As we know, pleasing dilettante internet bloggers is the primary role of Texas football coaches and while we stare into the void of the July to mid-August dead period and we're forced to do horrendous things like follow major league baseball, I thought it might be interesting to consider what we know about Will Muschamp so far.
My primary concerns with Will Muschamp coming into this job were these:
1. He is too young and inexperienced to manage up.
Young managers, particularly in a seniority based profession like coaching, struggle with this. You've got to manage your manager. Mack Brown, God bless him, is a control freak and a meddler. This will lead to all sorts of mischief in who Muschamp plays, what he plays, and his overall willingness to tell Duane Akina to shut the fuck up because if Duane knew what he was doing he wouldn't need to be here so stick the
co-coordinator assistant head coach face-saving designation up your ass and go coach up Ben Wells on how to recognize a post-corner route. Maybe he shouldn't say that exactly, but I'd like it.
2. SEC West Offenses and QBs are a farce.
He wouldn't understand that the SEC - as strong a league as it is - is no preparation for the incredible creativity and high execution level of the Big 12 spread offenses he'll see every week. Further, the Big 12 has a half dozen QBs that are ranked in the Top 15-20 at their position in college football. He's not going to see John Parker Wilson, Seth Adams, Josh Riddell, Casey Dick and other assorted SEC QB debris week in and week out. Chase Daniel and Sam Bradford can actually throw spirals and such.
3. Tommy Tuberville and Nick Saban really were their own defensive coordinators.
Might be true. Doesn't mean he didn't learn a hell of a lot.
So far, there's some strong evidence that points 1 and 2 are not huge concerns. Handwringer #3 will be revealed soon enough.
Duane Akina is a figurehead
co-coordinator assistant head coach.
He may not know it, as some of his public comments have revealed that he is still blissfully unaware that last year's defense had more athletic black men running balls through it than Kim Kardashian, but it's pretty clear who our DC is. My guess is that Mack loves Akina as a man, a human being, and as a DB coach, but after his DC debacle and his terrible talent evaluations in DB recruiting for 3 years running from 2003-2005, he's not a guy that Mack is terribly interested in hearing opine on matters outside of his core competencies. Such as they are.
Houston at starting DT.
This is a strong indicator that Muschamp gets it. The 6'5 345 pound DT is a thing of the past. Disrupting the spread offense is all about quick pressure in the passing game and backside pursuit in the running game. One neutralizer at the point of attack is sufficient (Roy Miller). I want my other guy shooting gaps and raising hell. See Maurice Gordon if you'd like to see what a disruptive force a quick, undersized DT can be. And Houston is several notches more talented than Maurice. My only fear is that Mad Dog convinces him that eating and bench pressing all summer will make him a better DT.
Aaron Lewis becomes a utility player.
Lewis is a good football player, he's started a number of games, and he has been productive. In the old SWC, he's an all-conference candidate. He's a good team guy and under the traditional Mack paradigm he'd be a legacy starter until he graduates. See Jones, Tyrone. However, Mr Lewis is fighting for a spot in the two deep right now because we're currently favoring faster DEs who can get quick pressure on the QB: Acho, Melton, Jones. He'll get his snaps as a utility player - as a pass rusher inside, as a run stopper outside. That raised an eyebrow for me.
Freshmen starting at DB.
We'll start two freshman safeties. That's both encouraging and terrifying, depending on your viewpoint and although there's a learning curve with these guys (UTEP and Arkansas will score on long play action passes, book it) the talent level is undeniable. Many Longhorn fans have advocated playing the kid with the upside who lacks experience over the limited veteran. Here's a solid example of us doing so. We could have easily moved more veteran guys there and played it safely at safety.
The nickel base spring.
If Houston/Lewis/the young DBs provides the personnel evidence that Muschamp gets it, our nickel base spring tells me that he gets it schematically. The days of watching Chizik line up an OLB on a slot receiver are done. I thank all that is holy for that. Defending the spread is about matching speed and athleticism on the corners. If the other teams in the Big 12 want to play Paul Westhead fast break basketball on grass, reserve Dexter Pittman for situational play and get Damion James out on the court. Playing a base nickel also simplifies coverage schemes, gets you a lot of reps and a lot of looks in what you'll be playing mostly anyway, and you can do more intuitive things for the young DBs - man under/zone deep etc.
In today's Big 12, you play the run situationally: goal line, 3rd and 1, (or when you're playing us, 2nd and 2). Your defense is structured to play the pass. It's pretty clear to me that Muschamp gets that. There's a contrarian play to be made here for the Baylors and Iowa States of the world, but that's a post for another time.