burnt orange.

In other news, Texas has lines in the water and two very, very big fish are biting: defensive backs Holton Hill and Kris Boyd. Hill is a 6-foot-2, 175-pound 4-star cornerback from Houston Lamar and Boyd is the 6-foot, 180-pound 4-star cornerback from Gilmer. These two are college-ready from a physical standpoint right now and it’s looking good for Texas in both cases. Boyd is having fun with his recruitment via twitter, while Hill is a little more low-key. Boyd seems like he’s whittled it down to a Texas/A&M battle and Hill seems to be leaning Texas or LSU, but in the end I think Texas gets the both. They both know where DBU is, and I can assure both have been reminded by Charlie Strong of that. Another big sell for Boyd is his little brother Demarco has been offered by and loves Texas. He’s 6-feet, 223 pounds of mean inside linebacker, and the two want to play together in college. I think Texas ends up with all three soon enough. If Texas lands Hill and Boyd, the loss of Irvin to Auburn isn’t nearly as big a deal.

One thing that always made Mack Brown nervous about recruiting out of state players was the pressure applied by those around them to stay home or stick closer to home. I think that’s the case with a few of the Florida 5, who are now the Florida 4. With some academic issues and trips to Auburn and Florida in the works for a few, it could easily be the Florida two: linebacker Cecil Cherry and tight end Devonaire Clarington. Even those guys are likely getting advice to stay home, or within driving distance, and you can’t blame them if they start to second guess moving so far away from home to a completely different state, different time zone and different way of life. It’s a scary thing, and the reason so many out-of-staters end up changing their mind. I don’t think you have anything to worry about with Cherry or Clarington, and as long as those two get here, Texas will be fine. Of course if the rest end up coming, even better.

As I said last week, it’s a roller coaster as we speed towards signing day. Jim Harbaugh is visiting Zach Gentry in New Mexico, young Mr. Lampkin (a defensive tackle commit) is visiting A&M and rumored to be close to changing to ou. Don’t expect Gentry to budge on his Texas commit, but expect Lampkin to budge. The Horns are hosting their top two running back prospects in Chris Warren and Soso Jamabo and the thought is they’ll take both but need one, and they might even get a third in Baton Rouge’s Nick Brossette, an LSU commit that visited Texas last weekend. I think Texas ends up with one. I think Brossette is a bit of a longshot and it looks like Jamabo (from Plano West and the state’s top running back) is headed to Westwood to play for the Bruins. Warren is a beast, a 6-foot-2, 233-pound bruiser from Rockwall that seems to be Texas’ top target at the position. He visited Oklahoma State last weekend and did not commit, so that’s a good sign. Also a good sign is how much he likes Texas. Buckle up, folks, there is turbulence ahead. We are likely to lose one or two (Texas lost two over the weekend with the loss of Irvin and the decommitment of defensive lineman Louis Brown, who may or may not have been asked to leave his official visit. No definitive answer on that other than he decommitted and left Austin on Saturday), but Texas is just as likely to get a few (Ryan Newsome, Boyd, Hill, Warren,  Jamabo, Brossette, ?).

It’s very different than every other year, isn’t? I love it.


Hoops

There you go, Horns. A rout of No.16 West Virginia on Saturday and a rout on the road at TCU made for a nice rebound. But it’s about to get real: Kansas comes to town on Saturday at 1 followed by Big Monday at Iowa State (8 pm) two days later. It’s good Texas is playing better, because these are the big dogs in the conference. I can’t wait to see a full Drum on Saturday afternoon. Should be fun.

That’s it for this week. Back next with a hoops round up, some more recruiting news and hopefully a tight ends coach? We will see. We will also get into the team and what’s happening in the off-season program.

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