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FROM THE STANDS: Around the Horn(s)

I don’t know how people that live in the northeast survive in the winter. I went to NYC last week for 4 days, and I thought I was going to DIE. I grew up in Dallas and have never lived anywhere outside of the state. I’ve been through ice storms, snow, etc. but everything stops when that happens in Texas. Not so up there. I had to walk four blocks on Friday morning and it was 1. 1.

The wind chill was -12. I was completely numb by the time that four-block was over. As I walked around the city, I saw police officers, construction workers, joggers, strollers… And I was in awe. I was on a road trip up there and I was struggling to get from one spot to the other, meanwhile these people are working, taking their kids to school, working out, heading home, all the while it’s 1 outside.

I know a lot of it is learned. They are used to it and I am not. But I just don’t know if I could ever get used to it. Skiing is one thing, but something about being in a city made it so much worse. I am much more comfortable with 112 than 12. I applaud you, East Coasters, and your ability to get to work, get to the store, manage your life, etc. day in and day out. I could barely manage getting from one bar/restaurant to the next one.

I’ll be back when you thaw out and not a day sooner. Anyway, let’s get on with it.


Around the Horn(s)

Let’s take a look at what’s good on campus right now


Football

Let’s pretend you are a college football player. Here’s a question: Are you here to play football or are you here to be on the football team?

It’s not the same thing. At all. Let me explain.

Being on the football team is fun. A lot of fun. If you attend a college with a football team, there are privileges and benefits to being on that team. You don’t wait in line at bars with everyone else and usually you don’t wait in line for drinks inside. Most of the time you don’t have to introduce yourself to people (and by “people” I mean girls), because they come up to you. People want to be around you, talk to you, hang out with you. The bigger the program, the bigger the celebrity someone on the football team is. It’s a good life, whatever is happening on the field, and it’s the reason I don’t ever feel sorry for anyone playing college football, especially someone on a power five conference roster.

On the other hand, playing football is hard. It’s a 24-7 job. At the college level, just about everyone is a gifted athlete, so many times the difference between being a starter and being a backup is how much work you put in.  Are you willing to skip the preferential treatment downtown to study film to be a step ahead mentally? Are you willing to live in the weight room to get the edge physically? If you stay up/out too late, you won’t be at your best for those morning sessions, which will put you in the doghouse or give someone else the opening to move ahead of you. Restaurants are fun and  food is good, but are you willing to keep the diet right to get the weight up/keep it down like you need to compete? The off-season is long and for much of it you are away from the coaching staff and it’s up you to stay dialed in. If you can’t stay the course off the field, you will likely lose your place on the field. And this doesn’t even take into account what the opponents are doing. Those guys want to beat you as bad as you want to beat them. Is their team working harder than yours? Do you have enough guys who want to play football on the team? It’s a mental and physical grind to play football in college and it’s easy to get sidetracked because opportunities to be derailed are at every turn.

I’m curious what everyone’s honest answer would be.

Last year when Charlie Strong took over at Texas, there were WAY TOO many players that were here to be on the football team. He spent the off-season installing his system through brutal workouts designed to filter out those that were here to play football and those that were here to be on the football team. The result was the Great Texas Exit of 2014. This year the goal seems to be less culling the herd and more molding a fire-breathing team that will be as dominant in the fourth quarter as they are in the first quarter. Strong and Pat Moorer are still working to install the attitude and culture they want on this Texas team, but as almost everyone has gone through this already it’s more about reinforcing what they already know than teaching something new. There will likely be attrition this spring and summer, but I think Texas is much more comfortable with the group this year than the group last year  for one simple reason: this team has more guys that are here to play football than guys who are here to be on the football team.

As we get closer to the start of spring practice, we will have more information on what’s happening on the field.


Recruiting

Texas received a commitment from Shane Buechele. The 4-star dual threat quarterback from Arlington Lamar seemed like an ou lock with two sisters currently at oklahoma and an older brother Garrett that was a star on the sooner baseball team. Oh yeah, he is the son of former Rangers third baseman and current bench coach Steve Buechele. He spurned the sooners, and his dad’s alma mater Stanford (where he John Elway’s roommate) for Shawn Watson and Charlie Strong. He fell in love with Texas after visiting and talking to Watson and Strong and decided to pull the trigger. As a dual-threat, it’s just another sign that Texas is moving full speed ahead to the spread offense. He’s a big name in the high school football world and his early commitment will only help land the bigger names on offense for the class of 2016.

Welcome to The 40, Mr. Buechelle.

Right now Texas has four recruits for the 2016 class: Buechele, wide out Collin Johnson, wide out Reggie Hemphill and linebacker DeMarco Boyd. Boyd and Johnson have older brothers in the current class (Kris and Kirk) and three of the four are 4-star players. Don’t expect this next class to be the same size as the one in 2015 because Texas won’t have as many openings next spring (a handful of seniors, less attrition), but it’s setting up to be star-studded.

Who’s next?


Hoops

Oh, boy. Where to begin? This team is struggling mightily right now. Another game, another double-digit turnover effort that ultimately led to another loss. Jonathan Holmes, you CANNOT commit that flagrant foul. I understand the frustration because that was a pretty cheap shot the other guy took, but Texas had a chance to cut the lead to single digits and you gave it right back with that flagrant foul. The only senior on the team, you have to be smarter than that. Come on, man.

Losing at WVA is not the end of the world: Kansas lost there and the Mountaineers are a vicious defensive team; but Texas just continues to shoot themselves in the foot with poor shooting and defensive breakdowns.

Texas sits at 6-9 in the Big 12 right now with a trip Kansas this weekend before hosting K-State and Baylor to finish out the regular season. Texas could win those last two; heck they could win the Kansas game. TCU was RIGHT THERE with Rock Chalk on Saturday night and the Horns have been right there in the last few weeks… They just need to get out of their own way.

Come on, fellas. Turn the corner.


Baseball

After splitting the opening series with Rice, Texas opened a can of whoop***. The Horns have won six straight, including a four-game sweep of Minnesota where they allowed only two runs in a 13-2 win in game one and then shut out the Gophers for three straight games. And this wasn’t a bunch of 1-0 games, either, Texas was getting hits and scoring runs, totaling 31 runs in the four games.

The Horns postponed Tuesday’s game with UT-Pan Am until Wednesday due to weather and then host San Diego over the weekend, Texas then travels to Palo Alto for 4 with Stanford before conference play starts with West Virginia on March 10th.

TCU sits at No.2 and Texas comes in at No.8. You know who is No.9? Texas Tech. I didn’t know, either. Oklahoma State comes in at No.16. Texas travels to TCU this year, but they do get the Red Raiders at home… But that’s a long ways down the road.

I really like the makeup of this team and they seem to be the real deal. Keep it up.

 

Random Thoughts

  • Malcom Brown had a very good combine. With a 5.06 40-yard dash and a solid bench, Brown’s physical skills were right where they should have been. Remember guys that want to play football or be on the team? There is no doubt Malcom Brown wants to play football. The guy used his time at Texas as a job and used the combine as a job interview. He passed with flying colors and is considered a first round lock at this point.
  • Quandre Diggs ran a really nice 40 (4.59) and word is current Vikings DC and DBU alum Jerry Gray is intrigued with Diggs. He’s likely going later in the draft, but expect him to be drafted. I think he could end up moving to safety, where he could play run support and cover the deep part of the field, but there is no doubt he’ll be asked to play special teams as well. He’ll get his chance soon enough.
  • The Longhorns will hold their pro day on March 24th and it will be the chance for Malcolm Brown and Cedric Reed to show scouts what they can do. Reed is recovering from surgery and was very limited at the combine, but he and Brown will get their chance to show the NFL their talents. I don’t know if either gets drafted at this point, but I expect both to be on NFL rosters next fall.
  • The Texas ladies have rebounded from injuries to win three straight and sit at 18-8/7-8  and are definitely on the way to the Dance. They could have easily folded up after losing their captain and leading scorer Nneka Enemkpali a few weeks ago, but they didn’t and are now on the upswing. Well done, ladies.
  • Texas hosts the Swimming and Diving Big 12 Championships this weekend at the Jamail Texas Swim Center. If you haven’t ever been to a swim meet there, it’s a great time. Get out there if you can. Here are the details.
  • Earl Thomas will have surgery on a torn labrum (suffered in the playoffs) and will need 6-8 months to recover. My guess is closer to six. Get well soon, ET.
  • Anyone see K-State rush the court after the upset of Kansas? Scary stuff.

I am certainly not giving up on the basketball season, but I am definitely going to start paying more attention to baseball season. Come on, hoops, give me reason to change my mind.

Back next week!

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