The calm before the storm is over. The storm is here. Big 12 media days are going now and teams, players and coaches are talking about the season. The season that starts in five weeks. Fall camps start in less than two weeks, meaning the summer conditioning programs are winding down as everyone prepares for practice. Lots going on in college football, let’s take a look some of the highlights:
- Texas hosted their first “Under the Lights” recruiting event on Friday. This event, which was created when Charlie Strong was with Urban Meyer at Florida, is a nighttime showcase of the Texas football program for recruits. It was held in the DKR, under the lights, with the city of Austin as the backdrop. The jumbotron was playing highlights of the 2013 season and the sound system was playing music for the kids in attendance. And there were about 100 kids in attendance, from all over the state and all over the country. Securing an invite to this thing was a big deal and the best of the best from the high school graduating classes of 2015, 16 and even 17 showed up in droves with their parents. All the local media was invited and allowed to interview the kids, take photos, and watch the coaches interact with the recruits. Portrayed as a cold disciplinarian by the guy whose players keep getting arrested, this event gave Charlie Strong the time to show the kids and the media that he isn’t as Nick Saban-y (dare I say Sabanic?) as everyone makes him out to be. Orangebloods.com reported that Strong completely blew up the stiff and cold persona and greeted every camper with a smile and a handshake and seemed to be laughing, joking and possibly even cavorting at times. He was engaged, engaging and everyone seemed to enjoy talking with him. After the introductions and entrances, it got down to what it’s all about: football. The Texas coaches know what they are doing on the field; there is no denying that from even their biggest detractors. The staff ran through drills with the players, who competed against each other in various (non-contact) forms. As I mentioned earlier, getting an invite to this camp was a big deal because it was exclusive to the elite. Those in attendance made mention many times after it was over that this camp was different. You heard things like, “The last camp I went to, a lot of those guys will not play college ball … everyone here will,” and “Everyone that was here belongs here.” The players saw all the talent that Texas assembled and were impressed with how many showed. They were also impressed with the coaching as many sang the praises of Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson. After the two-hour event was over, Charlie Strong entertained parents and answered questions until there were no more of either. NCAA rules prohibit scholarship offers from going out on Friday night so no scholarships were extended, but 11 future Longhorns (as well current and past members of the team) were on hand, and the networking going on was surely a sight to behold. The Aggies hastily tried to throw a last-minute bbq together to try and draw players away from Austin, but it doesn’t look like much came of it. This was a big night for Texas and for Charlie Strong in building relationships with recruits and their families and changing the public perception, and it seems the Longhorns accomplished both.
- As for the aforementioned Aggies, another one got arrested over the weekend. For shoplifting. And another left for personal reasons. Known for DJ’s, helicopters and #Yessir, the Aggies are No.1 in the nation in arrests, according to reddit.com. They jumped up to No.1 in the Fulmer Cup standings and with just a couple of weeks to go, they are poised to take home the title. #WRTS is supposed to mean “WeRunThisState,” but it’s more like “WeRobThisState” or “WontReturnThisSeason.” Wait, who am I kidding? More likely “WillReturnThisSeason.”
- Paul Finebaum, in his new book, says Texas was going to offer Nick Saban $100 million to come to Texas. This has freaked some people out. I understand the angst because Nick Saban is the best college football coach in the country and has been the last five years. Some argue that he is the best ever, and he well may be. But $100 million dollars is A LOT of money. The deal was rumored to be 10 years, making it a $10 mil-per-year job for Saban. I have no idea if it’s true, but I assume that parties reached out and there were talks. Surely in those talks numbers were thrown out. Ultimately, for the sake of college football, it’s a good thing there is no $10 million a year coach. The salaries would soar in response. And if you think people hate Texas now, imagine $10 mil per year Nick Saban here. And those out there that think Charlie Strong is a bit cool with the media, I invite you to watch highlights of SEC Media Days last week when the reporters were literally afraid to ask Nick Saban questions for fear of his response. If Charlie Strong is considered a bit icy, Nick Saban is Siberia. But he gets away with that because he wins. And he wins enough that a rumor that he might have been offered $100 million to coach college football at Texas has created an internet sharknado, even though it may or may not have happened eight months ago.
- Monday morning it was announced that David Ash, Jordan Hicks, Kent Perkins and Jonathan Gray have been cleared for full contact and full participation when camp starts. The David Ash news is the biggest of the entire summer for Texas, because they are going to go as far as David Ash can take them. Reports from the summer workouts are Ash was dynamite from a leadership and captain perspective, getting guys into the right place and letting them know if they were not, and his timing and throwing was rounding back into form. Former Texas wide out Jordan Shipley worked out with Ash over the spring and let it be known that David Ash has NFL talent. He needs to stay healthy for it to be seen and for the first time in nearly a year he’s completely healthy and ready to go. Overshadowed a bit was the news on Hicks, Perkins and Gray. Jordan Hicks is the quarterback the defense from the lb spot. He’s another leader, another vet and another talent that can make plays. I have said I think Kent Perkins is an All-Big 12 caliber tackle, and he’s back and healthy. Expect him to step in and regain the starting role quickly. As for Jonathan Gray, that’s just unbelievable. The guy RUPTURED HIS ACHILLES in November and he’s ready to go for fall camp. That’s a career-ender for most guys, but it looks like it will cost Gray all of four games. I hope he’s not coming back too fast, but I can’t imagine the medical staff would even consider him returning if he wasn’t 100% and ready to go. It’s just amazing that eight months later he’s back and cleared.
Next week we kick off the 2014 season preview with a look at the Big 12. We will break down the other nine teams in the conference and where they are going into the season and how they could finish up. I’ll even break down the sooners … No, I won’t. Then we will dive into the Texas Longhorns and break down all the units before the season opener against North Texas. It’s almost here, but let’s talk about one other thing first …
This is not a new topic, I know, but it will be different. If you read anything I write, you know I am as superstitious as anyone on earth. I am Crash Davis from Bull Durham. It all matters and if it isn’t followed exactly right, it’s not going to work. I don’t knock anyone for not having superstitions and I understand that when Texas is good it’s partially due to coaching, player development, talent, athletic ability and luck, but those that are not superstitious should understand that Texas’ success is also partially due to the hat I wear, the shoes and shirt I have on, the things in my pocket and the order in which they got there, what I listened to on the way to the game, what I listened to the day before the game and how good/bad my workout game day morning was. That isn’t conjecture. That is FACT.
I take it all very seriously. A snapshot if what you get from me on game day:
- My hat. I have one and I wear it until it falls apart. I wear it to games, to workout, the pool, everywhere. Hat never gets washed. Ever. Twice hat has been cleaned, once in the ocean and once in the rain, but those are the exceptions. Hat will only be replaced before it falls apart if the team(s) does not produce. (The best run from one hat went from baseball season in 2004 to after Thanksgiving 2006 — a baseball title, a football title, two Rose Bowls, two CWS appearances, two Sweet 16s, and an Elite 8 appearance.) A three-game losing streak, an ugly blowout loss or some other capital crime against Texas will usher the end. Hat will be disposed of properly and replaced. The process of replacing hat is tedious. It can’t be the same one and it can’t be one that has previously been removed. And since I can’t have two in rotation at the same time, often times during the regime change I am hatless. And yes, I do call it “hat.”
- There are three game day shirts: one for home, one for away and one for cold weather.
- As well, there are Friday shirts.
- I must get a workout in on game day, no matter what time the game is or what I’ve done the night before. At times it goes very well, other times it’s as comical as you think it.
- Music for game day starts with the workout. It’s the one thing I update and change constantly.
- I have a pair of shoes I get before the season starts that are for game day. They are carefully selected as they must be equally as good in the hot early season and the colder end of season. This is also a long process to find.
- A series of things go into my pocket in a certain order before I leave for the game. It must be the same things and the same order each time. Unless there is a loss, then the order is changed.
There are a few more, but you get the idea. And you are probably wondering why I am telling you this. This is personal, trivial nonsense that is not the least bit interesting to anyone who is not me. I am telling you this because everything is going to change.
As I said, when things go poorly athletically I make a change: first it’s the shirt, then the shoes, then the pocket, finally the hat if need be. When it gets to down to the hat the change is drastic and (usually) the polar opposite of the one before it. It has to be, because the one before it stopped working. That’s what the Texas Longhorn football team has done. Mack Brown tried changing the recruiting tactics (shirt), the training staff (shoes) and the assistants (pocket), but in the end it was time for a new hat. Things were going poorly on the football field, so Texas made a change. It was drastic and the polar opposite of the one before it, but it had to be because the previous staff’s methods stopped working.
A new head coach, new assistant coaches, new strength coach, new ways of conducting off-season workouts, a new offense, a new defense, new spring practice times, new drills, new terminology … new everything. And that’s between the lines on the field. Did you ever hear the chant Texas does before games? What about the bounce they do before coming out of the tunnel? What about the waving-four-fingers thing at the start of the fourth quarter? Or the intro on the jumbotron? The music in the stadium before the game? There is an excellent chance that will all be gone. It’s a new day. And things like the Texas running back ritual when someone scores, or the defensive hand gestures after someone makes a play are probably gone. It’s all gone. Expect to see new ones.
And with new ways, new faces and new handshakes and new pre-game rituals, expect new superstitions. I know I am not the only one out there that has their game day routine, and that goes for the players as well. Their game day routine is completely changing and with it so will their superstitions most likely. And I am all for it. The corny old saying is, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, which means if it is broken, then fix it. When the entire coaching staff gets replaced, I’d say it’s broken. Let’s fix it.
I encourage all you superstitious people to sever ties with the old ones and get some new ones. I have already done that. Hat was replaced after the Alamo Bowl and so far the new one is doing well — a College World Series berth, a 2nd round NCAA berth, Charlie Strong being hired, Myles Turner coming to Texas … So far so good.
Charlie Strong seems like a “less is more” sorta guy, so I am going to follow suit. Still working on what that will look like, but you can be sure it will different than before. Different isn’t always bad, it’s just different. Everything is different this year in Texas football, so I need to react and adjust accordingly. I hope you will join me.
I’d love to hear your superstitions (both those going out and those coming in) as well.
Back next week with real, actual football talk.